Volume 15, Issue 45  | June 6, 2023Subscribe

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Art Star Awards embraces new format and honors Kathy Jones for lifetime achievement


It’s only fitting that as a Laguna Beach institution takes on a new approach, it also celebrates its rich history. And so while the 15th Annual Art Star Awards this April will be a newly imagined evening, the guest of honor is artist Kathy Jones, a dynamo stalwart whose expertise and skill has influenced so many aspects of the art community for decades.

“I was very touched,” Jones said about being named the recipient of the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award. “To be honored by the people I respect and admire, in a town I love, it’s remarkable.” 

Jones’ art involvement in Laguna has more tentacles than an octopus. She is not only an accomplished, gallery-represented artist in her own right, she also actively helps others, and the town’s institutions, along the way. A particular gift she brings to those settings, and the numerous board positions she has filled, is her expertise in organizational development. 

Art Start KJ painting

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Kathy Jones 

Artist Kathy Jones, seen here in her studio, will be recognized with the Lifetime Achievement award during the April 28 Art Star Awards event 

A former vice chancellor at UC Irvine and a vice president at Georgetown University in Washington DC before starting her own consulting firm, Jones knows first-hand what it takes to succeed – and generously shares that knowledge with Laguna’s institutions.

“I like the opportunity to contribute in other ways to organizations in town,” she modestly said while rattling off the organizations she’s been affiliated with, including the Laguna College of Art + Design, Festival of the Arts, LOCA, etc. If it involves an artistic effort, chances are Jones has been a part of it. 

“I’ve been able to be involved, pro-bono for organizations here in town and I enjoy being able to contribute in that way, as well as being a board member,” she said. 

Her knowledge has improved the health of many art organizations. 

“We’re so honored to be able to recognize Kathy this year,” said Wayne Baglin, member of LBAA and chair of its Art Star Awards. “She is so deserving for all she’s done for Laguna.” 

Art Star Louies

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Photo by Jeff Rovner 

This year, the popular Art Star Awards will be held in a more casual, fun environment, but the prized sculptural “trophies” created by artist Louis Longhi, will still be presented to winners

Embracing a new way to celebrate

For 14 years, the annual awards night (which many compare to Laguna’s version of the Academy Awards) included a formal sit-down dinner and many speeches. This year, the LBAA board decided to shake things up a bit and will be offering a casual, fun evening at the green at the Festival of Arts, with pop-up shows, live interactive painting opportunities, music and entertainment. There will be a Champagne and wine bar, as well as hors d’oeuvres from Salt Water caterers. 

“People will have a chance to be wandering around, talking, seeing friends, and there will be spontaneous entertainment every half hour or so,” said Baglin. 

The evening will also only offer five awards, instead of the traditional eight, and there won’t be a keynote speaker. Instead, an end-of-night dessert bar will mark the start of the awards presentation and attendees can sit down for the last hour of the evening, as winners are announced for Best Arts Program, Best Arts Collaboration, Arts Patron of the Year and Artist of the Year. At this time, Jones will also be honored for her lifetime achievement to the Laguna arts community.

“I think Laguna, in the grand sense, is committed to its sense and identity as an arts community,” she said. “The challenge is the day-today issue of the economics of being in a coast town. It poses a particular challenge – how do we maintain that and the reality of that reputation?”

Art Star KJ studio

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Courtesy of Kathy Jones 

Kathy Jones has her studio in the canyon and appreciates the discipline, as well as camaraderie of being in such a collaborative setting 

Jones has her studio at the Laguna Canyon Artists’ Studios building and recognizes that collaborative environment is nurturing. Not only do her neighbor artists have pragmatic knowledge – i.e. where to get canvas when your supplier has closed shop – but their support also keeps their professions in perspective.

“When you’re a full-time painter, you look at your life a little bit differently. You go into the studio and that is your space,” said Jones. “You have the opportunity – and the responsibility – at make your art your work.”

While she readily affiliates with the Bay Area figurative painters she was exposed to while living in Northern California, she is also influenced by the many people she had the opportunity to paint with when she was in Washington DC. 

“My art walks a line between abstract and figurative painting, that’s home base for me,” she said. “The way my painting evolves is what’s my sense at the moment – it’s that adventure.” 

And, when she hits a dry spot, as all creatives occasionally do, she’ll go for walks in the canyon with her husband Mike or by the ocean and then return to the studio. 

Art Star KJ hubby

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Courtesy of Kathy Jones 

Artist Kathy Jones and her husband, Mike, enjoy time with family, traveling together and taking daily walks in the canyon 

The work of an artist 

“You just show up. You prime some canvases, rip up paper. You do whatever it does to kick you out of being in the bottom of the hole and you paint,” she said. “That whole business of waiting for the muse to strike? Yea, No.”

Often Jones will make a contract with herself and set a goal, such as the next 10 paintings will work on pattern, or will be a certain size, or concentrate on the figures’ movement. 

“There’s a trillion things you can paint, and a trillion things you can write about. If I don’t create boundaries, the choices are too large. It creates a structure for myself.” 

Art Star KJ rocks

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Photo by Doug Miller

Family time is treasured by Kathy Jones. Here she is with (L-R) husband Mike, granddaughter Anna Sandquist, Jones, granddaughter Emmie Fong and daughter Hallie Jones. 

And when she’s not painting, she’s thoroughly enjoying life and appreciating the opportunity to spend time in town with her daughters and grandchildren and travel with her husband in their sleek, silver camper that looks like a toaster. 

“I get to make stuff – what’s more fun that that?” Jones queried. And as for her favorite painting? 

Her next one. 

“That’s what’s exciting – that sense of eternal optimism and enthusiasm. (Painting) is pragmatic and disciplined in a way, but it’s not routine or drudgery. It’s a sense of adventure and discovery.”

The Annual Art Star Awards event will be held Friday, April 28, from 5:30-9 p.m. at Festival of the Arts. Tickets to the popular event can be obtained by mailing a check for $120 to LBAA, P.O. Box 828, Laguna Beach, Calif. 92652.


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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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