Volume 14, Issue 5  |  January 18, 2022

“Art in Public Places” – Postcards from Laguna


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Some of the art you see around Laguna Beach is the result of two city programs: “Public Art and Murals” and “Art in Public Places.” The goals of the Public Art and Murals and Art in Public Places (adopted in 1986) initiatives are to create diverse art installations of the highest quality that will, over decades, reflect the city itself and its citizens, and improve the quality of life; and to be a source of pride to all Laguna Beach residents. 

Created by four local artists, The Postcards from Laguna series depicts different views of Laguna Beach. Commissioned through a competition, these postcards are changed every five years, offering an opportunity for another four artists to show their favorite places in Laguna Beach. They are displayed on the Verizon building, next to Whole Foods at 283 Broadway.

Michael Hallinan, Robin Wethe Altman, David P. Cooke and Carole Boller were chosen during the 2015 competition.

art in public girl with surfboard

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Laguna scene created by Michael Hallinan 

As an avid lifelong surfer, Hallinan was drawn to Laguna Beach and soon after was awarded an art scholarship to Laguna College of Art + Design. Once in Laguna, he studied and painted with local artists Dave Solomon, Mike Logan and Pat Tobin. 

In 1984, Hallinan was featured on the cover of American Artist magazine and in 1988 was the first living artist whose painting was ever recreated in the Pageant of the Masters. Around that same time, he was named in Who’s Who in American Art. In addition to the Festival of Arts, Hallinan was also an exhibitor at the Sawdust Festival for more than 30 years. Sadly, he passed away in November 2020.

art in public altman

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A watercolor of a painter by Robin Wethe Altman 

Altman grew up in the 1970s in Laguna, with her long blonde hair flowing, and stitching macramé necklaces woven with seashells she dove for that morning. Altman gathered her paintings and displayed them in a booth at the Sawdust during the day and helped run a concession at the Pageant of the Masters at night. She is a long-time watercolor artist who has shown at all three Laguna summer art venues. One of her watercolors, a view of Main Beach, graced the cover of the Passport to the Arts 2015 brochure. 

The overriding theme of Altman’s artwork is idyll. That’s no doubt in part because she grew up in an idyllic place and sees beauty everywhere.

In a 2015 interview with Stu News, she said, “It’s my always theme. It’s the idealist in me. Creating art makes me feel so happy. I put my spin on things with color and whimsy – make everything brighter. Like heaven on earth, I paint it the way it could be.”

art in public lawn bowling

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“Lawn Bowling in Laguna Beach” by David P. Cooke

An oil painter, local artist Cooke was born in Easton, PA in 1952. His first exhibition was the 6th Annual Summer Salon at Eleanor Ettinger Gallery in New York City, NY in 2003. Cooke is exclusively exhibited in the United States. One of his notable shows was the 12th Annual Art of Baseball Exhibition at George Krevsky Gallery in San Francisco in 2009

For several years, Cooke has created the visually stunning sets for Pageant of the Masters. Each year, the Pageant’s artists are tasked with creating one set about every two weeks over the course of six months. 

Cooke was there during the initial stages of the Laguna Canyon Artists Studio complex. In the early ‘90s, Cooke, a carpenter with a woodworking shop in the complex, took up painting. To accommodate his new passion, he converted the adjoining space to an artist’s studio. 

art in public walking on beach

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“Celebrate Laguna Beach” by Carole Boller 

Boller grew up in the Midwest, got her pilot’s license and graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with a Masters of Fine Art before moving here. Boller is an exhibitor at the Sawdust Festival. In 2018, the Newport Ocean Sailing Association commissioned her to create its annual artwork, a celebrated tradition that captures the spirit of the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race (N2E).

Transformation is at the heart of Boller’s paintings. Intrigued by light, she relies on the sensitivity of her eye and clarity of her memory to keep the scene alive as she intuitively reaches for opaque pigments that transform into translucent atmosphere when juxtaposed on canvas. “Color is my day long obsession and joy,” she said. “It washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 

This is the 42nd article in our weekly series featuring Art in Public Places. Since there are more than 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout Laguna, it will take a while to cover them all.

For a map of Art in Public Places (not every piece is listed), click here

To apply for the Arts in Public Places program, click here.


Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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