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53rd Annual Summer Sawdust Art Festival kicks off festivities with the expected and unexpected

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Just inside the gates of the Sawdust Festival, gold stars and a space ship greet visitors. It makes perfect sense, as the Sawdust, by all rights, is its own universe. One anticipates entering another world – the sights and sounds are exclusive to this particular space – and that’s the wonder of it.

53rd Annual mad hatter

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Mad Hatter – Robert Holton – welcome to the world of the Sawdust Art Festival 

Walking under the gold stars was the perfect introduction to the 53rd Annual Summer Sawdust Art Festival. “Expect the unexpected” is the theme this year, and who imagines looking up and seeing stars among the trees when it’s still light. But then who expects to see – the Mad Hatter, a fairy princess, a dragon, puppets, and a clothes designer doing a whirling dervish? Those are only a few of the delights among the 192 artists and makers (9 are guest artists) represented.

One always expects the work of the Sawdust artists to be unique, but this year seems particularly innovative. It’s a wonderful blend of seasoned and new exhibitors.

53rd Annual puppet

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Artists Natasha and Sandra Weir – mom and daughter dressed to match their booth themes

Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets downtown, said, “A little mist couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the Preview night at Sawdust. Everyone kicked it up a notch this year, with themed booths and even an Avenue of the Stars and a spaceship to welcome all. With the new artists complimenting the seasoned veterans, fabulous décor, and a huge dragon watching over the festival, this year is out of this world! As I exited I overheard several people clutching purchases exclaim, “this is the best ‘Dust in years! Wow!”

53rd Annual artists

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Artists Katlin, Emily, Reem, Makaila, and Ora

Jane Slowsky is celebrating her 50th year exhibiting. She said of preview night, “Yes, I really enjoyed the evening. 50 years and planning more as I am now 91 working on 100. I was on the board when we created the Sawdust Festival and am one of the original exhibiters for our first year. My daughter Patty Slowsky has been my partner all these years as she made macramé keychains, that was the time we could sell our children’s artwork, and she has stayed with me all these years. We share our booth space with Patty’s husband, John Enfield, he does wood. Patty and John have combined their skills a few times. Patty and I try to make our glass fun and exciting and a new idea for glass each year.”

53rd Annual Slowsky

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Janet Koelle writing up a sale for Jane Slowsky, who is celebrating her 50th year in the Sawdust

Once local band Party Foul began to play, it was difficult not to gravitate toward the deck. The Sawdust continually hosts great musicians, and they were a terrific choice to usher in the summer season. 

The Sawdust Festival brochure explains, “During the process of making art, unexpected things will happen, and that is what makes it unique and beautiful. This year is about tapping into the creative power of art, which changes how we view the world.”

53rd Annual Evans

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Alex Evans, Father of dragons

After experiencing the 53rd Summer Sawdust, you can’t help but see the world a little differently. 

The Sawdust opens today, Friday, June 28, and runs through Sunday, September 1. It is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.

Upcoming special events for the next week include Live Art Demos, every Monday at 5 p.m., Tropical Tuesdays beginning on July 2, Mardi Gras Day on July 6, and docent-led tours of the grounds every Wednesday at 3 and 5 p.m.

The Sawdust Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For more information on events, workshops, and music, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see slideshow below


Plein Air Paradise

Plein Air canvas

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Photo by Tom Berndt

Every day, Laguna starts as a blank canvas


Laguna Art Museum hosts Sally Yard, Professor of Art History, on July 25

On Thursday, July 25 at 6 p.m., Sally Yard, Professor of Art History at the University of San Diego, will give a talk in conjunction with the exhibition I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art: Prints by John Baldessari from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation at the Laguna Art Museum. 

Laguna Art Museum Sally YardSally Yard, PhD, joined the faculty at the University of San Diego in 1989, and served as chair of the department of Art from 1992 through 1997. Yard writes about art since the Second World War. Her research interests stretch from the emergence of abstract expressionism in the United States to the relationship of art and its publics – whether in the contentious terrain of San Diego/Tijuana or the reflective realm of a museum garden.

Yard’s work on the relationship of art and its publics includes the book Christo: Oceanfront (Princeton University Press), as well as essays in Robert Irwin (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Rizzoli, 1993); Museum as Muse (Museum of Modern Art, New York and Abrams, 1999); along with Private Time in Public Space (1998), Fugitive Spaces (2002), and A Dynamic Equilibrium: In Pursuit of Public Terrain (2007) (Installation Gallery, San Diego and Instituto Nacional de Bellas Arts, Mexico). She has also written on post-war painting: Francis Bacon: A Retrospective (The Trust for Museum Exhibitions and Abrams, 1999) and Willem de Kooning (Poligrafa, Barcelona, 2007). She is currently at work on a book with Robert Irwin, the first artist to receive a MacArthur Foundation Award.

The event is included with museum admission. Advance tickets are recommended.

For more information, visit www.lagunaartmuseum.org. 

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.


Sawdust Festival set in motion

Photos by Scott Brashier

Sawdust Festival empty

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The calm before the visitors enter

Sawdust Festival Tom and wife

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Patti and Tom Klingenmeier, former Sawdust general manager 

Sawdust Festival dancing

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Crowd in full swing 


LCAD partners with Dawson Cole Fine Art to present Jim Lamb Summer Sessions

Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) partnered with Dawson Cole Fine Art to hold an exhibition celebrating Jim Lamb’s Summer Artist in Residence workshop at LCAD. 

The exhibition, Jim Lamb Summer Sessions, highlighted works by the artist, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), and select students from LCAD. 

Rosemary Swimm, executive director of LPAPA, presented a historical perspective on the impact art has made throughout Laguna Beach and California’s history. The event took place on Saturday, June 22 at Dawson Cole Fine Art & Sculpture Garden. 

Lamb joined a distinguished group of living masters who have served as the college’s time-honored LCAD Summer Artist in Residence.

“Thanks to our long partnership with Dawson Cole Fine Art, we are honored to bring a painter with such significant talent as Jim Lamb to LCAD as our Summer Artist in Residence,” said LCAD President Jonathan Burke. 

LCAD and Taylor

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Taylor Olives, an LCAD senior majoring in Game Art, exhibited his work 

During his residency, Lamb taught a two-week, plein air landscape course with more than 20 students. The class met and painted in various locations throughout Laguna Beach. 

“It was not to be the goal of the class to produce finished works of art, but rather to be involved together in the process of solving problems during the creative process: from the viewing and selection of the subject through to the application of the paint to the canvas,” Lamb said. He thanked Rich and Ariane MacDonald of Dawson Cole Fine Art as well as Hope Railey, chair of LCAD’s BFA program in Drawing & Painting, for making the class possible.

Three LCAD students exhibited their work: Taylor Olives, an LCAD senior majoring in Game Art; Angelica Spears, 2018 LCAD BFA in Drawing & Painting alumna; and Laguna Beach resident Ray Weston, who is a regular participant of LCAD’s Community Education classes.

Lamb is currently a member of the prestigious Northwest Rendezvous Group of Artists, California Art Club, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and Plein Air Painters of Washington. His landscape paintings are represented by the Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery in Laguna Beach.

LCAD and Dawson Cole Fine Art share a close partnership that began when Burke approached American sculptor Richard MacDonald to present a lecture at the College. Since that time, MacDonald has taught a semester-long master class and received an honorary doctorate from LCAD during its 2015 Commencement. 

LCAD and Angelica

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Angelica Spears, 2018 LCAD BFA in Drawing & Painting alumna, displayed her work 

The partnership has blossomed as Rich and Ariane MacDonald of Dawson Cole Fine Art have been generous patrons of LCAD in support of its educational mission to teach and evolve the classical traditions of representational art. 

“We would like to thank LCAD who provided a unique opportunity to host renowned painter Jim Lamb in our celebrated community of Orange County. This experience gave many young, talented students inspiration from a mentor and a chance to advance their plein air skills in an historic context, which goes back to Laguna Beach’s beginnings,” said Ariane MacDonald, principal of Dawson Cole Fine Art.

Josh Sunga, an LCAD junior majoring in Game Art, took the class to stretch his artistic muscles under the guidance of a respected mentor such as Lamb. The workshop had the added benefit of painting at the beach. “I had taken a semester course on plein air painting, but I wanted to explore it further,” he said. “Game art is all about fantasy and your imagination but painting en plein air challenged my skills.”

For more information and to view images from the exhibition, visit www.lcad.edu.


Mamma Mia! hits the stage at Laguna Playhouse, opens July 7

Laguna Playhouse presents the first show of its 99th season with the perfect romantic comedy to kick off the summer, ABBA’s intoxicating Mamma Mia! The popular musical opens on Sunday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m. 

“We start our 99th season with one of the all-time great feel-good musicals, Mamma Mia! Our subscribers and audiences are going to be dancing queens and kings all summer long with this irresistible and euphoric new production!” comment Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham and Executive Director Ellen Richard.

Mamma Mia! begins previews on Friday, July 5, will open on Sunday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m., and performs through Sunday, July 28 at the Laguna Playhouse.

Music and lyrics are by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with some songs co-written by Stig Anderson. The book was written by Catherine Johnson, and the show was originally conceived by Judy Craymer, with musical direction by Ricky Pope. The show is directed and choreographed by Karen Babcock Brassea. 

Mamma Mia opens

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Laguna Playhouse presents the feel-good musical “Mamma Mia” in July

Get swept away by the infectious music, uplifting story, and dazzling dance numbers that have made Mamma Mia! a worldwide phenomenon. As wedding festivities commence on an idyllic Greek island, a young bride-to-be schemes to discover the identity of her father among three men from her mother’s past. 

With so many of ABBA’s timeless hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance,” “Money, Money, Money,” and “SOS,” this story of love and friendship is an unforgettable musical experience that will leave you dancing in the aisles.

Performances will be Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. 

There will be added performances on Tuesday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, July 18 and Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. There will be Talk-Backs following the performances on Saturday, July 13 at 2 p.m. and Thursday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $65 - $105 and can be purchased online at www.lagunaplayhouse.com or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling (949) 497-2787 ext. 229. Prices are subject to change.                                                           

The box office is open Mondays - Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (open until showtime on all performance days).

For more information on all shows and programming, visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.   

The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Dr.


Avran Fine Art presents Undercurrents, a body of work by Judit Csotsits, on July 6

Since there is no regular Art Walk on July 4 (due to the fireworks show in the city), the First Thursdays Art Walk board decided to host a special weekend event on Saturday, July 6. All participating member galleries will be open from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. There will be artist demonstrations, live entertainment, and complimentary refreshments.

A special “meet the artist” reception will be held at Avran Fine Art from 6 - 9 p.m., introducing the exhibition Undercurrents by Judit Csotsits, a Hungarian-born artist now living and working out of Los Angeles. This event is open to the public. Appetizers and wine to be served. An RSVP is not necessary – but appreciated – and can be sent This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Csotsits’ artistic technique involves pouring acrylic paints onto a canvas, then tipping the canvas this way and that to create a dramatic flow of the paints and textures. After this process has dried, she goes back in with a fine tipped brush to further enhance the dynamic flow of her work.

Avian Fine Judit

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Judit Csotsits at work in her Los Angeles Studio

She says, “My paintings are created intuitively in that I allow the process to dictate the outcome, and I respond to the moment that each movement of paint on the surface generates. It pulls me fully into the moment of creating each mark or flow. I feel that the process is therefore a reminder that each moment is a manifestation of its own creation. While there is a history to draw upon and a visual vocabulary that is reflected throughout the work, the joy for me comes through the process of making each piece. Once finished, the paintings are a record of their own creation and pull the viewer into the macro or micro perspective of the process of manifestation present throughout the cosmos. 

“The paintings reflect an organic movement and evolution on a primordial level. The interaction of chemicals and the fluidity that creates an organic life form are the same processes of nature that carve out planets and continents. They reflect fractal patterns, which are patterns left behind due to unpredictable natural processes. I am interested in exploring the intersection between spirituality, science, and art through my work.”

Avran Fine Lacerta

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Judit Csotsits – “Lacerta,” acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60

Avran Fine Art showcases an extensive collection of unique, evocative glass works and original paintings from both the national and international art scene. For the last six years, Avran Fine Art has gained its reputation in Southern California as one of the leading destinations for world-renowned and museum-quality glass art. 

With glass sculptures from all over the world, the gallery’s strategically curated glass collection offers works by Hungarian artists Laszlo Lukacsi and Peter Borkovics, Bulgarian-born Latchezar Boyadjiev, Laguna Beach native Christopher Jeffries, Miami-based Rick Eggert, and more. Glass sculpture styles range from cast glass to cold lamination, sized small to significant, and come in a variety of colors. Each glass piece is a one and only of its kind, unique to the techniques used and months that went into its creation. 

In addition to glass sculptures and original paintings, Avran has nature-inspired bronze freestanding sculptures and wall installations by well-known Arizona-native Jennyfer Stratman.

Avran Fine Art Gallery is located at 540 S Coast Hwy. 

For more information on this event and Judit Csotsits, call (949) 494-0900 or visit http://avranart.com/judit-csotsits.


LagunaTunes brings the Beatles to LBHS Artists’ Theatre – along with a yellow submarine 

By DIANNE RUSSELL

On Sunday afternoon, LagunaTunes Community Chorus, under the direction of Bob Gunn, took the audience on a joyous and sentimental journey down memory lane – and “Penny Lane” along with 21 other tunes – recreating the music of the Fab Five. The chorus sang with heart and a considerable amount of talent, and it was impossible not to want to sing along.

LagunaTunes brings submarine

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Photo by Scott Brashier 

This yellow submarine was only a small part of the glorious show. For the full melodic story, tune in to Barbara Diamond’s Column on Friday.


Fundraiser for BC Cultural Arts Center raises $10,000 to benefit transformation of BC Space

By DIANNE RUSSELL

On Saturday evening at beautiful Moss Point, a crowd of art lovers participated in the fundraiser for BC Cultural Arts Center spearheaded by Rick Conkey. Undertaking the transformation of BC Space into BC Cultural Arts Center, Conkey maintains that venues such as BC Space are irreplaceable because they present valuable performing and visual arts for the public. The $10,000 raised at the event will help bring this vision to fruition.

The festive fundraiser featured an open bar, silent auction, and live music from Jason Feddy. 

Participants were part of launching Laguna’s first Cultural Arts Center on historic Forest Avenue and maintaining Mark Chamberlain’s legacy. Sadly, Mark, co-founder, owner, and curator of BC Space Gallery, passed away from cancer last year.

Fundraiser for crowd

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Photo by Lisa Farber/Laguna Beach Vibe

Attendees fill Moss Point

Mihae Park, who works as a volunteer with Rick Conkey, said, “As an initial awareness fundraiser, we feel it was a success. People had loads of fun and as always, Jason Feddy was fabulous. We were able to raise approximately $10,000. There were over 100 attendees throughout the evening.” 

“Mark had a vision for BC Space. In order to preserve this historic Laguna Beach venue for the future, the building’s owner will generously invest $80,000 to protect the historical aspects of the space, while making the improvements to meet the cultural, visual, and performing arts needs of Laguna Beach. This fundraiser will help finance the final improvements necessary to make this BC Cultural Arts Center a reality,” said Conkey.

Fundraiser for Conkey

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Photo by Lisa Farber/Laguna Beach Vibe

Rick Conkey talks to guests 

Park commended the donors. “We had very generous donations from various artists including our well-known local civil rights artist and President Emeritus of Laguna Art Museum G.Ray Kerciu, who received the highest bid for his new art work called Wet Dream Series.” 

Rare and exquisite wines were donated and auctioned off as well. 

Laguna’s local jewelry shop Rock Martin, owned by Michael and Heather McFadden, very generously donated two beautiful rings that were quickly gobbled up by Patti and Heather Chalmers. 

Park said, “Just to name a few, other gracious gifts came from Melanie Kay Rosa, professor of dance at Fullerton College, who not only gave her time as a valuable volunteer but also gave ‘Hot Buns Workout,’ which was won by local doctor Pourya Ghazi.”

Fundraiser for Feddy

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Photo by Lisa Farber/Laguna Beach Vibe

Jason Feddy 

“Other donors include our local well-known chiropractor Diane Reed, artists Mark Timothy, Misha von Doring, Mike McGee, art professor at Cal State Fullerton, and many more. Laguna Canyon Spa provided a couples’ massage that was well fought over. Strings also donated a tennis racket and tennis bag as well as Woody Dike who came through with three beautiful necklaces that were coveted.”   

Overall, Conkey and Park were pleased with the turnout and the heightened awareness of BC Cultural Art Center that this event sparked. 

Fundraiser for wine

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Photo by Lisa Farber/Laguna Beach Vibe

Rare wine up for auction 

Park said, “This art-filled fundraising event brought like-minded art loving people together to ensure a bright future of Laguna’s first Cultural Arts Center. The funds raised will help us harness the power of the arts for the benefit of the community.

“We are looking forward to honoring Mark Chamberlain’s tradition of celebrating the fall equinox and formal opening/ribbon cutting of the new and improved BC Cultural Art Center in the next few months. For those who want to help but weren’t able to attend the fundraiser, it is still possible to become an ‘Artivist’ by joining the GoFundMe effort.” Click here to donate.


Festival of Arts presents contemporary artworks and pageant set pieces at The Ritz Carlton

The Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach is thrilled to present its newest off-site exhibit, People & Places. The exhibit is free to the public and is open daily through September 15.

Located within The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, People & Places showcases a variety of contemporary artworks from artists represented in the Festival’s Permanent Art Collection and selected set pieces from past Pageant of the Masters’ performances.

“We are beyond thrilled to partner with our friends at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel to be able provide the community a glimpse into the Festival’s Permanent Art Collection,” said Pat Sparkuhl, Curator, Festival of Arts Permanent Art Collection. 

Festival of painting

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FOA’s “People & Places” is on exhibit now at The Ritz Carlton 

“Along with the contemporary art exhibit, visitors will have the opportunity to view images and actual painted wood props created by the Pageant of the Masters’ artisans, like the memorable Dragon from the 2012 Pageant performance.”

The exhibit showcases an assortment of artworks selected from the over a thousand pieces that span the period of 1913 to the present. Visitors can enjoy work from Jacques Garnier, born in Los Angeles, who is credited as one of the six artists responsible for creating the world’s largest photograph from the world’s largest camera, a F-18 jet hangar at the now closed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. 

Other artist on display includes printmaker Noriho Uriu, photographer Brian Day, and a 1986 painting by David Rosen, who during the Depression joined the Federal Arts Project where he worked with the infamous Siqueiros Art Workshop before moving to Laguna Beach and to open an art studio he owned for over thirty years.

The People & Places exhibit offers visitors the unique opportunity to appreciate images and actual painted wood props created by the Pageant of the Masters’ artisans. Props include the hand-painted Dragon from the 2012 Pageant Heroes & Heroines performance of St. George the Dragon; Urns from the re-creation of The Land of Make Believe by artist Maxfield Parrish from the 2009 Pageant The Muse, and many more.

“Since 1932, the Festival of Arts has been a major influence in preserving the history of this area by supporting artists and creating the world-renowned entertainment venue, Pageant of the Masters,” adds Sparkuhl. “This exhibit invites the viewer to take a visual stroll through history as well as explore a variety of artistic styles.”

For more information, visit www.foapom.com

The Ritz-Carlton is located at One Ritz-Carlton Dr, Dana Point.

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