Volume 15, Issue 45  | June 6, 2023Subscribe

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Art Star Awards: Evening fête celebrates Laguna’s artists, supporters, collaborations and programs


Celebrating the varied and very talented artists in our midst is the focus of the annual Art Star Awards. For one night, painters, actors, writers, sculptors and crafters gather to share food, drinks, stories – and to honor each other. 

This annual event has been described as Laguna Beach’s version of the Emmy Awards – if the red carpet included the occasional board shorts. And like the Emmys, the event is taking on a new approach. Gone is a lengthy sit-down dinner, as this year’s Festival of Arts venue is transformed, and attendees will enjoy an evening of pop-up entertainment and an offering of heavy hors d’oeuvres and a wine bar.

Yes, the actual award, a beautifully hand-crafted sculpture by Louis Longi, known as a “Louie” will still be given to lucky recipients. But a plethora of long speeches and presentations have been culled to just four categories including best artist, program, collaboration and patron. The winners will be announced during a dessert reception. (It has already been announced that Kathy Jones will be honored with a lifetime achievement award – to read the article, click here.) 

Art Star fest crowd

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Courtesy of Ben Warner

The Coast Film Festival in 2022 showed many films both at the indoor and outdoor setting at the Festival of Arts

Each category this year has three nominees and for the Best Arts Program the nominees are…(see how that naturally just sounds like the Emmys?) Coast Film & Music Festival; Piece-ful Protest Exhibit (Community Art Project) and Theatre on the Spectrum (No Square Theatre). Each of these programs hit a milestone in 2022 according to the Laguna Beach Art Alliance, which hosts the Art Star Awards, and while the winner will be announced at the April 28 event, their achievements are noteworthy.

Building community through film 

Coast Film and Music Festival 

This festival’s record crowds certainly validated that the event – which features films about active, outdoor lifestyles and environmental conservation – is really hitting its stride said Ben Warner, co-founder and executive director. 

“The films we select need to resonate with the community,” Warner said. “And we recognize the opportunity to make a significant impact on that genre of film, not just locally, but for filmmakers across the country. It’s a growing category of film and we can be a leading adventure film fest.” 

Partnering with local organizations, especially the school district, has proven beneficial for all, said Warner. And sponsorships from local and major companies have also provided clout to the gathering, which is entering its fifth year in 2023. 

“These relationships have evolved since the beginning and now are part of our fabric,” said Warner. “There’s the view of the rising tide helping all, and we’re coming together and partnering.” 

He cites the critical support of The Ranch in keeping the festival going during COVID. And this past year, Hobie stores, the Laguna Art Museum, the Laguna College of Art + Design, and the schools were instrumental in bringing people and excitement to the festival, which was based at the Festival of Arts. Greg MacGillivray of MacGillivray Freeman films kicked off the festival with his classic film Five Summer Stories. The Follow the Light Foundation, with the support of Billabong and Vans, will be back in 2023 to again award its prestigious grant during the festival to a young surf photographer. 

“We realize the benefits of these partnerships,” said Warner. “It’s so important to have the support of the community. Films bring people together. We saw families were coming to the festival for entertainment and education and for a good time,” said Warner. “We want to build on that.” 

Art Star quilt 2

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

The Piece-ful Protest exhibit, which was banned from Wells Fargo Bank, found a home at the Neighborhood Congregational Church 

Tackling censorship

Piece-ful Protest Exhibit (Community Art Project)

Artist Allyson Allen knows her thought-provoking quilts address controversial topics – racism, sexism, the LGBTQ community, social injustice and vaccines. As an artist, she wants people to think about these issues, even though they can make folks feel ill at ease. But when Wells Fargo Bank in Laguna Beach said the entire exhibit had to be removed from its gallery walls because it made people “uncomfortable,” the community rallied behind the artist in a new, supportive way.

“I just remember the public outcry – the people who went down to the bank officers and removed their money, who wouldn’t tolerate this censorship,” said Faye Baglin, secretary-treasurer of the Community Art Project, which had hosted the display. CAP’s mission is to display public art in private spaces. 

“It was gut-wrenching to have this happen – this was the first time we (CAP) had been censored,” said Baglin. “We’ve had this relationship with the bank for 20-some years and then ‘boom – take it down.’”

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Art Star as quilt 1

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

The quilts in the Piece-ful Protest exhibit tackled current social issues, including vaccinations 

Within a few days of frantic phone calls and numerous offers of galleries to display some of the work, the Neighborhood Congregational Church offered its Bridge Hall (now the spiritual center) to display the show in its entirety. 

CAP stepped up to make it happen. The pieces were hung and more than 30 people were enlisted as docents to monitor the exhibit, allowing it to be displayed for more than a month. More than 700 people signed a guest book and many others visited the display. Media coverage throughout Southern California shone a light, not only on the censorship, but also on the messaging of the quilts and the role of art in our community.

“CAP is proud we were able to work with an artist like Allyson Allen – the praise goes to her,” said Baglin. “And we’re grateful to the community. It was very gratifying to have people so willing to give up their time to make sure this exhibit was available for viewing.” 

Art Stars quilt 3

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

A few people were instrumental in relocating the Piece-ful Protest exhibit. (L-R) Susan Brown of Neighborhood Congregational Church, artist Allyson Allen and Faye Baglin of CAP. 

As CAP embarks on its 25th year, there are multiple projects moving forward. A City Hall display is scheduled in May and there is an exhibit in the library room at Gallery Q in the Susi Q Community Center. There are no plans to return to the second-floor gallery at Wells Fargo.

“I think more people are paying attention to what we’re doing,” Baglin said of the 100 members who belong to CAP. “My experience, looking back, is that most Lagunans are really proud the community stood up for CAP and Allyson. It showed that Laguna is an open-minded and tolerant community, and it created a better impression of us because of this.” 

Art star Queen Moorea

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Courtesy of Ben Warner

The Coast Film Festival previewed the film “Queen Moorea,” which featured the life of Moorea Howson (pictured with her tiara), a youth with genetic syndromes who fights for a place in society. She also offered a pre-show introduction to No Square Theatre’s Theatre on the Spectrum production of “Footloose.”

Opening live theater to all

Theatre on the Spectrum (No Square Theatre)

While live theatrical experiences are allegedly open to all people, the reality is the setting may be too intense for neuro-diverse people. Flashing lights crashing sounds and fast scene flips are often uncomfortable for people on the Autism spectrum. 

In August 2022, No Square Theatre presented a modified production of Footloose, adapting it for individuals with Autism, including many residents of Laguna Beach’s Glennwood House. The program was unique to Orange County and expansion plans are being developed. 

“Sharing live theater is a uniquely enriching experience,” said Bree Burgess Rosen of No Square Theatre. “It has the potential to take us to new places, feelings and thoughts. And at the heart of it, is the sharing.” 

Other nominees for Art Star Awards include: 

Best Arts Collaboration 

–90th Birthday Bash (Festival of Arts/City of Laguna Beach) 

–First Thursdays Art Walk & Laguna Dance Festival (Laguna Dance Festival/Laguna Art Museum/Local Galleries) 

–Art Inscribed (Third Street Writers/The Artists’ Fund/Festival of Arts/FOA Foundation) 

Arts Patron of the Year 

–Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center 

–Jeff Redeker and the Rotary Club of Laguna Beach 

–Volvo Cars

Artist of the Year 

–Lani Emanuel 

–Michael Obermeyer 

–Gerard Stripling

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.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

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Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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