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Laguna Dance Festival’s 16th winter season offers creative virtual events and performances

The Laguna Dance Festival will present its 16th winter season as a series of virtual interactive events designed to get supporters on their feet and “dancing like no one’s watching” while keeping the organization strong through donations. 

There are three free “Meet the Artist” panels – the main event on Friday, Dec 4, featuring a renowned flamenco virtuosa, and two weekends of master classes. 

For 15 years, Laguna Dance Festival has presented internationally renowned dancers, choreographers, and dance companies to entertain and energize patrons and educate and inspire local students. The pandemic has devastated the dance world by closing down theaters and practice studios, canceling tours, and furloughing thousands of staffers. Still, Laguna Dance Festival has found ways to continue bringing dance to the community. It has offered free live solo performances at The Promenade on Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach, free online dance classes, and virtual performances on its social media outlets. 

Free online panel discussions

The 16th season offers opportunities for dance lovers to dig deep into their passion with fascinating, free online panel discussions, beginning with renowned flamenco dancer Irene Rodríguez on Sunday, Nov 22 at 5:30 p.m. 

On Wednesday, Dec 2 at 5:30 p.m., Maria Kowroski, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, and Desmond Richardson, co-founder of New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet, will be on the panel.

Jodie Gates, former Joffrey ballerina and Laguna Dance Festival’s artistic director, will share favorite clips from her performing career on Wednesday, Dec 9 at 5:30 p.m. 

To RSVP to the panel discussions, click here.

“Dance Like No One’s Watching”

Laguna Dance Festival’s primary public event, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” will be held on Friday, Dec 4 at 6 p.m. and will help the nonprofit continue its work through this challenging time for the arts and artists. Audience members will experience a dance sampler highlighted by a world premiere by acclaimed international flamenco dancer Irene Rodríguez, filmed on location in Laguna Beach. This brand-new work was commissioned by Laguna Dance Festival in its effort to keep dancers dancing. 

Irene Rodríguez is a Cuban treasure, a world-famous teacher, choreographer, and performer. She worked as dancer and choreography consultant of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and directed the Flamenco and Spanish Dance Program School at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2019. Rodríguez founded her own company, Compañía Irene Rodríguez. She directed Havan’s most prestigious Spanish dance academy, which she also founded. In 2018, the King of Spain granted her Spain’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Isabella the Catholic. 

Laguna Dance Rodriguez

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Courtesy of LDF

Irene Rodríguez  

The first 75 guests to purchase tickets will receive an autographed fan with which they can learn a flamenco-style fan dance as taught by Ms. Rodríguez for patrons of all ages and genders. The night will highlight performances by talented recipients of Laguna Dance Festival’s 2020 Young Artist Scholarship program. Despite the organization’s decreased funds and fundraising opportunities due to the pandemic, it nevertheless awarded scholarships. A special surprise announcement by a Laguna Beach celebrity will take center stage to round out the evening. Guests donating $100 or more will have access to the online December 4 performance and the entertaining fan dance instruction. To purchase tickets or make a donation, go to https://lagunadancefestival.org/dlnow-form/.

“One advantage of the virtual world is that you can dance with abandon as if no one’s watching,” said Joy Dittberner, executive director of Laguna Dance Festival. “You need not care whether you do all the steps correctly. We hope that arts lovers near and far will enjoy this presentation and contribute generously to make sure our organization has the resources to continue bringing dance and dance education to audiences in whatever form and to encourage young dancers to pursue their passion.” 

Creative ways to engage audience

Festival founder and artistic director Jodie Gates, who is the founding director and professor at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, noted, “Like all the performing arts, dance is best when experienced in person, so we have to find creative ways to engage our audience with the same energy we experience when going to the theatre. We landed on flamenco, a flamboyant dance style that we think will translate well to an online experience. Irene is a dynamic artist whose movements you will be able to experience up close in the comfort of your home. Another advantage is the opportunity to expose our community locally and nationally to our local artists, performances, and mission. Distance is not a factor, just the love and joy of dance.” 

Virtual Winter Dance Intensive

Bringing together internationally renowned dance artists from Complexions Contemporary Ballet, New York City Ballet (NYCB), Gibney Dance, and USC Kaufman for two weekends of dance, the Laguna Dance Festival presents a virtual Winter Dance Intensive on the weekends of December 5 and 6, and December 12 and 13.

Participants will train with NYCB ballerina Maria Kowroski, dance icon Desmond Richardson, and Jake Tribus from Gibney Dance. Included in this one-of-a-kind experience are technique classes in ballet, contemporary, and career advice from Jodie Gates, LDF Artistic Director and former Joffrey ballerina.

Laguna Dance Kowroski

Courtesy of LDF

Maria Kowroski

Maria Kowroski was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she began her ballet training at age seven with the School of Grand Rapids Ballet. Ms. Kowroski entered the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, in the fall of 1992. She became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in the summer of 1994 and was promoted to principal dancer in the spring of 1999.

“A regal dancer, she attacks each role with a combination of elegance and athleticism. But in the end, she’s electrifying because she flaunts all her body parts – her arms are just as expressive as her legs. No matter where you’re sitting, when Kowroski’s onstage, binoculars are hardly necessary,” says Gina Kourlas, dance critic for the New York Times.

A member of SDC, Desmond Richardson was raised in Laurelton, Queens, N.Y. and began his formal dance training at the High School of the Performing Arts known now as LaGuardia High School of Art and the Performing Arts, Alvin Ailey School, and The Sommer Academie des tanz Köln, Germany. He was the first African American principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre and is Co-Artistic Director with master choreographer Dwight Rhoden of the internationally acclaimed Complexions Contemporary Ballet, now celebrating its 26th year. 

“Mr. Richardson is one of the great virtuoso dancers of his generation,” says Jennifer Dunning, writer and critic for the New York Times.

Laguna Dance Richardson

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Courtesy of LDF

Desmond Richardson with dance class 

“Jake Tribus has been a household name in the dance world since he first showed up on the competition and convention scene, where he was a judge favorite,” says Alison Feller, writer for Dance Spirit.

Jake Tribus is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance with a BFA in Dance with a focus on Philanthropy and Arts Administration. Currently, Tribus is an Artistic Associate dancing with Gibney in New York City. 

His performance repertoire includes: William Forsythe, Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Jiri Kylian, Paul Taylor, Victor Quijada, Aszure Barton, and Dwight Rhoden. Screen performances include The Late Late Show with James Corden, Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do music video, and the Backstreet Boys’ Chances music video.

Laguna Dance Tribus

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Courtesy of LDF

Jake Tribus 

Gates says, “During COVID-19, we have continued to provide jobs for these talented artists who are being hit very hard by the cancellations of live events. Please help us continue to support these deserving dancers, so they can bring joy to all of us. We appreciate your donations.

“As we transition to a greater reliance on online mediascapes, be sure to follow us on our social media pages for daily updates on activities to engage with.”

Zoom classes are limited, so reserve a spot early.

Fees: Two-weekend fee – $200; one-weekend fee – $100; daily fee – $50.

To register, click here.

To follow on Facebook, click here.

To follow on Instagram, click here.

For more information about LDF, visit www.lagunadancefestival.org.


Community invited to participate in Poetry Trail Project launched by local writer via city grant

Local poet and writer Ellen Girardeau Kempler has received a Fostering Creativity in a Time of Crisis Grant from the City of Laguna Beach to establish a poetry trail through downtown. Kempler will select ten short poems submitted by community members in response to pre-selected works of art along a walkable route around downtown. At the project’s conclusion, she will have the text of each poem and the poet’s name printed on permanent signage to be installed near the artwork. A graphic designer will create a poetry trail map as a printable PDF to be uploaded to the city’s website. 

“The idea of the project is to encourage community members of all ages to engage with familiar art installations in a personal way. I hope that even people who don’t consider themselves writers will be inspired to submit three-line poems. By recognizing the ten selected poets, printing, and posting their work for the public to read, I want to reinforce the idea of poetry as accessible and integral to the artistic experience. This project takes poetry off its pedestal and into the public square. It encourages all residents to participate.”

Community invited Ellen

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Photo by Roger Kempler

Local writer Ellen Girardeau Kempler launches Poetry Trail Project

Kempler is promoting the project with posts on Instagram @lagunabeachpoetrytrail showing the featured artwork, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, in press releases to local media, and on flyers that will be distributed and posted at the library, businesses, schools, and organizations around town.

Poets are invited to submit their three-line poems (no more than 25 words), name, address, phone number, and category (adult, teen, child) to Laguna Beach Poetry Project at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To eliminate bias, all identifying information will be removed by a screener before judging. There is no fee to enter or limits on the number of entries, but no poet will be featured more than once. All poets must be Laguna Beach residents. 

The finished plaques featuring the selected poems will be similar to one installed at the Little Free Library at Laguna Beach Fire Station #3 next to Top of the World Elementary School. Kempler hopes to lead poetry walks along the trail starting at the Laguna Beach Library during National Poetry Month in April 2022 (or 2021, if conditions allow), and to possibly extend the trail to Heisler Park in the future. 

For more information, contact Ellen Girardeau Kempler at (949) 274-1702.

For more on the Fostering Creativity in a Time of Crisis Grant, click here.


Local writers published in book of short stories and essays inspired by COVID-19

A bad case of cabin fever got you down? A cure for pandemic boredom is reading a good book. Writing in Place: Stories from the Pandemic (Mars Street Press) features short stories and essays by local writers. The book was inspired by COVID-19 and the range of emotional experiences brought about by this surreal time. 

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within, and host of the public radio show and podcast Writers on Writing, brings together 17 writers from her long-term writing workshops, Writers Block Party, and the Literary Possé, to produce this eclectic collection. 

Local writers bookcover

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“Writing in Place” is available on Amazon

According to DeMarco-Barrett, the editor of this collection, “The pieces range from the dystopian to the apocalyptic. There are mystery stories, as well as stories exploring love and grief. Together, the compilation celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and the importance of art during dark times.”

This diverse roster of writers includes Dina Andre, Nancy Carpenter, Cindy Trane Christeson, Angela Cybulski, Phil Doran, Anne Dunham, Jennifer Irani, Stephanie King, Jan Mannino, Rosalia Mattern, Marla Noel, Lisa Richter, Dianne Russell, Catherine Singer, Marrie Stone, Laurie Sullivan, and Judy Wagner.

To purchase on Amazon, click here.

After you purchase the book, please be sure to leave a review. 

For more information, contact Barbara DeMarco-Barrett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Laguna Beach Live! presents three rising chamber music stars on Thursday

Laguna Beach Live! is proud to present special virtual performances of rising stars in chamber music in partnership with the Susi Q Senior Center. The series, Live! at the Q, is a monthly Zoom concert offered for free to all. 

This month’s concert is on Thursday, Nov 19 from 4 to 5 p.m. with violinist Antony Karacic, pianist Matt Karacic, and pianist Josh Deguzman. Registration is required through the Susi Q at the link here.

Laguna Beach Antony

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17-year-old violinist Antony Karacic

Antony Karacic (17), a high school junior, studies violin under the tutelage of Dr. Iryna Krechkovsky. As a participant in the Pre-College Program, Antony appeared in public master classes for violinists Philip Setzer and Peter Zazofsky, and pianists Robert McDonald and Julian Martin. He is in his fourth year participating in Chamber Music | OC’s Pre-College Program and hopes to continue his violin studies in college. 

Laguna Beach Josh

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20-year-old pianist Josh Deguzman

Pianist Josh Deguzman (20) studies under the tutelage of Dr. Kevin Kwan Loucks and has performed in venues such as Soka Performing Arts Center, Winifred Smith Hall at UC Irvine, and the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. As a young educator, he maintains a private teaching studio in Aliso Viejo and has been serving as the Administrative Assistant at Chamber Music | OC since 2018.

Laguna Beach Matt

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13-year-old pianist Matt Karacic 

Matt Karacic (13) is a pianist from Irvine who currently studies with his father and pianist Mario Karacic. As a participant in Chamber Music | OC’s Pre-College Program, his chamber group was featured in a public master class for pianist Julian Martin at Chapman University. The winner of numerous competitions and awards as a pianist, Matt is also interested in making YouTube videos and enjoys hiking. 

The three musicians are part of Chamber Music | OC’s Pre-College Program and they will play selected works by Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, and more.   

To register for the program, visit www.thesusiq.org/register-for-free-classes.html.


Arts Commission calls for phone booth-related proposals

BY BARBARA DIAMOND

Artists are called upon to submit proposals for a temporary art installation that incorporates the red telephone booth on Forest Avenue.

January 4 is the deadline to submit entries in the contest, a project of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission. Proposals should be imaginative, whimsical, and colorful.

“The installation will bring joy and humor to Forest Avenue,” said Arts Commissioner Karen Wood.

“One of the delights of temporary installations is that there is no ‘right’ – it just has to be quality art to be considered in the moment.”

Artists may incorporate a design or installation for the interior or exterior of the booth. A previous installation featured a bunch of folks jammed inside the confined space. 

Arts commission phone booth

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Current installation “Your Hero, My Hero, Our Heroes” is a tribute to first responders by artist Robert Holton

Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott created the 3’ x 3’ x 8’4” telephone box in 1935 to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. 

The Arts Commission will review and select designs and/or finalists on January 11, based on creativity and appropriateness for the location. Materials should be durable, safe, and suitable for a public setting, according to the contest guidelines. 

Commission recommendations will be submitted to the City Council for approval. The winner will be awarded a $5,000 honorarium.

The contest is open to residents of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Ventura counties.

Installation is scheduled for on or before May 2.

For more information, contact Arts Program Coordinator Michael McGregor at (949) 497-0743 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Environmental shorts from MY HERO Film Fest to screen at Coast Film Festival

Short film winners of the Sylvia Early Ocean Conservation Award will screen virtually in the Coast Film Festival, a Laguna Beach-based event. The Earle Award is sponsored by MacGillivray Freeman Films’ One World One Ocean campaign and is presented each year at the MY HERO International Film Festival. 

MY HERO’s Sylvia Earle Ocean Conservation block is free to view. To pre-order tickets, click here. 

The 24-minute block of films from the MY HERO International Film Festival includes:

--freeFLY (4:16) – Directed by Avery Bazan; Production Company: DJI, Oceans Unmanned

This short film features a collaboration that uses drone technology to help entangled humpback whales. The nonprofit Oceans Unmanned (OU), which was founded by Matt Pickett, and Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies Ltd. (DJI) joined forces to use unmanned drones for the purpose of ocean protection. 

--Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies (7:24) – Directed by Michael Hanrahan

In this short film, a collaboration of government agencies, nonprofits, and private industry come together to solve the problem of commercial ships causing increased air pollution and whale strikes in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Environmental shorts blue whale

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Blue whales are an endangered species and there are thought to be no more than 25,000 living in the world today

--Mr. Whale (5:00) – by Cheikh Darou Seck

Senegalese man Karim Sall earned the nickname Mr. Whale for his devotion to protecting sea life, and for his activism for ocean conservation in his native land. 

--MY BLUE HEART – Tribute to Sylvia Earle (2:33) – by The MY HERO Project

Laguna Beach youth Whitney Winefordner performs her original song “My Blue Heart,” a tribute to Dr. Earle with ocean footage courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films, Rich German, and James Muir. The song was the winner of the MY HERO Song Contest.

Environmental shorts Whitney

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Laguna youth Whitney Winefordner 

--Laguna Beach ECO Heroes: One World One Ocean (4:23) – by The MY HERO Project

This segment is from the Laguna Beach ECO Heroes documentary, which features the work of the MacGillivray family – Greg, Barbara, Shaun, and Meghan – and their One World One Ocean Campaign.

The lineup also includes a 60-second introduction to the Sylvia Earle Ocean Conservation Award. 

The Coast Film Festival will be held both virtually and in person, at The Ranch in south Laguna Beach, from November 12 - 22. In-person events, on November 12 - 14, will have limited ticket sales and coronavirus restrictions will apply. Face masks are required, sanitation stations will be provided, and group sizes will be limited. 

Virtual screenings, which continue through November 22, have unlimited tickets.

For tickets, go to https://coastfilmfestival.eventive.org/schedule.


LPAPA’s annual premiere event presented virtually is a success

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) continued the tradition of celebrating the plein air legacy of Laguna Beach by presenting the 22nd Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational October 3 - 11 this year. 

Like many other art organizations that have had to reinvent themselves during this national crisis, LPAPA met the challenges head on and was determined to not only survive the pandemic, but to find creative ways to sustain the nonprofit and help its artists so that they can care for themselves and their families. With a bit of reimagining and a lot of pivoting from a physical event to an all virtual event, LPAPA embraced the difficult task and made history.

After realizing a physical event wasn’t going to be a possibility this year, LPAPA immediately reached out to the 25 artists who had already been invited to participate in the invitational and asked them if they would transition from a physical event to a virtual event. 

LPAPA's annual Don

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“Laguna Breakers” by Don Demers – winner of “Best in Show” award

Each and every one of them stated they would be up for the challenge. LPAPA had a plan in place and with the support of the City of Laguna Beach and its ever-faithful sponsors, an innovative and ground-breaking plan was put into action.

“The show must go on” became the new spirit and LPAPA was determined not to let its artists, collectors, and the town down. The tradition that was started in 1999 with the first Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational continued virtually, enabling everyone to enjoy the many events so loved by all but in a safe and socially distanced environment.

This year 25 of the top plein air artists from across the United States joined LPAPA virtually. Each participating artist painted from a collection of photos taken exclusively for this year’s event from around Laguna Beach and surrounding communities, capturing the breathtaking ocean vistas, historic neighborhoods, rolling hillsides, and lush gardens of our beautiful region.

Invitational Events included the Quick Draw Competition, Live Online Art Talks with Artists and Experts, and it was all capped off with a unique and very entertaining Gala Art Show and Sale. Over $38,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to the artists, with the top prize being the highly coveted $7,500 “Best in Show” being awarded to Don Demers. 

The 2020 Best in Show judges were Jonathan Burke, President of the Laguna College of Art + Design, Kathleen Dunphy, LPAPA Signature Artist, and Eric Rhoads, Chairman and CEO of Streamline Publishing. 

LPAPA's annual Arnett

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Joe Anna Arnett, “Heisler Afternoon” – Arnett was recognized with LPAPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

LPAPA’s Signature Artist Joe Anna Arnett was recognized with LPAPA’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award for her extraordinary body of work and the contributions she has made to the art community. 

Longtime friends of LPAPA Carole Urie-Chickering and Bob Chickering were acknowledged for their support and commitment to the arts with the 2020 LPAPA Lifetime Member Award. 

This year has definitely been a unique year and with that in mind LPAPA presented a 2020 LPAPA Special Lifetime Achievement Award to Eric Rhoads – Chairman & CEO of Streamline Publishing, Home of PleinAir & Fine Art Connoisseur Magazines, for his extraordinary commitment to the art community and the artists during the pandemic with free educational videos, conversations, and just plain inspiration through his daily morning talks.

LPAPA is grateful to all of its sponsors, partners, art patrons, and supporters who made this year’s 22nd Annual Laguna Plein Air Invitational celebration possible. In particular, the City and lodging establishments of Laguna Beach, The Irvine Museum, The Boseker Family, BNY Mellon, Seawind Properties, Kinsman & Kinsman, Joe Hanks Van Cleave Foundation for the Arts, the Festival of Arts Foundation, Stifel | Hansen/Pierce Wealth Management, UCI-IMCA, LPAPA’s members, donors, and collectors. 

LPAPA’s mission, as a nonprofit art organization, is dedicated to preserving Laguna’s rich artistic legacy established by our early plein air artists – honoring them with a mission and dedication to the plein air painting tradition in Laguna Beach, across the nation, and around the world.

For more information on LPAPA, visit www.lpapa.org.


The Music of the Spheres

The Music circles

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Photo by Bonnie Teder

Public sculpture by Nancy Mooslin at Lang Park, commissioned by the City of Laguna Beach’s Arts Commission. This piece is named for an ancient theory, confirmed by 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler, that planetary motion produces the same numerical ratios found in musical harmonies. The sculptures contain 12 colors and 12 tones and represent the 12 major triads, the rotating earth, the 12x2 hours of the day, the rising and setting sun, the phases of the moon, and the harmony of the seascape.


LCAD to host Virtual Speakeasy Silent Auction on Friday

Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD) will host a Virtual Speakeasy Silent Auction on Friday, Nov 13 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. online.

In a gesture of giving back, LCAD alum Elizabeth McGhee donated her painting Delta (oil on canvas, 12” x 10”) as one of the many pieces that will be available for collectors to bid on at the LCAD Virtual Speakeasy Silent Auction. 

McGhee doesn’t remember much of her social life while she was an undergraduate student at LCAD. As a President’s Honor Roll student who relied on merit scholarships and grants, she was more than willing to make sacrifices to become the artist she wanted to be.

“I pushed myself while I was at LCAD so that I could get everything I could out of my education,” she said. Represented by Gallery Henoch in New York, among the many honors Elizabeth’s work has received, in 2018 she received the Editor’s Choice Award by American Art Collector Magazine

LCAD to host Robot

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Elizabeth McGhee’s “Delta,” oil on canvas, 12”x10”

Attendance is free, so join fellow LCAD supporters and Orange County’s most beloved art enthusiasts and philanthropists for a “roaring” good time. Bid on dozens of exceptional works of art from LCAD faculty and alumni, as well as other recognized professional artists. Speakeasy patrons will also learn how to make a special commemorative cocktail.

LCAD’s Silent Auction raises funds for the LCAD Annual Fund that provides the college with state-of-the-art technology, creates merit-based scholarships, and is used to recruit high-quality faculty. This year’s LCAD Silent Auction will also include works from artists such as Brad Neal, Mark Jacobucci, Bradford Salamon, Scott Yeskel, Pegah Samie, and Tom Lamb.

To learn more about the event, RSVP, or donate, visit www.lcad.edu/event.

For more information, contact Director of Development Tracy Hartman at (949) 949-715-8041 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Founded in 1961, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) is one of the top nonprofit art and design schools in the nation. LCAD offers undergraduate degrees (BFA) in Animation, Drawing + Painting, Experimental Animation, Game Art, Graphic Design + Digital Media, Illustration and Illustration in Entertainment Design, as well as Master of Fine Arts degrees (MFA) in, Drawing, Game Design, and Painting. The Dennis and Leslie Power Library at LCAD houses the historic archives of the College and The Rex and Joan Irving Brandt Papers. 

For more information about LCAD admissions, news, events, and its Annual Fund, visit www.lcad.edu. Follow on Facebook at @LCADBFA, Twitter @LCAD, and Instagram @lcadbfa.


Second Annual Coast Film Festival celebrates inspiring films and unique viewing experiences 

By DIANNE RUSSELL

This weekend – November 12th, 13th, and 14th – the 2nd Annual Coast Film Festival (CFF) will be held at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. This year the festival is a hybrid of sorts, featuring both limited in-person viewing at The Ranch and virtual film experiences for those at home (which will run through November 22).

Last year, CFF’s inaugural event drew close to 3,000 film and art fans to multiple venues throughout the city, including athlete-activist presentations to students at the Laguna Beach schools. Highlights included local filmmaker Greg MacGillivray’s National Parks Adventure, Audience Choice Award recipient Transformed: Return to Sawubona, and the west coast premiere of Teton Gravity Research’s Fire on the Mountain, a collaboration with the Grateful Dead featuring the acts’ music as the soundtrack.

Co-founder and Executive Director of the Festival Ben Warner says, “I am really proud to have founded this festival with my partners and excited to share an amazing lineup of more than 50 films, athletes, and directors with the community. We had an amazing first year event in 2019, and this year will be even better. We’ve been working tirelessly on curating incredibly inspiring films with powerful messages and entertaining stories.”

Second Annual Ben Warner

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Ben Warner 

Although in-person events have been non-existent, or at best scarce since March, fortunately the festival returns in 2020 with some variations. 

“We are fired up to be able to host a live event this year, especially considering the impact the pandemic has had and continues to have on us all,” says Warner. “The event would not be possible without the support of our volunteers and great sponsors who have shared the vision despite so much uncertainty this year.” 

They couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful setting.     

“The Ranch in particular has been working closely with us the last few months to navigate COVID-19 CDC guidelines and help us use their property to create elevated experiences for smaller group sizes than last year that are comfortable and safe. Being able to have the opening night under the stars on the first fairway Thursday night is a perfect way to kick things off into two full days of films and conversation with directors and pro athletes. Friday and Saturday nights will be in the Sage ballroom and patio.” 

Second Annual running

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Ben Warner running in Bishop

“A big part of the vision of the festival is to celebrate Laguna Beach and all that it has to offer. With its natural beauty and protected waters and land surrounding it, Laguna is perhaps an example for other growing communities around the world to take note as they navigate future growth. This year in particular we have truly felt the desire to get outside and connect with nature and ourselves and the importance of being able to do that when we want to.”

As a curator of the films, are there any that Warner is anxious to see?

“I particularly am looking forward to watching the new film Laguna Beach: Ten Challenges to its Legacy and Character directed by local Ron Chilcote that will screen Friday morning at 10 a.m. The film essentially shares the history of the Laguna greenbelt and bluebelts, and the vision and passion and hard work by many to create what most residents take pride in and enjoy today.” 

Warner says, “We also know that films can be powerful and can bring communities together. The lineup of films are curated to entertain, inform, and inspire. We cover topics ranging from surf adventure stories, to the Laguna Beach Premier of A Life of Endless Summers, The Bruce Brown Story by Dana Brown on Saturday night, to Greg MacGillivray’s Into America’s Wild and hearing from him and Ariel Tweto, a main character in the film, who will be here from Alaska, on Friday night.” 

Second Annual wilderness

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Courtesy of IntoAmericasWild.com

Ariel Tweto from Greg MacGillivray’s “Into America’s Wild” 

“And don’t forget the daytime short film blocks on Friday and Saturday. They’re amazing lineups of films and speakers on specific themes including last year’s favorites Healed By Nature and Our Oceans

“We’ve curated a powerful lineup of more than 50 adventure films and great speakers, including host Pat Parnell, that you’d be stoked to see and hear their stories and meet in person, socially distanced of course.” 

However, if viewers are unable to attend the live event, the virtual experience will be unforgettable as well. 

In an earlier statement, Warner said, “Even though we are constrained to producing most of the festival in a digital format, we are excited to deliver a world-class online experience that is inspirational and entertaining for all ages.”

For the live event, tickets are limited to only 150 per night and 50 per daytime show, so Warner suggests buying your tickets soon. Go to www.coastfilmfestival.com to check out the lineup of films and to buy tickets.

For the virtual films, tickets are on sale now, and prices range from $15 per film block to $75 for a family pass or $150 for a VIP pass. 

By purchasing tickets or a pass, you will not only receive access to great entertainment, you will be supporting a vision for the festival to grow into the future as an annual community event.

Direction questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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