Breathing life into art: Rehearsals for Pageant of the Masters are heating up

The Pageant of the Masters, presented by Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts, is heating up the beachside community with preparations and rehearsals underway for the highly-anticipated 2018 production of “Under the Sun.” 

Celebrating its 85th anniversary, the 2018 Pageant of the Masters will amaze audiences nightly July 7 - September 1 with 90 minutes of tableaux vivants. These “living pictures” are re-creations of classical and contemporary works of art with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces. Tickets are available now at www.PageantTickets.com.

“We started work on pre-production for “Under the Sun” in October 2017. Currently we are building different sets each week, and conducting dress rehearsals every Thursday night for 3-4 set pieces,” said Richard “Butch” Hill, Technical Director and Lighting Designer for the Pageant. “This will be my 34th year with the Pageant and the passion and dedication from the designers, volunteers, make-up artists, Pageant Director, and everyone involved truly shows in the masterpieces created.”

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Pageant Sculptor Daniel Stonebreaker (far right) helps volunteer cast members (left to right) Sunshine Iller of Lake Forest, Ferne Ames of Laguna Beach and Caroline Reese of Ladera Ranch, into their poses at a rehearsal for the 2018 Pageant of the Masters

Since opening in 1933, the Pageant has welcomed approximately 500 volunteers each year who eagerly contribute more than 60,000 hours of their time in total. Many staff members, like Butch, have worked with Pageant of the Masters for decades, creating a family-reunion-like environment that attracts mass numbers of volunteers and crowds to learn, appreciate and perform in the fine arts. The volunteers vary in ages with the youngest volunteer at just four years old, and the oldest in his late 80s.

Every Thursday night through June, staff and volunteers gather in the Irvine Bowl studying details from stage lighting to specific pose placement, and unique make-up art to complicated set designs. Volunteer actors fill the backstage area during rehearsals, along with Allyson Doherty, Makeup Director, who coaches the make-up volunteers with step-by-step tutorials on how to transform the actors into living art. To complete the final picture, Costume Director Reagan Foy and her team help cast members into their costumes and make final adjustments.

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Scene from Under the Sun: Garden Wall

The Director, Diane Challis Davy, selects the pieces in the Pageant and oversees pre-production and each rehearsal to perfect the living pictures and transform their presentation, with help from the Pageant staff, into a full production with music, narration and backdrops.

In the 2018 Pageant of the Masters, “Under the Sun,” theatrical magic, live music and light-hearted storytelling will honor masterpieces including work by Leonardo da Vinci, Kleitsch, Rosenthal, Monet, Kuntz, Sargent, and Wasil. Staying with tradition, the finale of the Pageant will feature Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”

The Pageant of the Masters runs July 7 - September 1 with advance tickets now available starting at $15 per person. A Pageant ticket is also a season pass to the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show. 

The 2018 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show will take place in conjunction with the Pageant of the Masters, July 5 - September 1, with general admission tickets starting at $10 per person. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org.


With Hymns to the Silence, Jacques Garnier captures the sublime

By MARRIE STONE

“A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn’t borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn’t borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window, and stairway to express it.” –Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

If architects bestow souls onto their structures, photographer Jacques Garnier lays them bare for the rest of us to appreciate. Like a portrait artist who captures a subject’s essence, Garnier’s photographs bring that same reverence and attention to architecture. But what of the artist himself? Where does the creator’s imagination originate?

With Hymns closeup

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Photo by Jeffrey Rovner

Photographer Jacques Garnier

Looking at the poetic tranquility in Garnier’s current exhibition, Hymns to the Silence – on display through October 24th at the Laguna Art Museum – no one could guess at his artistic origin story. Inspired by a lifelong obsession with beautiful buildings and iconic structures, Garnier can also trace his influences to some unlikely sources, including a college job collecting trash, a long love affair with poetry, and a captivation with abstract art. There are also hints of Buddhism and a fascination with the Japanese artistic treatment of negative space. 

Whether subject matter is implicitly incorporated or obviously left out, Hymns to the Silence represents the distillation of decades of work that’s come before it. Tracing the trajectory of Garnier’s journey is therefore central to appreciating his art.

With Hymns broad

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

Garnier’s image of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, titled “The Veil and the Vault,” illustrates his use of spareness, light, and negative space

Deconstructing an artist’s odyssey

Artistic influences are often easier to appreciate in hindsight. After a photographer has amassed a body of work, and assembled several different collections, audiences can absorb them in one swoop, seeing trends and repeating themes. Though Garnier didn’t pick up a camera until his 50s, his mind regularly returned to similar subject matter and intellectual ideas for decades.

Garnier attributes a recurring job in college as one of those defining moments. In his late teens and early twenties, he spent his summers collecting trash for the Department of Sanitation in Los Angeles. Even in the 1960s, realizing how much waste Americans generated had a visceral impact on him. “The amount of working and useful objects thrown away left an indelible impression on me,” Garnier says. That awareness of how much excessive junk our culture accumulates – whether explicitly examined or intentionally avoided – is woven throughout his work.

Earlier in his career, Garnier made a study of clutter. One such exercise, which never made it into a formal collection, investigated the hidden mess behind hotel room doors. Instead of the unblemished, sanitized spaces that guests encounter at check-in, Garnier was interested in what they left in their wake – unmade beds with disheveled sheets, dirty linens, and trash cans that hadn’t been emptied. “I’m not interested in the people,” Garnier says. “I’m interested in the places people have been, and what they leave behind.” 

With Hymns hotel bathroom

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

Garnier’s obsession with clutter and waste led to an examination of hotel rooms where guests had recently checked out

Around this period, Garnier found himself attracted to the traditional Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic that embraces transience and imperfection. This worldview can be reduced to three principles: nothing is perfect, nothing is finished, and nothing lasts. Wabi-sabi adopts an appreciation for things that are imperfect, incomplete, and impermanent, finding beauty in the flaws. “I isolated pictures of the impurities of life,” Garnier says. “The neglected things that are often overlooked. I think this fascination began because of the garbage collecting. I was always interested in what was discarded and thrown away.”

In another series, called Second Chances, Garnier captured images of abandoned cabins in California’s Mojave Desert. World War II veterans, attracted by the federal government’s offer for land grants to homesteaders in the mid-20th century, came to the desert in droves. But the punishing heat and inhospitable conditions eventually pushed most of them away, leaving behind beds and couches, curtains and clothing, rotting appliances and rusted equipment. Even a few graves. Garnier’s photos bore witness to the tangible impact of human waste on the environment.

With Hymns cabin

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

“Second Chances” explored abandoned cabins in California’s Mojave Desert as a commentary on human waste

This hyper-awareness of clutter eventually led Garnier in the opposite artistic direction – an equally aggressive instinct to declutter. What if he could strip buildings down to their bare essence, subtracting not only the nonessential elements surrounding the structures, but even parts of the structure itself? This led first to the collection, LA Remembered, then to re[VOIR] and, ultimately, to the most extreme body of work in this series, A Deconstructed Odyssey

Moving into abstraction

Along the way, Garnier became interested in Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko’s color field paintings and abstract art. “I was emotionally drawn to the work, but I couldn’t figure out why,” says Garnier. “It was a visceral response.” Newman, Rothko, and similar artists moved Garnier’s photography from literal representations of spaces and into the abstract. 

“I’m not an expert on photography, but I am an expert on minimal and geometric abstraction,” says gallerist Peter Blake. “And that’s what I see in Jacques’ body of work.” Blake has followed Garnier’s work for years. Since 1996, The Peter Blake Gallery has exhibited four past collections of Garnier’s photography. “At some point, Jacques was shooting these rust spots in metal and making what looked like abstract paintings out of photographs. Then there was a period of architectural shots that, again, you wouldn’t know what they were unless told. But they had this sense of a kind of structural feeling to them that was really incredible.” 

With Hymns construct

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

A Deconstructed Odyssey chronicled Garnier’s first serious foray into abstraction. “Construct #96” is a representative sample, though not the most extreme.

“Something shifted,” Garnier says. “Around the time I began exploring black and white photography, a feeling of wanting to take away unnecessary things from the photographs started to percolate. I began taking black and white images, but without the background – or with a minimal background. I knew I was onto something, but it wasn’t working. It went through three or four different incarnations before I started doing the LA icon series.”

The concept behind Garnier’s LA Remembered collection was born when he discovered the classic La Cienega hangout, NORMS diner, was destined to be razed. “NORMS had such an iconic sign. It’s called Googie architecture,” Garnier says. “I wanted pictures of the building but ended up taking a photo of just the sign. I started playing with it, isolating the sign by itself, and floating it in negative space. Then I started doing that with other iconic buildings in Los Angeles.” The series includes images of Union Station, Capitol Records, Mann’s Chinese Theater, and the Theme Building at LAX (to name just a few). They’re all recognizable structures, the majority of them even including the signage to easily identify them. But when removed from the busy cityscape of LA’s congested streets, floated in the ether of white space, the buildings give an almost ghostly impression of disembodied architectural elements that’s both beautiful and haunting.

With Hymns theme

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

The Theme Building at LAX is part of Garnier’s “LA Remembered” series

A body of work distilled

In some sense, Hymns to the Silence represents the consummation of a body of work that’s been building for decades. As Garnier refines his process and homes in on his intentions, the images have gathered a kind of artistic momentum. 

The 25 photographs on display in the upper-level Thomas T. and Elizabeth C. Tierney Gallery of the Laguna Art Museum represent only about 40 percent of the total collection. Even viewers familiar with the buildings will experience them anew when reimagined through Garnier’s lens. Several images were taken at UCI: Langson Library, Gateway Study Center, Aldrich Hall, and McGaugh Hall to name just a few. Others are iconic to southern California: the Broad Museum, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and San Diego’s Salk Institute. But some of Orange County’s well-known structures, like the Segerstrom Center, are largely unrecognizable when stripped of their surroundings. 

In addition to isolation and abstraction, Hymns to the Silence explicitly makes use of another Japanese notion – the importance of negative space – more formally known as ma. In traditional Japanese art and culture, ma (literally meaning gap, space, or pause) holds as much meaning as the subject matter of the work itself. For example, the doors, walls, and windows of a house are structurally necessary. But it’s the space inside that’s the essence of the home. In other words, “the silence between the notes makes the music.”

This inclination toward negative space might be a nod to Garnier’s time as a poet. Earlier in his life, he produced four collections before applying those poetic principles to photography. “Poetry is ambiguity and I try to have that in my work,” Garnier says. His images, like his poems, reflect the idea that beauty often lies in what remains unsaid. They give the eye – and the mind – a quiet space to rest and reflect.

With Hymns infinitum

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Photo by Jacques Garnier

“Infinitum” an image of York Hall at UCSD is part of the “Hymns to the Silence” collection, on display at the Laguna Art Museum

“The exhibition is a beautiful visual conversation between dark and light, absence and presence, void and existence,” says Meg Linton, writer and independent curator. “The reduction of these glass and concrete monumental buildings to snippets of pattern surrounded in a pristine blackness poetically reveals the minuteness of the man-made to the vastness of the universe.” 

Beyond that, though, the photographs are also an homage to California’s contemporary art scene, while simultaneously evoking something more modern. 

“The two things that were important in California’s contemporary art genre were hard-edge paintings and light and space,” says Blake. “Jacques manages to capture both in these photographs. There’s a kind of hard-edge abstraction to the work and, of course, the use of light. He brings you back to an older time. There’s a feeling in these photographs that’s very Bauhaus, very modern. It has a certain feeling that takes you back to the 1930s. It’s a very strange thing.”

For the armchair art enthusiast, the images are simply stunning. Cody Lee, Director of Communications at the Laguna Art Museum, summarizes what guests can expect. “The photographs are endlessly fascinating,” he says. “They are at once aesthetically beautiful, with stark contrast of black and white; technically impressive, made with precision and detail; and very thoughtful, with architecture shown in abstract forms and from Jacques’ unique perspective.” 

The will of man made visible

Although Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead endures as one of the more controversial novels of the 20th century, her protagonist Howard Roark (loosely based on Rand’s architectural hero Frank Lloyd Wright) remains a clear-eyed visionary. The following excerpt refers to the New York City skyline, but illuminates one of Garnier’s enduring goals:

“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of…skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky…and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?” 

Jacques Garnier will appear at the Laguna Art Museum on Thursday, July 29 at 6 p.m. to speak about the collection. Advance tickets are recommended: $13 for adults; $11 for seniors and students; free for LAM members. Visit www.lagunaartmuseum.org for more information about the collection, the event, and other exhibits on display at the Museum.


Wayne Thiebaud’s Clowns: A fitting finale to a long career

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeff Rovner

When centenarian artist Wayne Thiebaud was a boy – back in the early 1930s – the circus came to his hometown in Long Beach. Thiebaud became captivated by the clowns and took a job with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, bringing water to the elephants and helping the clowns pick up the tent in exchange for tickets. “It was probably the biggest event that happened during the year,” Thiebaud said in an interview with Janet Bishop in his 2020 book Wayne Thiebaud: Clowns. “Because it was so bizarrely the opposite of most American’s lives.” 

Thiebaud befriended a carnival worker known as “The Wild Man from Borneo.” His act took place in a simulated cave, and he played the role of the untamed savage, swallowing lit cigarettes and eating glass. But Thiebaud remembers him as a wonderful guy whose real job was combing Southern California’s beaches for lost treasure – coins, wristwatches, and rings. He invited young Thiebaud to tag along, letting him keep the pennies. Then there was “Ossified Roy,” a stony man with rock-hard skin that sounded like it might crack when hit with a hammer. 

Like most visceral childhood memories, these men made an impression on Thiebaud. But the bulk of the artist’s career didn’t concern clowns. Instead, Thiebaud became known for his colorful still life portraits of another kind of Americana – brightly painted pastries (cakes, pies, and cupcakes), ice cream cones, hot dogs, and gumball machines. He also did several series of mountains, streetscapes and landscapes, cities built on a hill, and some portraiture. 

He mostly kept the clowns locked in the treasure chest of his own memories, waiting until his mid-90s to bring them back out. But they bear all the hallmarks of his artistic expressions cultivated over decades of practicing his craft, this time with a twist.

Wayne Thiebaud Entrance

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The Wayne Thiebaud “Clowns” exhibition is on display at the Laguna Art Museum through October 24

Thiebaud’s exhibition, Clowns, has been on display at the Laguna Art Museum since December 2020 and will close on Sunday, Oct 24. It features more than 40 works from the series, representing the culmination of more than seven decades of artistic work. Opening just three weeks after the artist’s 100th birthday, the show coincided with a retrospective of his work on exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, where Thiebaud lived most of his adult life. 

Clowns is a particularly poignant and fitting finale for an artist nearing the end of life whose career largely celebrated the simple joys of our colorful American culture. Clowns conjure the innocence of childhood memories with their red noses and oversized shoes. These animated settings and painted faces appeal to Thiebaud, whose art reflects his enduring fascination with the cartoon form. But, of course, there’s always been something more complicated about the clown. 

Wayne Thiebaud Mystic

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“Clown Mystic,” oil on board mounted on panel, 2019

Thiebaud began the series in 2015 during a time of personal transition. The artist was 95 years old. His son, Paul, had passed away in 2010 at the age of 49 and, five years later, he lost his wife of 56 years to Alzheimer’s. “It was a time of trying to figure out what to do to keep going,” he told Bishop. Several of the pieces reflect that struggle. 

For Thiebaud, the clowns represented transience and elusiveness. They were there and then they weren’t. As an artist confronting mortality – both his loved ones’ and his own – what could be more elusive or transient than life itself? 

Wayne Thiebaud Mask

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“Clown and Oversized Mask,” charcoal and chalk on paper, 2019

“They’re almost like spirits or like figures of that domain that are of a different character,” he said. “These people were just like me, but they had these extraordinary experiences, most of them having a lot to do with moving all the time.” They were both familiar and exotic, accessible and distant. They were performers – trapeze artists, tumblers, jugglers, and entertainers – but they were also grunts doing the hard work behind the scenes. 

The series retains that strong sense of nostalgia that’s always been present in Thiebaud’s work. His paintings have often called up images from childhood and an uncomplicated vision of mid-20th century American life – apple pies and ice cream sundaes, pinball and slot machines. The kind of America conjured by the peaceful prosperity of the 1950s. 

Clowns are no exception. But there’s a poignant sadness and seriousness to this series unlike what’s come before. In addition to his playful clowns juggling desserts, popping out of boxes, or driving cars, Thiebaud’s clowns are also often in peril. Some are on fire, locked behind bars, being rescued from the spotlight, or smothered by a beast. There are cigar smoking clowns, naked clowns, disintegrating clowns, and a sopping wet clown trapped beneath an isolated raincloud. Perhaps the most poignant is a dead clown whose spirit is floating away. 

Wayne Thiebaud Spirit

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“Clown Spirit,” oil on board, 2019

Thiebaud’s clowns connect to his love of whimsical cartoons, and yet they have an edge of somber reflection and a ribbon of loneliness and grief. They are tragic and comedic. Solemn and silly. There’s a shape-shifting quality that leaves the audience a little on edge. 

Wayne Thiebaud Cigar

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“Clown with Two Cigars,” oil on board, 2016/2018/2019

This November, Thiebaud turns 101. “Thank God for history,” he once remarked to KCET’s Robert Pincus. “It’s so clarifying.” He is, after all, an artist who’s witnessed a lot of it. The series reflects Thiebaud’s history, too. Perhaps one of his more autobiographical exhibitions, Clowns is a culmination of Thiebaud’s thematic concerns and psychological curiosities. It showcases his artistic influences (including Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Cézanne, among others), it explores the range of his emotional terrain, and it includes a few self-portraits to ensure the audience understands the artist exists inside his own work. 

Wayne Thiebaud Self Portait

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Self-Portrait

When talking about his inspirations for the series, Thiebaud says he was particularly touched by the 1959 Henry Miller story, “The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder.” The fable chronicles the story of two clowns. Auguste, the story’s protagonist, could make people laugh in the moment but desired the ability to impart lasting joy on his audiences. Could the same be true of Thiebaud? “It addresses a lot of things that I’m fundamentally interested in – about the vulnerability of human beings, and also about celebrity,” Thiebaud told Bishop. 

The story was inspired by the cubist painter Fernand Léger, who created a series of clown and circus drawings that Thiebaud also admired. “Auguste is unique in that he came from the blue,” said Henry Miller. “But what is this blue which surrounds and envelopes us if not reality itself?”

Wayne Thiebaud 100

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“One-hundred-year-old Clown,” 2020

Interesting, then, that Thiebaud chose the color blue to surround his own One-hundred-year-old Clown painting. The piece is both an intimate self-portrait and a self-referential homage to many of the tropes and techniques Thiebaud’s paintings have incorporated over the course of his long career. Art historian Julia Friedman has written extensively about the piece. She notes the skullcap that summons Thiebaud’s mountain series (first appearing in his work in the mid-1960s), the dark lines on his coat that conjure city roads he often painted in San Francisco in the 1970s and ‘80s, as well as the curvature of the artist’s ear that echoes his Sacramento landscapes. Of course, the signature red nose is the cherry on top of Thiebaud’s many iconic dessert paintings – cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream sundaes. But it’s the clown’s expression, as well as the heavy burden of his black overcoat, that weighs on the viewer. This is a clown past his prime, still wearing the makeup but having shed the traditional clown attire, who seems to understand his show is over.

Not so for Thiebaud who, at 101, continues to stretch himself into new and unchartered territory. Curator and critic Karen Wilkin had already declared Thiebaud an “American master” in 2015 before the then-nonagenarian opted to tackle new ground by inserting himself into his work. He’s produced 10 covers for The New Yorker magazine, including one as recent as August 2020. 

Wayne Thiebaud Cars

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“Running Cars,” 2019

“Spending time with Theibaud’s Clowns exhibition has been a personal delight, perhaps only superseded by watching and listening to groups of visitors touring the exhibition,” says Julie Perlin Lee, executive director of the Laguna Art Museum. “Whether love, hate, or something in between, visitors react to this body of work often by projecting their own feelings or narratives into it. My favorite exhibition moment so far was to see a young group of visitors, wonderfully outfitted in stripes, suspenders, and other clothing evocative of something a performer might wear. This is the magic of Theibaud, an artist whose painting is of the highest caliber and who has the ability to speak to each of us.” 

This is, indeed, the enduring power of Thiebaud’s clowns. They are both windows out and mirrors in. They are, as the artist observed, both foreign and familiar figures. They are us – frequently joyful and occasionally burdened, sometimes playing in the company of others but more often alone. No surprise the audience is inclined to put themselves into the paintings and see themselves reflected back. After living over a century, and painting for more than 70 years, Thiebaud has had ample time to study human nature and empathy. Who better than this artist and his clowns to teach us something about ourselves?

Clowns will be on display through Sunday, Oct 24 at the Laguna Art Museum located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach. 

For more information, go to www.lagunaartmuseum.org.


Suzie’s ARTiculation

The 2018 Pageant of the Masters, “Under the Sun,” delivers an endless summer of Laguna-style fun

By SUZIE HARRISON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Everything “Under the Sun” in Laguna has been considered for this year’s Pageant, with the theme a tribute to our town’s creative heritage as an artists’ colony as well as a recognition of its contributions to the surf culture – and the show features the quintessential origins of the Missions in addition to some of the most iconic works throughout time. 

It doesn’t get any better than this. Now celebrating its 85th anniversary of masterfully bringing works of art to life, the Pageant of the Masters is a true treasure. 

Laguna’s history as an artist colony will take center stage, illustrated in works by some of the founders, including creative masters William Griffith, Edgar Payne, Anna Althea Hills and Joseph Kleitsch, to mention a few, spanning to a work by current Festival exhibitor, Jorge Fernandez, a 2010 bronze piece, “From the Beginning,” which aptly opens Act I.

I can’t count how many years I’ve been to the press preview event of the Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, but it’s truly magical, unique, and awe inspiring. 

To experience the behind-the-scenes action, see the inner workings of each specific department and all the different facets and detail that go into each recreated artwork and each Pageant – it’s fascinating beyond belief. 

the 2018 Flag Festival

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A recreation of “Flag Raising Over Irvine,” kicked off the evening a 1946 Pageant tableaux, which symbolized this year’s return of the American flag at the Festival

Technical Director Butch Hill in his 34th year puts it all together with his choreography of lights and movement – a major challenge, as all moving pieces must be synchronized just right.

“We have some beautiful colorful pieces this year and a lot of landscapes, very impressionistic local work,” Hill said. “The whole story that we’re going to tell in the first act is awesome. Just the history of Laguna and art. It’s super colorful.” 

The Pageant is featuring a lot of paintings this year. 

“So the lights are tied into the set design. When I am thinking of the set design I have to think of how it’s going to work within the set,” Hill said.

To get the lighting down for all the pieces Hill said it takes about two rehearsals for each piece; which is what they’ve been doing since February.

Reagan Foy, Costume Director, explained that the costumes are all made out of muslin, a finely-woven cotton fabric, introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. The costumes are all painted using a textile paint to look like the pieces, and fit both sets of cast members.

the 2018 cool orange crates

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Seeing the cast in the living pictures up close is always exciting, “The Orange Crate Labels” are deliciously fantastic, a sure crowd pleaser

“With the ‘Under the Sun’ theme, we have a lot of sunbathers, and people at the beach,” Foy said. “One of the most challenging pieces we did this year for costumes was ‘Surfriders’ because we had to manipulate the body shapes to be a little bit different than the average person. So it’s a lot of foam pieces that we cut and created those extreme shapes on the bodies.”

Each costume is about a week’s worth of work between cutting the patterns, building the costumes, fitting a cast member, making alterations, and bringing a cast member back in for a second fitting.

 “It’s a challenge in and of itself. It becomes a lot of manipulating and draping on our cast members and once they’re in the set, figuring out where we need to manipulate the fabric either by putting in darts or putting Velcro in pieces to something on the set or other pieces of the costume so we really get that movement,” Foy explained. “Plus in addition to that our painters really help us out with all of those paintbrush strokes in there to really get that movement as well.”

Director extraordinaire Dee Challis Davy said her favorite works this year are, “Pleasures of the Beach-Mosaic by Millard Sheets. Public Mural art in Santa Monica. A very challenging piece to reproduce. The music to accompany is “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks.”

She enjoys some of the short vignettes in this year’s show, and “a very fun and rousing end of Act 1.”

Watching the sculptors work, I can tell the completed Serra Chapel Retablo is going to be sensational.

“We have recreated it twice in the past,” Challis Davy said. “This time it is presented on our turntable stage and is preceded by a procession of Father Serra on the “Camino Real.”

the 2018 rymar scenic

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David Rymar (pictured) and David Cooke are just remarkable at recreating the original works into sets

Scriptwriter Dan Duling is also masterful at his work.

“Themes make the research just that much more fun because even if we were to select a piece we’d done before, we’d be looking at presenting it in a different context, perhaps from a completely different angle, and always with a vision of its place within the entire production,” Duling said. 

He explained that much must be taken into account since every second of the Pageant involves so much work by every department. 

“It’s a daunting task that’s still fun after all these years (this is the 38th Pageant script I’ve written) because of my pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish and the thrill of being part of such a unique production,” Duling said. “Dee and I remain united in our commitment to making the show as theatrically exciting and fresh as possible for both our returning audiences and a new generation of audiences we hope will want to come back again.”

the 2018 builder POM

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Showing how the works are put together with the cast, and how it’s assembled, is called “the builder” and is a definite fan favorite

He added, “But, as always, the Pageant remains a win-win, because by being able to celebrate their works and in many cases introduce them to audiences who may not have known about them before, we’re adding to their creative legacies.”

Creative indeed.

Not only was the sun shining on the Irvine Bowl, the evening also threw a spotlight on the new Terra restaurant, which is phenomenal. 

“I saw this hidden treasure and I fell in love with it and I said I have to do something to show this magnificent piece of art in the City. [We looked around for historic items only] to find we had this beautiful, magnificent artwork just sitting and hidden [right here]. And I am so happy to bring it out and show it,” said Mo Honarkar. “And that’s my gift to the city.”

the 2018 terra

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The extraordinary new Terra restaurant is a phenomenal feast for the senses 

“Dora [Wexell Orgill] is part of the team, so is my daughter Hasty, so is Mark [Orgill], and you know I couldn’t be successful without a good team. I am very appreciative of them,” Honarkar added.

The juried Festival of Arts features 140 artists who work in a spectrum of art mediums. Plus guests enjoy a chockfull menu of art workshops, classes, concerts, and special events at the Festival.

The Pageant of the Masters runs nightly at 8:30 p.m. from July 7 to September 1. Advance tickets are $15 to $260. Tickets sell fast so it’s best to get them early.

The Pageant is located on the Festival of Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road. For information and tickets visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org or call (949) 494-1145 or (800) 487-3378.


A cultural cornucopia: Laguna’s local festivals attract a broad spectrum of international artists

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeffrey Rovner

Although art speaks a universal language, it reflects personal experiences. Art exposes cultural customs, political norms, and religious practices. It can communicate private passions and individual fears. Often, and ironically, the more intimate the artistic expression, the more unifying it can feel. Even if artists’ backgrounds appear wholly different from our own, we might still find ourselves reflected in their imagery. Art knits us together through our shared human experience, evoking collective emotions – humor and whimsy, pleasure and beauty, sadness and despair. The more diverse the artistic voices, the richer the emotional encounters.

While the Festival of Arts requires its exhibitors to live in Orange County, many of them come from countries across the world. Almost 25 percent of the artists were born (and often raised) outside the United States. Twenty-nine of the 120 artists represent 21 countries located on six continents. There’s a South African glass artist and a South Korean oil painter. Photographers from Chile and Australia. Printmakers from Japan and India, and sculptors from Bulgaria and Germany. Two Taiwanese oil painters and jewelers from five different countries. 

The Sawdust Festival, which restricts exhibitor residency to Laguna Beach itself, includes artists from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Italy, and Sweden. The Laguna Art-A-Fair, not having any residency requirements, draws roughly 15 artists born and raised in countries like Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Georgia, Belarus, Korea, France, and Cambodia. 

What these artists offer stretches beyond their talents. They bring cultural traditions, but they also bring unique upbringings, diverse perspectives, and rich educational backgrounds. Some grew up in nations that demanded conformity. Many received a rigorous and competitive education. Others enjoyed an uncommonly open childhood. A few endured wars and oppressive regimes. Several were saturated in European art, architecture, and literature. Some were isolated and oppressed while many were given free rein to explore the distant boundaries of their passions. They all contribute to the grand mixture of art on display at this year’s festivals. 

Here are a mere three of those many diverse stories.

India’s academic rigor allowed Vinita Voogd’s artistry to thrive

Born and raised in New Delhi to progressive parents who supported her artistic obsessions, Vinita Voogd studied in India’s finest institutions. By the age of three, she was enrolled in a competitive private school intended to educate the nation’s future leaders. Modeled after Britain’s prestigious Eton College and Harrow School, instruction took place ten hours a day, six days a week to students who were studying calculus and trigonometry by middle school. 

A cultural Vinita

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Vinita Voogd’s prints are on display at the Festival of Arts, Booth #72, through September 3

But rigorous study also meant monumental freedoms to follow individual passions. The school supported and indulged every whim. “From 2 to 5 p.m. every afternoon, students could study whatever they wanted,” Voogd says. “If you wanted to build remote control cars or make a plane, the school would hire an engineer to teach you. You could spend the afternoon in the sculpture studio. We had students doing drama, music, singing, anything you can think of.” 

It prepared Voogd well for her education at the University of Delhi, India’s equivalent of Harvard, where she received her BFA. Of the thousands of applicants to the College of Art, they accepted only 24 students. “You can imagine the education we got,” Voogd says. “The professors were all the highest in their fields. The best in India. Many of them had studios in Europe, so we were getting all the information and techniques from Paris, Berlin, and London.”

Though neither of Voogd’s parents were artists – her mother was an attorney and her father a businessman who came from a long lineage of bankers – they embraced her passions. At the age of 6, she announced her intent to become an artist. At the age of 20, she fell in love with an American man. “Some Indian men married European or American girls, but I was one of the first Indian girls to marry an American man.” 

Voogd followed her new husband back to Orange County, where she discovered her passion for printmaking. Though all her printmaking education was done in the United States, under the initial instruction of John Paul Jones at UCI – one of America’s foremost printmakers in the 1950s and 60s – Voogd brought a body of both discipline and deep knowledge of art with her from India. 

Today Voogd incorporates pieces of India into her prints. The vivid colors and saturated tones call out to India’s rich and vibrant culture. “Sometimes I’ll finish a piece, not knowing why I was putting those colors together. I’ll hang it in my studio and realize my mom had a sari in those colors, or my grandmother had something like that. The women wear really colorful clothes and a lot of my colors definitely come from that imagery.” 

Likewise, many of the papers she uses for printmaking reflect a diversity of cultures, particularly Korea, Thailand, Tibet and Nepal, as well as India. Some papers are embossed and other embroidered, a traditional Indian technique that goes back centuries. The papers are then mounted on a western rag paper. “In a subtle way, it’s a combination of eastern and western traditions in the print,” Voogd says. 

A cultural Voogd print

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Voogd’s prints reflect her cultural heritage through color choices, handmade papers, and her eye for composition and design

The prints contain flora and fauna, hints of nature that Voogd didn’t experience growing up in the crowded city of Delhi. “I started doing landscapes when I came to the U.S. because the landscape was so different here. The plants, the mustard growing on the hills in the summer. I’d never seen a Joshua tree. All that was so different.” But there are also elephants, camels, and other Indian iconography, reminiscent of home and reflecting a true melding of Voogd’s childhood traditions with her adult life in the United States.

“You have no choice but to draw from your experiences,” Voogd says. When she interrogates some of her young undergrad students about their artistic choices, they often confide they don’t know where their inspirations originate. “That’s fine,” she tells them. “But 20 years from now, you’ll know where it came from. Every decision comes from somewhere. It’s something subconscious. Even if you can’t articulate or understand it, hopefully one day you’ll know.” 

Yuri Kuznetsov’s charmed Russian childhood led to a life of artistic whimsy

“My childhood was a big time,” says mixed media artist Yuri Kuznetsov. “I feel like I was a child for 20 years. Thirty years. Maybe still. Now, every day, I’m playing, playing, playing.” 

Born and raised in Almet’evsk – the center of Russia’s oil industry where his father worked as an engineer – Kuznetsov’s childhood was fueled by folktales and physical and artistic freedoms. At age 9, after expressing an interest in art, his mother whitewashed his bedroom walls, armed him with colorful cans of paint, and allowed her son to spend his days expressing his imagination. He painted bright animals, animated people, cars, and creative creatures. When he ran out of room, she whitewashed over the old and Kuznetsov started anew.

Bedtime stories fed his creativity. Russian folklore and Egyptian iconography remain recurring themes in his work. “When mother said time for bed, I told her I like it so much, read me more,” he remembers.

A cultural Yuri

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Yuri Kuznetsov showcases one of his favorite acrylic oil paintings entitled “Funny Company”

Alongside the childhood tales, his mother read Pushkin and Dostoevsky. There were only two television channels that played an hour each day, so screen time was limited to 30 minutes. Kuznetsov spent his free time painting his walls, reading, or wandering the outdoors. “I could walk the streets without parents,” he says. “It was very safe, with big blocks of buildings that had playgrounds, parks, and yards. We knew everyone. We’d stay out until our parents called us home through the window.”

Although Kuznetsov was inspired by the work of Pieter Bruegel, Mikhail Vrubel, Magritte, Van Gogh, and Chagall, an academy teacher gave him some important artistic advice early in his career. “He told me, ‘You can study all these famous artists. But if you want to learn, you must go outside the building, lay face-down in the grass, and watch everything going on there. Look at all the creatures, listen to all the sounds. When you start to love nature and learn by experience, you can become great. Once you can imagine it, you can translate it into art.” 

Despite these whimsical freedoms, Kuznetsov’s education and artistic instruction were strict. In addition to the rigors of Russia’s traditional coursework in literature, history, mathematics, and science, training in the arts was regimented and controlled. By 14, Kuznetsov was sent to the bigger city of Kazan for his studies, and then to St. Petersburg where he attended the highly acclaimed Mukhina Art Academy. 

There, his training was methodical and disciplined. Students weren’t allowed to study certain artists – or even borrow books from the library – until they demonstrated certain proficiencies. “We were practicing all the time, all day long, making sketches, paintings, drawings,” says Kuznetsov. “We drew animals in a realistic way, practicing and gaining a lot of experience. Because once you know how to draw it realistically from experience, then your imagination can create something new.”

While working in Sochi from 1990 to 1998 with a group of artists and poets who called themselves the “Guild of the Beautiful,” his talents were spotted. He was recruited to the United States through the “People to People International Art Ambassador Program.” 

The rest, as they say, is history. Kuznetsov has been creating mixed media acrylic oil paintings ever since, showing his work in galleries, museums, and art shows across the United States, Germany, and Russia. His 24-foot public mural entitled Adventure – which depicts various fantastical creatures riding in a white limousine – has been on display at the corner of Ocean and Forest Avenue since 2002.

A cultural Yuri wall

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Yuri Kuznetsov’s work is on display at the Festival of Arts, Booth #17, and the Laguna Art-A-Fair, Booth B8 through September

“Of all the evils in the world, I choose none,” says Kuznetsov. “I prefer not to show dark sides. My only goal is to make people happy and smile.”

Pegah Samaie’s work responds to Iran’s cultural misogyny and oppression 

In contrast to her colleagues, Pegah Samaie’s upbringing in Tehran neither cultivated her creativity nor fostered her ambitions. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the country embraced a patriarchal system, severely restricting the rights of women. In 2017, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked the nation 140th out of 144 countries for gender parity. From voting restrictions to mandatory dress codes, women also have no legal protections against domestic violence or sexual harassment. Men dictate their movements, their careers, their clothing, and other personal decisions. 

A cultural Samaie

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Pegah Samaie’s oil paintings are on display at the Festival of Arts, Booth #28, through September 3

“I felt that in my family,” Samaie says. “Household and society are together. When society wants something, that’s how families behave. My father had two girls and we lived in an apartment, so he wanted to be more in control of the family.” 

Beyond her personal freedoms and the onerous rules and restrictions during childhood, her father also wanted Samaie to study engineering. “Because I wanted to study art, I had a lot of difficulties in my family,” she says. “My father controlled me and didn’t want me to be an artist. He pushed me to study engineering. I studied two years and then got married. My husband pushed me to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Samaie lived in Tehran for thirty years. When she immigrated to the United States with her Iranian husband ten years ago, a psychological window opened for her. Free from her father’s career expectations, Samaie pursued an education in the arts, receiving both her BFA and MFA at the Laguna College of Art and Design. 

Now her work explores the contrast between her upbringing and her new life – and freedom – in the United States. The paintings represent the oppressions she experienced in Iran and the opportunities she’s enjoyed since leaving. “I eventually learned to use my past experiences consciously and subconsciously to express the reconciliation I am making with all the storms of my life,” she says. “In rising from the wreckage and painting politics and issues related to women’s rights, I am recovering, reclaiming, and redesigning what it means to be a woman.” 

Her paintings depict a lot of lace, which is worn during wedding ceremonies and represents marriage. In one of the more disturbing pieces entitled Am I Homemaker?, Samaie paints a five-year-old naked girl holding a doll. She’s surrounded by her childhood drawings but draped in the traditional red lace wedding attire. Child marriage in Iran remains a common phenomenon. Girls as young as nine can be married against their will, with over 40,000 girls under the age of 14 married in the past five years. The image explores the tension between a little girl’s childhood fantasy to playact motherhood with her doll, and an Iranian patriarchal culture that strips her of innocence at an early age. 

A cultural Samaie Wall

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“Am I Homemaker?” lays bare Iran’s cultural tolerance for child brides and the oppression of girls from a young age

“Women behind lace reflect my observation and experience as a woman in Iran,” Samaie says. “Lace is like a wall that separates women from the outside world. It shows them being pushed into darkness and into being second class.” 

Influenced by Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, Samaie’s paintings are filled with iconography and symbolism. Birds represent freedom. Cups are the symbol of women, representing their inner strength and ability to bloom. Mars, a planet we’re only beginning to understand and explore, represents the aspiration of a new frontier for women. Fire signifies Iranian wars, protests, and revolution, while the sky holds hope for freedom and limitless possibility. Samaie’s women exist inside both spaces. 

Although Farsi is Samaie’s primary language, art is her voice. Her paintings provide the purest expression of her experiences and aspirations. They allow her to directly communicate both her past pain and the joy she’s now found in motherhood. Leaving Iran lifted Samaie’s veil, but art gave her the language to talk about it.


Honoring tradition in the 21st century: How the Sawdust Festival has kept its bohemian roots alive for 55 years

By MARRIE STONE

If you want to understand a place and its people, look to its artists. They are the makers, the creators of culture, and the keepers of a town’s traditions. 

Laguna is lucky in its art. Luckier still to have three distinct festivals that reflect our town’s diverse tastes, values, and personalities. And while Laguna and its demographics have dramatically changed since the mid-1960s, many of its bohemian roots endure. 

This year, as the Sawdust Festival celebrates its 55th anniversary, we look back to its beginnings and how those early hippie values – handmade craftsmanship laced with a healthy dose of peace, love, cooperation, and community – paved the way for its modern-day success. 

Honoring tradition entrance

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Photo from the Sawdust Festival Archives

The entrance to the Sawdust Festival, circa early 1980s

In the beginning…

Since the town’s inception in the early 20th century, it’s been a mecca for the arts. Back in the 1930s, the Festival of Arts drew painters from around the region to show their work on easels and along fences a few weeks each summer. Plein air, watercolor, and oil paintings dominated the scene. 

But a beatnik vibe accelerated in the canyon in the 1960s. Young artists wanted to experiment and break away from the landscape and ocean scenes that took hold in the 1920s. When the Festival of Arts implemented a jury system in the mid-1960s, many experimental artists and craftsmen found themselves on the outs. They took their avant-garde spirit across Laguna Canyon Road and created their own carefree environment in contrast to the traditionalists. Originally dubbed the “Rejects Festival,” they embraced the outcast identity and traded on their countercultural strengths.

“Born in the late 1960s, the Sawdust was a child of the times,” writes jeweler Mike Heintz in Volume 1 of The Sawdust Festival: The Early Years (1965-1979). “It was much more than a place for artists to show and sell their artwork. It was a happening, a beautiful, colorful collage of people creating a unique environment where nothing of its kind had existed.” Art was as much performance as product, Heintz says. “Costumes were very important, and people dressed with flair, especially the ladies.” You also needed as much hair as possible. “I can still see those flowing tresses, fat mustaches, and long beards,” he says. The line between artist as person and performer blurred as Sawdust exhibitors carved out their own identities. Heintz recounts names like Nebula, Luna, the Rainbow Kids, Crazy Horse, Anna Banana, Rodeo, Critter, Dulcimer, Tiny Tapper, and Star. 

Jay Grant, former Sawdust president and spouse of longtime exhibitor Nikki, walked into the Sawdust Festival for the first time in 1973. “The festival was electric,” he writes in The Early Years. “Huge crowds milled shoulder to shoulder. Music, lights, and colors vibrated everywhere you looked. It’s funny what sticks in your mind. Old barn doors. Peasant dresses. Boots. Macrame. Creeping Charlies. Folk rock. Towering sculptures. Quaint booths. Beautiful women. The show still alive and pulsating at midnight. Long beards and longer hair. Pungent smells. Excitement and creative energy everywhere you looked. Right away something grabbed my heart. Rustic, funky, charming, and brimming with the oddest collection of individuals you would find anywhere.”

The Sawdust became a gathering place for Laguna’s eclectic personalities. The Hare Krishnas frequently stopped by, necessitating a 1973 board ruling that allowed them to only chant once while on the grounds. Jugglers, mimes, strolling musicians and magicians, and a band of belly dancers were just a few of the spontaneous pop-up performance artists. “The belly dancers were a fixture here for 20 years,” says mixed media artist Tom Belloni, who’s shown at the Sawdust since 1971. “But the dancers got bigger bellies and a little ‘old in the tooth’ as they say.”

Honoring tradition Belloni

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Mixed media artist Tom Belloni, who began at the Sawdust in 1971, shown at his booth today

Streaking was a fad around 1975, and the Sawdust was the perfect venue. “It was scary but freeing as we ran quickly around the grounds that afternoon without a stitch on,” remembers Marla Burns, also in The Early Years. “I remember rounding a corner and having to jump a baby carriage that was in the way. And one whole aisle was filled with cameras as word got out and people were waiting for us.” 

“The Sawdust only had three rules,” says Tracey Moscaritolo, one of the women instrumental to the Festival’s founding and earliest exhibitors. “Live here, do your own work, and be kind to each other.” 

Moscaritolo remembers frequent electrical outages that required artists to store candles and flashlights in their booths. She kept a bucket hidden behind her iconic windmill because the portable restrooms couldn’t keep up with the number of attendees on the grounds. “We couldn’t even get a food truck out there because we didn’t have enough people,” she says. “So we brought our own lunches, and we did our own security detail.” 

This atmosphere of experimental fun also sparked a lot of innovation. “We were really ahead of our time back then,” says Star Shields, who first showed in the Sawdust in 1973, but didn’t return until 1985. “We had one of the first lasers ever seen. No one knew what it was. We’d drag this bulky penlight and power cord up onto the hill and point the laser beam down on the ground. Back then, there were dogs and cats and kids running around. They’d go crazy. No one knew where this thing was coming from.” 

The grounds also featured one of the first solar houses, experimenting with alternative power back in the 1970s. Kinetic sculptures, life-sized risqué statues, and a colorfully intense atmosphere were all part of the early Sawdust scene.

When Eiler Larsen, Laguna’s official town greeter, lay on his deathbed in the mid-1970s, he requested one last trip through the Sawdust Festival to say goodbye. An ambulance picked him up and carried him by gurney through the grounds. “I’ll never forget that,” says Belloni. “That was kind of a moment.” 

The great booth race was on

In the late 1960s, while Americans raced for the moon, Sawdust artists used their own creative powers to construct booths that were out of this world. Castles, pagodas, boats, planes, bird houses, log cabins, and country stores all decorated the grounds. “In the early years, you could do anything you wanted with the booths,” says Belloni. “Artists would display dolls and figurines up in the trees. We had two, three, and four-story booths. The upper stories were for playing games and the ground floor was for business. The booths up against the hillside had secret rooms in the back. Artists had their party situations going in the back while the front was used for the hard work of selling pottery or whatever. A lot of activities were going on behind the scenes.” 

In 1973, instead of using wood and nails, Star Shields built a spaceship. “I wanted to do something different from the usual wooden barn look. So in the middle of this funky western-style village, we decided to create a spaceship beside the mountain.” The UFO was made from chicken wire and a wooden frame. Jewelry cases were displayed on the lips of the windows. Customers could look through the portals at airbrushed shirts that hung from the ceiling. “Then this guy came in wearing a jumpsuit with a big tank on his back. He sprayed foam all over the inside and outside. We sanded it down and painted it. There it was.”

Honoring tradition spaceship

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Photo from the Sawdust Festival Archives

Star Shields (far right) poses with the Rainbow Kids in front of his spaceship in 1973

Moscaritolo owned another iconic structure on the Sawdust grounds. “We created this windmill out of Japanese shoji screens,” says Moscaritolo. “We asked a painter to paint some things on it. It turned out great. It looked like stained glass. But the first time we turned the motor on, the blades flew off. I thought we were going to behead someone.” Moscaritolo soon found a smaller motor in a Santa Ana junkyard and the windmill became a Sawdust staple for several years. 

Honoring tradition windmill

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Photo from the Sawdust Festival Archives

Tracey Moscaritolo’s iconic windmill debuted in the early 1970s

Then there was the music 

Music is important to every era, but the 1960s had a special hold on its audience. War, counterculture, and social unrest were all reflected by some still renowned musicians. “In the early days, we had an open-door policy for musicians,” says Belloni. “We had a harp lady who would come with her dog and her purple flower collections and play her harp. We had a couple coming in from Louisiana with a tambourine, a guitar, and a top hat. They would play folk music for collections.” 

Eventually, Belloni says, the Sawdust realized they needed to control the entertainment. “As far as the amount of it and the quality, they didn’t want musicians and artists competing for attention and disturbing business. So they started hiring acts and designated places to play.” The roving musicians gave way to three separate stages on the grounds where music can now be heard all day every day.

Then there was the debate over amplified music. “Were we going to have loud, amplified music or keep it in the genre of folk songs?” Belloni says. “So it evolved, like everything else on the grounds.” 

The Sawdust still exudes that 1960s vibe. “The music recreates the ambience of the 1960s,” says Hedy Buzan, who has shown her paintings in the Festival since the late 1980s. “The artists are booked for that reason. Whether they’re reinterpreting The Beatles or doing a 1960s take on jazz, there are a lot of young people today who connect with that.”

“The music really creates the show,” says Belloni. “It’s become a huge part of our budget. A lot of people come just to enjoy the music.”

The Sawdust Festival grows up

But let’s go back to how – and when – that evolution happened.

Five years after the Sawdust began, the artists were forced to purchase the three acres of land they once leased. No one had any money, and the landlords threatened to sell. 

From its financially humble roots in 1968 – with only $600 in startup money, $3 membership dues, and a puppet show that had already accrued a $1,000 loss – the Sawdust managed to purchase the property in 1973. “We didn’t have any money. None of us had money. But we scraped it together,” Moscaritolo says.

To cover some basic costs and begin accruing funds to purchase the property, the Sawdust began charging 25 cents for admission. Fees were antithetical to their values. “We were so afraid to charge admission. It was only a quarter, but everything was supposed to be communal and free,” Moscaritolo says. “We agreed if people didn’t want to pay, we’d just give their quarter back.”

“As we matured, the show matured with us,” says Belloni. “It got a little less volatile. The craziest artists burned out or aren’t with us anymore. It settled down into a staple of talented people. That was the core of the art group. And we always bring in new talent every year.” 

By the late 1970s, some Festivalgoers could feel the 1960s magic slipping. Claude Kurtz wrote a letter to the Sawdust board in 1979. “What we need is to offer to the public an ‘adventure.’ When I was first in the Sawdust, the public could come and feel that maybe something really strange might happen to them, like being sent on a weird drug trip. They would see so many unusual things. This appeals to them, the sense of the different and things strange.” Kurtz proposed mud pit wrestling, dog acts, fire dances, nude races, making the grounds dark and scary. “Let’s just dare to be different,” he wrote. 

But time had moved on. “It changed gradually,” Moscaritolo says. “Mostly because of rules regarding the structures and building codes, and the 1993 fire. That started to mold us because we had to comply with the city and fire department. Which, of course, is not a bad thing.” 

Moscaritolo says the introduction of harder drugs into the community also contributed to the evolving culture. “I think psychedelics changed everything,” she says. “People that smoked pot were nice and easy to get along with. The speed element in the hard drugs changed everything.” 

By the 1980s, the town and those original Sawdust exhibitors had both grown up. As the Festival slipped into its second decade, building and fire codes continued taking some of the electric sizzle out of those early years. Bigger crowds created bigger needs for plumbing, electricity, and parking. The City imposed code restrictions, bringing those behemoth booths into compliance. “We were learning as we went along,” Moscaritolo says. “We didn’t have a game plan. We just kept making it happen.” 

The essence of the Sawdust’s roots remains

While some of the colorful 1960s spirit may have faded a bit, much of the Sawdust’s original soul survives. It remains entirely run, owned, and operated by artists, eliminating outside demands and influences. “When I first started, I thought the Sawdust was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Belloni.  “Because the artists own the show, run the rules, and make the decisions for the grounds, we have control. We control our booth space, we make our own work, and we’re able to promote ourselves. That’s really unusual in today’s world.”

That autonomy and lack of corporate influence also appeals to the visitors. These days, many of us are screen-weary and hungering for human connection. There’s a voracious appetite for authenticity and artisanship. 

“The artist, craftsman, and entrepreneurial individuals make everything they sell and manage to economically survive in today’s world. That’s definitely a throw-back,” says Buzan. “Now we have Etsy rethinking that sort of craft business online. That’s a reaction to the virtual world, and people are responding to it. It has its roots in the 1960s.” 

Silversmith David Nelson, who started in the Sawdust in 1969 when he was 17, still embodies those bohemian roots. He’s bartered his jewelry for clothing, dental work, and even tires for his truck. “If I could trade in the old-world way, I would trade,” he says. 

honoring tradition old Nelson booth

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Photo from the Sawdust Festival Archives

Silversmith David Nelson’s original country store booth circa 1971

Honoring tradition new Nelson booth

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Silversmith David Nelson’s booth today. Nelson, who began in the Sawdust in 1969, had been collecting 100-year-old wood from old barns and historic buildings in town. All his wood burned in the 1993 fire, so he was forced to begin anew.

Location, location, location

Some of the Sawdust’s enduring enchantment, several artists say, lies in its unique location. “Sometimes I go out there early in the morning, and it’s just a magical place,” says Moscaritolo. “The hills, the waterfall. It’s a special gift we have there.” 

Honoring tradition waterfall

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Photo by Marrie Stone

The Sawdust’s waterfall and windmill have been part of the grounds since its beginnings

“There’s a sense of nostalgia when you walk in,” says Belloni. “I think it’s the physical space as much as the personalities of the artists. There’s a certain ambience – the eucalyptus trees, the smell of the grounds, the proximity to the ocean, and the unique mini-climate of the canyon. Then you add the booths and the artists themselves, who are like decorations on the grounds, and it’s all consistent.”

Nelson has maintained the waterwheel for so long, the place has become known as “Nelson’s Landing.” Silversmith Greg Thorne, who’s shown in the Sawdust since 1969, keeps the magic of the wishing well spirit alive. The waterfall, the old trees, the sawdust on the ground – they’re all of an old-world piece.

A new generation embraces the bohemian vibe

Now a new generation of artists are taking their cues from the Sawdust’s established old guard. 

Three years ago, in the summer of 2018, Kate Cleaves and her fiancé Nick Flores, vacationed in Laguna for the first time. “I had no idea how amazing the town was,” she says. “But then we walked into the Sawdust. All the hair stood up on my arms. I turned to Nick and said, ‘I think we just found our home.’” 

Cleaves and Flores uprooted their Bay area lives and moved to Laguna. They first showed in the Sawdust’s Winter Fantasy festival in 2019 and finally met the residency requirements to show this summer. “Everything that’s happened since has reaffirmed that first impression,” Cleaves says.

Remarkably, Cleaves (who specializes in fantasy and fairy art) took over the iconic fairy booth run by Melissa (“Missy”) Belland, who elected to take this year off. Cleaves keeps Missy’s fairy-spirit going by providing colorful wings for folks to wear around the grounds, as well as the fairy dust returning customers have come to expect from the booth. 

Thorne, who sits a few booths down from Cleaves, has become something of a Sawdust mentor to her. “Greg keeps the whole vibe going from the early Sawdust days,” Cleaves says. “We both do things to keep the magic alive for the kids. I have a basket of fairy wings that I let people wear around the Festival. Greg does the wishing well with pennies for the kids.”

Cleaves immediately embraced the old booth-building spirit of the Sawdust. Even if those early-day structures have been downsized by city codes, artists still build their booths out of old wood and salvaged supplies. “My booth is built from scraps of wood we had laying in the carport for over a year,” she says. “Nick was literally dumpster diving for building material. People are sharing things, trading wood. It’s a whole community, a bohemian culture that’s helping each other.”

Honoring tradition Cleaves

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Photo by Nick Flores

First-time summer exhibitor Kate Cleaves poses in her fairy booth (in the space traditionally occupied by fairy artist Melissa Belland)

Like the old wood making room for the new, so too are new generations rising from the old. “What’s remarkable are the generations of exhibitors in the show,” says Buzan. “Some are children of artists who have become artists themselves with their own children. It’s really like family that way.” 

Shields noticed something similar about his clientele. “Some of the women were girls that I painted when they were kids. Now they’ve grown up and bring their own kids,” he says. “Every day, I get someone saying, ‘You painted my face when I was six-years old. Now here’s my daughter.’”

Honoring tradition Star

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Star Shields originated airbrush face painting and body art back in 1979. His airbrushed clothing has been worn by Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, the Moody Blues, and other musicians.

Our sleek 21st century world – with all its gadgets and screens and interpersonal disconnections – craves the authenticity of true artisanship and a slower pace of life. That’s the Sawdust’s secret. As we’re discovering, a good dose of the 1960s is exactly what the 2020s need.

David Nelson agrees. “You ask what keeps the Sawdust’s spirit alive? It’s the heart and soul of us original guys,” he says. “There’s a lot of us who’ve been around here for a long time trying to keep that feeling alive.” Nelson talks while sizing a ring for a waiting client. “You wouldn’t have this country without George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin,” he says. “You wouldn’t have the Sawdust without us.” 

Honoring tradition young Nelson

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Photo from the Sawdust Festival Archives

Silversmith David Nelson, who started at the Sawdust in 1969 when he was 17, posing in his booth

Honoring tradition old Nelson

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Silversmith David Nelson working in his booth today, 52 years later

For more information about the Sawdust Festival, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.


An industrial revolutionary: Chakaia Booker’s radical sculptures reshape history 

By MARRIE STONE

Embedded in the treads of every tire are bits of evidence. Rubber absorbs the history of places a car has traveled. Dirt, glass, rock, and other accumulated debris become part of its story. When the sidewalls wear thin and the tread grows bald, the tire is tossed. If lucky, it lands in the hands of abstract sculpture artist Chakaia Booker. 

An industrial tripych

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Chakaia Booker’s sculptures, created from recycled tires, are on display in Heisler Park through the beginning of October

Booker began collecting tires in the early 1980s, feeling an affinity for the raw material a tire represents. Growing up in the industrialized grit of 1950s New Jersey, she witnessed the waste left in the wake of a commercialized nation. Her urban surroundings made an impact on her psyche. Old tires lay strewn on the city’s streets, ripe for Booker’s imagination. She began salvaging scraps of rubber from alleys, auto body shops, and dumpsites. Eventually her work became well enough known that Michelin knew where to take its retired products, sending her old tires from motorcycles and racecars. Her sculptures earned her the moniker “Queen of Rubber Soul.”

“When you use any discarded material, it always comes with its own history,” Booker said in a 2003 interview for State of the Arts. “It has the history of the manufacturers that actually produced the product. It has the history of the person who utilized it, and what happened to it along the way through its travels. It could be collecting paint or dirt or stones or glass or anything. Once I utilize the material, all of this is information that’s in the actual piece.”

Three of Booker’s works – Gridlock, Pass the Buck, and What’s Not – have been on display in Heisler Park since last fall. Constructed in 2008 and 2009, the works have traveled from Westchester, N.Y., and Washington, D.C., to Chicago’s Navy Pier. They’ve spent the past year in Laguna Beach. With every public installation, history continues to etch itself into their skins. Look closely and notice where people have carved themselves into the work. “Tracy” and “Ryan” and “Nacho” all left their mark. “DLXL” visited on May 7, 2017, when the exhibit was still in Chicago. The temporary installation will be removed from Heisler Park next month, where its story will continue to unfold and be told in a new environ. 

An industrial group

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“Gridlock” appears in the foreground, “Pass the Buck” in the center, and “What’s Not” in the background

Perhaps you’ve studied these sculptures several times, or maybe you’ve passed by them without thought. It’s possible you’ve missed them altogether. Regardless of your familiarity with the pieces or reactions to the art, there are things you should know about these works – and their industrious creator – before they leave. 

A sociological artist of international acclaim

Although Booker received a Master of Fine Arts degree from City College of New York in 1993, she first studied sociology at Rutgers University in the mid-1970s. Perhaps it’s that training that informs her art, inspiring her to examine cultural and political issues over matters of mere aesthetics. Implications about race, gender, class, and environmental concerns are all embedded in her pieces. 

As a result, Booker’s sculptures resonate with an international audience. Her exhibits have been installed across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Although she began working in the 1980s (with her first group exhibition taking place in 1984 and her first solo show in 1991), Booker’s work gained extensive notoriety when she was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. She received an American Arts and Letters Award the following year, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005.

Now her work resides as part of the permanent collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art, and several others. 

Sculpting the sculptress

Chakaia Booker begins each day by first sculpting herself. Shrouded in layers of colorful fabrics and ornate textiles, Booker recreates her image each day. Born in Newark, N.J., in 1953, Booker grew up in a family that sewed. Her grandmother, aunt, and sister were all seamstresses, and her mother had a keen interest in fashion. “I grew up seeing these people create works of art,” Booker told State of the Arts in 2003. “I get up in the morning and I begin to sculpt myself. Those things that I do are the things that you see in the work.” 

An industrial portrait

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Courtesy of the City of Laguna Beach

Chakaia Booker begins each day by sculpting herself in fabrics and textiles

For Booker, every act can be a form of art. Cooking, sewing, dressing, and other daily rituals are each a form of artistic expression. Booker draws energy from the experience of sculpting herself into her garments. 

While the materials she uses in her sculptures are industrial, and the labor required is physical and intensive, her techniques are drawn from years working with textiles and fabrics. The edges of each piece of rubber appear stitched and sewn to reinforce their edges. She cuts, twists, bends, and weaves the rubber into textured layers resembling swatches of fabric, secured with screws and bolts instead of thread. Much of her work is meant to weather the harsh elements of the outdoors for years at a time, so she relies on fabricated steel frames and the durability of thick rubber.

Rubber as metaphor for the body

As issues of race, class, and gender continue to escalate in our national discourse, Booker’s work stokes important conversations. Consider the metaphor of the material itself. Like human skin, the color palette of the tires is never uniform. Booker points to the color contrast in her sculptures between carbon black, ebony, and grey that mirror the African American experience. “Colorism” is a charged discussion both within the black community and the nation at large. 

“When you think about a person who’s a painter, their color is their palette,” Booker said in that same 2003 interview. “In my palette, I have the patterns from the tires. There’s a very charcoal black. You can also have a very light sort of steel grey. Initially, looking at the tires, I thought they looked like the textiles and African art. The sculptures better created the sort of ‘scarification’ that happens in Africa.”

An industrial closeup

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

The rubber bears the marks of its history. Not all pieces are uniform in color, and many have been scarred by time, wear, and human markings

Scarification, a somewhat common practice in Africa, is the process of burning, etching, branding, or cutting the skin into designs and textures that permanently modify the body. Wounds can take six to twelve months to heal into scars. Often considered a cultural sign of beauty, the marks are more visible on darker skin than tattoos. Scarification, otherwise known as human branding, was also common during slavery as a method of marking slaves. 

Booker makes no effort to conceal the scars in her material. “Michelin” and “tubeless” and “radial” are readily visible in the work. Model and serial numbers imprinted in the rubber remain as archeological artifacts in its skin, never letting the viewer forget the long history of the repurposed object. Much of Booker’s work alludes to the toll time and life events take on us all. Our bodies all bear the marks of the many roads we’ve traveled. Most of us have remade ourselves in countless ways. Her sculptures bear witness to that process.

An industrial Gridlock

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“Gridlock” symbolizes a human’s life and journey. The concave and convex spaces suggest the strands of a DNA double helix. 

The masculinization of femininity

One of the more striking things about Booker’s work is the sheer physicality required to produce these sculptures. While the patterning, sewing, and weaving suggests traditionally feminine arts, rubber and steel require a great deal of strength. 

Booker’s pieces can weigh up to one ton, requiring cranes and other heavy equipment to lift them into place. Consider that an average tire weighs 20 pounds and is roughly 1/4 inch thick. Cutting each piece demands effort. Rather than needles and thread, Booker uses band saws, saber saws, miter saws, reciprocating saws, and drills to shape the rubber, molding it into loops and knots.

“If you’re trying to put [the rubber] into a particular position, you must hold on for dear life and get your elbows, knees and body into it. The tire can snap back and knock you out,” Booker told Victor M. Cassidy for his 2011 book, Sculptures at Work. Tai Chi, yoga, and weightlifting help keep her up to the task. 

Booker challenges gender roles as she happily gets her hands dirty amidst the grit of rubber and steel, immersing herself into the industrial space. 

She also embraces the feminist ancestors who came before her. Pass the Buck is a specific homage to Madam C. J. Walker, the first Black female millionaire in America. Born in 1867 to parents who once served as slaves, Walker made her millions by developing hair products for Black women (like herself) who had lost their hair. The “Walker System” catapulted her to financial success, much of which she donated back to Black communities and colleges. Inspired by Walker’s philanthropy, Booker sculped Pass the Buck to celebrate Walker’s success and her willingness to give back to society. The swatches in the piece resemble the shape of American bills, layered atop one another.

An Industrial Pass the Buck

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“Pass the Buck,” constructed in 2008, is an homage to Madam C. J. Walker

From certain angles, Pass the Buck looks like a roaming animal, giving rise to consideration of tires as symbols of mobility and transit. By implication, flat tires (as several of these presumably were at one time) trap their owners – like Walker’s enslaved parents – in stasis.

The environmental impact of Booker’s work

As climate change edges into our daily lives, Booker’s recycled tires provide a stark reminder of the impact industrialization has wrought on our planet. Given their durability – and how well they’ve weathered the elements – it’s difficult to look at one of Booker’s pieces without considering where these billions of used tires end up. 

“My intention is to translate materials into imagery that will stimulate people to consider themselves as part of their environment as one piece of a larger whole,” Booker said in a 2003 edition of Sculpture Magazine

What’s Not – a piece that suggests a window, or maybe a mirror – literally frames its audience in industrial waste. As people pose for photos inside the frame, can they help but subconsciously contemplate being surrounded by objects that typically end their short lives in landfills?

Still, What’s Not is beautiful with its wisps of Medusa-like “hair” and loops that look like leather. The striking sculpture frames the Pacific Ocean beyond, beckoning folks to stop and peer through. 

An industrial What's Not

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“What’s Not” frames the Pacific Ocean, inviting viewers to step inside and consider themselves as part of the planet’s environmental picture

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission pays homage to Booker

The City of Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Department and the Arts Commission worked for two years to bring Booker’s sculptures to our town. The exhibit was installed in October of 2020 and will leave next month.

“The conversation which led to this exhibit was initiated by Nathan Mason, Curator of Exhibits and Public Art at the Cultural Affairs Department for the City of Chicago,” says Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl. “We really appreciate Nathan introducing the City of Laguna Beach to Chakaia, and the opportunity to share her work with the community. We hope the collaboration with Chicago continues and that artists of the international renown of Chakaia will consider our city a destination for their work.”

“I have loved Ms. Booker’s sculptures since I saw an installation of her work in Millennium Park in Chicago,” says Adam Schwerner, Chair of the City of Laguna Beach Arts Commission. “Since then, I have met with her in Laguna Beach as the Arts Commission worked to find the perfect place for the long-term loan of a trio of her pieces in Heisler Park. Meeting her and, then, hosting her work here in Laguna has been a pleasure. I love seeing how visitors to Heisler Park have been interacting with her pieces; they use them as places to take photographs of one another and sit in their shade. I have seen kids using them as a home base during chase games. Thank you, Chakaia Booker, for your artistry.”

While the exhibit leaves Laguna next month, hopefully the conversations it inspires will continue. Perhaps our town – like Booker’s tires – absorbed a bit of the sculptures’ presence, their time here becoming part of Laguna’s long story. History leaving its mark.


How discovering the doodle saved Kate Cohen

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeff Rovner

When mixed media artist Kate Cohen was studying at the Cleveland Institute of Art, working toward a BFA in ceramics, her instructor imparted an invaluable lesson. For their first critique of the semester, the professor walked the room, asking each student to select their favorite creation. Then he smashed it. The purpose? To teach young artists that nothing is precious. “If you think your work is precious, you’re not going to grow,” he told them. 

Intermittently, throughout the semester, the class threw bowling parties in the hallways. They lined up their favorite pieces and destroyed them. More than four decades later, the message stuck. Cohen freely lets things go if they aren’t working. “I’ll invest hundreds of hours in some pieces, and I’ll think, ‘Can I fix this?’ I realize that, in some cases, I can’t,” said Cohen. 

In addition to this being a visceral moment for artists-in-the-making, the experience became a powerful metaphor for a later life trauma for Cohen. In 2011, after suffering for five years with debilitating pain (but with no insurance to investigate its source), an oncologist diagnosed Cohen with stage IV head and neck cancer. Her first reaction – Good. Cut it out of there and let me move on. It wasn’t that simple. Cohen discovered months of chemotherapy and radiation lay ahead of her. She turned to her husband and said, “Can I make art now?”

Cohen hadn’t worked for a few years, too mired in pain to focus. But when she found her life upended and her health hanging in the balance, she took the opportunity to create something new. 

Now her one-woman exhibition, Explanation of the Doodle, is on display at foaSouth Gallery (located in Active Culture at 1006 S. Coast Highway). More than a dozen pieces showcase Cohen’s use of acrylics, inks, oils and oil pastel on either paper or raw linen. The pieces brim with whimsy and joy. A flying saucer soars over a strongman, whose barbell has floated away. There are blimps and clouds, birds and dogs, naked female torsos and the man in the moon. It’s Cohen’s mind making sense of a senseless world in the aftermath of trauma, and it conveys a kind of innocence grafted onto hard-earned wisdom. 

How discovering exterior

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“Explanation of the Doodle” is on display at foaSouth Gallery through January 30, 2022

The process of Cohen’s discovery – how her creative mind works and how she’s learned to trust it – is nearly as interesting as the artistic outcome. She invited Stu News into the foaSouth Gallery as she hung her exhibition, grappling over wall compositions, color and balance as she anticipated the audience’s experience. We watched her process in action and heard her incredible backstory. 

How discovering Cohen 1

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“Big Mama’s Party Dress Yay” opens Cohen’s exhibition on the doodle

Growing up under the easel

Nature and nurture both played a role in cultivating Cohen’s talent. Her mother was a portrait artist who painted live subjects. When Cohen was small, she sat beneath her mother’s easel, watching the people watch her mother work. She was also watching, absorbing her mother’s process.

“From two years old, my first recollection was, ‘I’m going to be an artist,’” Cohen says. “I knew it in my bones, in my DNA. I drew on walls, I got in trouble. I carved into the furniture, I got in trouble.” None of this punishment deterred Cohen, who remembers her father ordering her to remain at the dinner table until she finished her vegetables while her mother sneaked in art supplies – wonderful papers and pastels from her attic studio – to keep Cohen company.

How discovering portrait

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Kate Cohen exhibits her mixed media work at the Festival of Arts summer show

Cohen’s brother (now deceased) was also an artist. All three family members attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. He was the most talented, Cohen says. An intaglio printmaker, he went on to own and operate a custom picture framing shop that specialized in old, hand-carved gilded frames. He framed the Irvine Museum Collection. “These were beautiful frames. Absolutely stunning,” Cohen said. “It’s a lost art.”

Her own five-year program at the Cleveland Institute (where she received her BFA) and her time studying at Washington State University (where she acquired two master’s degrees in both sculpture and painting) gave Cohen a solid foundation in artistic rules. “The first two years taught heavy-duty color theory, life drawing and creative drawing,” she said. Cohen even studied art through the lens of medical drawings, working with cadavers at Case Western Reserve Medical School. “I would pass out every time,” Cohen laughs. “There was no future for me in medical illustrations.” 

Since mastering the form, Cohen’s style has been pure play. You can see evidence of all this rigorous training in her work – including hints of these medical drawings – but now it’s in doodle form.

Learning to trust “the flash”

Cohen describes many of her artistic inspirations as “flashes.” They come anytime, day or night. “I can be sound asleep, dreaming about something else, and this flash will come forward and wake me up,” she said. They usually begin at the periphery of her vision and don’t last long. “Then I have to figure out how to make them. What materials would be best suited for them? I become like a scientist in my studio, experimenting with different materials.” 

Cohen has had these flashes for as long as she can remember. “I’ve learned to trust them and follow them. Sometimes I’ll be looking at an older piece of mine, and I’ll look at maybe just a little segment of it, and a flash will come forward and that will lead to another body of work.”

Those flashes have led to some of her favorite pieces. “I have this one piece that I love. It’s a mysterious sculpture called ‘Magpie.’ It’s colored concrete. I had never worked with concrete before, so it was challenging,” she said. “I had to keep a recipe book of different colors, and how much concrete, how much acrylic to put in so it wouldn’t fall apart. Now, over time, because I’ve worked with so many different mediums because of these flashes, I have a full vocabulary of materials I can use.”

The flashes eventually led Cohen to the doodle. She attempted to make quick sketches of the flashes before they disappeared from her memory. “At first, I was using my doodles as a sketch, as opposed to actual art. I wasn’t showing my doodles because I wasn’t confident they would be taken seriously. Then I decided I could tell my story: ‘This is what happened – I got cancer and the doodle basically saved my life.’”

How discovering strongman

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“Strongman” is mixed media oil on linen

Compartmentalizing cancer

“When you’re really ill, you have to be the leader,” said Cohen. “Meaning if I fell apart, then my husband would fall apart, and my friends would fall apart. I knew that. I knew I had to get – and stay – in joy. The only way to do that was to compartmentalize the cancer. I said to the doctors, ‘You take my body. Please give it back to me if you can. I’m going to stay over here in joy because I need to protect my essence.’”

In some ways, Cohen recalled, cancer allowed her to become a braver artist. “Cancer freed me. I didn’t care anymore because I didn’t know if I was going to be here much longer. I thought, “Is this going to be the last piece of art I make? If so, then screw it. I’m going to make it fearlessly. Like I’d never done before.” 

Not only did cancer give Cohen the mental freedom to surrender to art, but it also gave her the time. “I sat in this infusion room, every day for four- and five-hour stretches, for four months. So, I started doodling,” she said. Although Cohen is dyslexic, her mind has an amazing ability to transcribe rhythms and sounds into shapes and lines. “Everything is mathematical. Music is math. Visual arts are math. Everything has a rhythm. I was listening to the people in this infusion room – they were laughing or crying, or there were footsteps. The sounds around me became a rhythm. I started doodling those rhythms because they were so abstract.”

The move into abstraction

There’s a common thread that runs throughout Cohen’s work. “No matter what body of work it is, no matter what medium, you can tell it’s made by me,” said Cohen. “At first I was more illustrative. My paintings, prints and sculptures were all illustrative. I slowly moved away from that style and into abstracts. Now I’ve gone full abstract. Except for my birds and balls a go-go. You must have birds and balls a go-go.” 

How discovering Cohen 2

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Soaring birds, symbols of freedom and eternity, appear throughout Cohen’s work

Today, the first thing Cohen tells her students is, “Don’t be afraid to make ugly.” She’s watched generations of art teachers destroy children’s innate creativity with arbitrary rules and restrictions on their artistic freedoms. “I love to experiment,” said Cohen. “Once you’ve made a lot of ugly, that’s when the beauty arrives. It frees you and it makes you fearless.” 

Cohen’s works feels fearless. Her canvases contain entire universes of possibility. Outer space meets the mind’s inner world. Many of her pieces use labels to call out specific objects (much like those anatomical illustrations in her past). “Crow,” “hand,” “blimp” and “dog” appear alongside clear images of a crow, hand, blimp and dog. It’s as if Cohen, after her diagnosis, had to start with first principles. Perhaps she’s saying to the viewer, “I don’t know how life works and it may feel chaotic, but I do know this…” 

How discovering Crow

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“Follow the crow” exemplifies Cohen’s hallmark of labeling her doodles (an influence that may also have come from studying medical illustrations)

Her pieces appear like a children’s picture book of words juxtaposed against something profoundly rich and mysterious. An airplane’s wing slices through the back of a man’s head. A dog falls, headfirst, out of his house. A clothesline looks ready to catch falling objects. They are the doodles of an artist’s mind who’s working life out – fearlessly, joyfully and with nothing left to lose. 

“The Explanation of the Doodle” will be on display at foaSouth through January 30, 2022. Cohen will also host a monthly series at the exhibition called “Artists on Artists” – one-on-one conversations with artists across mediums. The first event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. with mixed media artist Bruce Burr. 

Learn more about Cohen and her process by watching Rick Graves’ video production here: 

Cohen credits photographer and filmmaker Rick Graves for his sensitive interviewing style and video production skills in allowing her to talk about cancer’s impact on her art.


Suzie’s ARTiculation

Music in the Park – the community’s favorite summer concert series says sayonara for the season Sunday

Story by SUZIE HARRISON

Photos by Scott Brashier

Last dance, last chance to enjoy Laguna’s best kept secret, the favorite Sunday summer ritual know as Music in the Park will end another sensational season this Sunday with SantanaWays, a Santana tribute band, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bluebird Park.

For many locals, the popular community concert series is a highlight of the summer, a shared tradition for friends and family since 1983, established as a passion project by the late Doris Shields when she served on the City’s Arts Commission.

That first year, Shields had a month to put the inaugural concert together. To facilitate, she called on Leigh Unger, a harpsichordist and music professor at Fullerton College at the time. He was able to gather some of his students and fellow musicians to perform in the first concert.

A lot has changed from those days. Now, the community can thank the Arts commissioners, the Cultural Arts Department, and namely Siân Poeschl, the City Cultural Arts Manager, for making the popular series what it is today. 

“I feel incredibly fortunate to work and live in a community that appreciates the importance of music to our lives. But Music in the Park goes far beyond that, it’s an opportunity to see friends and neighbors, share food, stories, to dance and hang out as a community,” Poeschl said. “That’s very rare and should not be understated as to its importance.” 

music in the one

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Families and friends love to gather at Music in the Park, a local favorite summer tradition since 1983

In 1994, Music in the Park Inc. formed and entered into a public private partnership with the City in 1995 through 2005. The Arts Commission has funded the concerts through the Business Improvement District since 2005.

The concert series started with three concerts at Nita Carman Park. Only four bands played and 30 people came that first summer. Traffic noise was an issue, so the next year, Bluebird Park became its fitting home. 

After the new digs were found, a berm was built for performers. Poeschl kindly gave me a bit of music history, Music in the Park history:

--From 1984 – 1987 the number of concerts increased to four and were held from late June through September.

--In 1986, a sound system was introduced for amplified sound.

--Two years later concerts increased to five with an estimated 800 – 1,000 attendance.

--From 1989 – 1990 the concerts increased to six.

--The following three years the concerts were increased to seven and ran from late July through September.

--The following decade, from 1994 – 2004, eight concerts were held each summer.

--But in 2005, the number of concerts was reduced to seven.

“The concerts are a community orientated event, in a community park setting,” Poeschl said. “Since 2000 a professional audio company has been hired to do the sound. Decibel levels are recorded every 15 minutes throughout the concert.”

Both funded by the City, the beloved sculpture “Laguna Tortoise” was installed by Michele Taylor in 2003 and “Bluebird Park Gate” was installed by Jon Seeman. 

music in the tortoise

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Michele Taylor’s ‘Laguna Tortoise’ is a favorite public art piece adored by people of all ages at Bluebird Park

To find the best entertainment, the Arts Commission reviews hundreds of bands starting in January. Although some concerts are more popular than others, attendance has remained the same over the last five years around 800 to 1,000.

“We are very appreciative to the Bluebird Park neighbors and because of this we encourage audience members to be respectful of where they park,” Poeschl said.

The rules: No dogs are ever allowed at Bluebird Park; there is no smoking in any Laguna Beach park; no set up before 3 p.m.; no open alcohol is allowed outside the park; alcohol is allowed with a meal; no umbrellas are allowed up; and bring only low beach chairs, so that everyone can enjoy the concert. 

“Facilitating Music in the Park requires the collaboration of the Public Works, Police and Cultural Arts Departments,” Poeschl said. “Although the concerts look effortless, it takes months of planning and organization.”

Poeschl has been working with Rick Weirs from Public Works since she started running the series 20 years ago. Last year, Mike McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator, was added to the team.

music in the dancing

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Dancing, laughing, fun and merriment abound at Music in the Park

“Every concert is attended by a member of the Arts Commission, you will see them at the gate handing out the schedule, or hear them introduce the band,” Poeschl said.

Longtime Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda lauds the series and what it brings to our community.

“MIP is a gift to our wonderful town. I’ve been involved for 25 years and been amazed at how it has grown and how much it is cherished by our ‘Lagunatics,’” Kollenda said. “I am also very proud of the collaboration between City Departments and the support of our City Council! and, of course, much gratitude to Sian Poeschl.” 

The concerts follow the rules of the City’s noise ordinance. To address the concerns of neighbors, the City guaranteed the concerts would be concluded by 7 p.m. with no exception. Although, at every concert, Poeschl or staff get guff from people wanting the bands to play longer. But that’s not an option if locals want the series to continue as they are.

“It is important to retain the community feel of the event, to have generations of family and friends spend two hours together enjoying a variety of live music,” Poeschl said.

music in the musician

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Catch the final Music in the Park Concert on Sunday to savor the sounds

The City funds and presents 16 free concerts – two World Music, seven Music in the Park, and seven Sunset Serenades, which kicks off for the fall with jazz vocalist Valerie Geason at Heisler Park Amphitheater on Friday, Sept 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Until next time…so many City concerts to enjoy, so little time!


Newest public art installation “Changing Station” inspires viewers to “Be a hero any way you can”

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On one side of the Forest Avenue art installation “Changing Station” by local Artist Robert Holton is a list of inspirational quotes, one being, “There is a Superhero in all of us, we need the courage to put on the cape.”

Newest public Holton

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Artist Robert Holton 

Holton says, “I pitched this idea to the Arts Commission because of the connection of the phone booth and Superman, that’s where he changed and emerged as a superhero. I applied to the Arts Commission two years ago, and I came in third out of 20. So this year, I pitched it again. The sayings on the side are positive affirmations. There is so much insecurity and drama in town, this is an inspiration that each of us can be a hero in the smallest of ways.”

Newest public quotes

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Inspirational quotes

Holton has owned his sign business, One Day Signs, Inc. for over 20 years. He has exhibited for five years at the Sawdust Festival – Drizzle Art by Robert Holton depicts pop culture icons that are digitally printed onto stretched canvas, then hand-painted using Robert’s “drizzle” technique. The final paintings are bright, colorful, fun, and often very meaningful to viewers who find their own unique links to the friendly imagery.

Newest public dog

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Robert with his dog dressed as a superhero, Heidi Miller, and Robert’s wife Marita

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl says, “It is important to have a diversity in the temporary art installation experience, both in content and duration and the combination of national and local artists. It is this diversity and opportunity that brings an energy and uniqueness to the experience of public art, and just for a fleeting moment you get to enjoy it, before it is gone. Robert Holton’s proposal was one of 25 submitted designs and I am excited for him to have had this opportunity to participate in his own community.”

Newest public Whalen

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Mayor Bob Whalen and Robert Holton 

In attendance for the dedication of the installation, Lorraine, who is visiting from London where phone booths are a staple, says, “The use of British phone booths with the comic superheroes is amazing, a good juxtaposition.”

Super Eddy, owner of Melrose Place just up from the phone booth, said the installation is “powerfully endowed.”

With a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers in attendance, Arts Commission Chair Michael Ervin dedicated the booth to the beauty of superheroes.

Newest public Heidi

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Heidi Miller, a true Wonder Woman 

Dressed as Wonder Woman, Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets, said, “I think it’s all about superheroes, but all of us are heroes in our own way. We forget that sometimes. This installation reminds us that we are.” Spoken as a true hero who donated one of her kidneys last year to save a life. 

In congratulating Holton on this vision of the phone booth, Mayor Bob Whalen said, “This is the first local artist selected. Holton sells at Sawdust. It’s great to have a local artist represented. Including this one, there are 18-20 temporary installations. The Arts Commission is on a roll.”

Newest public food

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Reception courtesy of Ashley Johnson of Visit Laguna Beach

In response to being honored, Holton said, “Thanks to the City and Arts Commission for choosing me. I moved here years ago, and when I would drive by the booth, I pictured Superman changing and then flying out. Although I’ve come from the sign making background, I’ve never made a fist like this before. It represents superheroes flying out of roof. It’s especially important in this time of negativity. We all need to be kinder or be a hero, even in a small way. My wife Marita says, ‘be a hero in any way you can.’”

So, hopefully, when passing the phone booth, we will all be inspired to “put on the cape” and be a hero in some modest way.

Courtesy of President & CEO of Visit Laguna Beach Ashley Johnson, following the dedication, a reception was held in the Visitors Center.


No Square Theatre’s brush with Broadway

Story and Photos by Marrie Stone

Audiences might share a collective PTSD moment when the curtain rises on No Square Theatre’s Cry-Baby, the Musical at the end of this month. Shots-in-arms is the theme of the opening number as high schoolers stand in line, waiting their turn for a vaccine that promises to protect them from a paralyzing virus circulating around the country. The year is 1954. The virus is polio. 

No Square radio

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Set in 1954 amidst the polio epidemic, Cry-Baby’s full of singing, dancing, and lots of laughs

After 16 months of life without live performances, No Square is responding to the pandemic – and several of the social issues surrounding it – with edgy humor, raucous music, dirty dancing, and a slice of satire. There couldn’t be a more perfect production to welcome audiences back. So perfect, in fact, that it attracted the attention of Cry-Baby’s original Broadway producer, Adam Epstein, who joined the cast and crew for a Q & A session earlier this month. 

Epstein shared his Broadway backstories and experiences, counseled the predominantly young cast about changes in the industry, and imparted a lot of practical advice about the business. He also offered real-time feedback during their rehearsal. He plans to attend the show’s final performance on Sunday, August 1st, bringing with him a few actors from the original Broadway show. 

No Square Epstein group

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Broadway Producer Adam Epstein poses with Cry-Baby’s cast and crew, holding the guitar donated by local musician Matt Costa to the production

A 1990 script, set in 1954, finds surprising relevance in 2021

Based on the 1990 John Waters’ romantic comedy film starring Johnny Depp, Cry-Baby was adapted to stage in 2007, debuting at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego before hitting Broadway in 2008. It followed on the heels of the highly successful Hairspray, also a John Waters’ film, and also produced by Adam Epstein.

With bawdy lyrics and risqué dancing, the campy show floundered on Broadway, but went on to become a cult classic. “Cry-Baby is very rarely produced,” says Bree Burgess Rosen, No Square Theatre’s Artistic Director. Burgess Rosen is also cast as Mrs. Vernon-Williams in the musical’s production. “Some people soured at the idea of it being built around the polio vaccination – that it was a crude decision – but now we’ve been through something much worse in this country, and it makes the snark about polio a lot less painful.” 

A production’s success is often driven by timing, Epstein told the cast. Coming off the high of Hairspray in 2008, Cry-Baby didn’t speak to the times. While Hairspray was sentimental, Cry-Baby was subversive. “I don’t want to use the word ‘cynical,’ because it’s hilarious,” says Burgess Rosen. “But it’s an edgier comedy. It’s a little bit sharper.” 

Today its themes are resonant in ways they haven’t been since the show was written. “I’m really excited they’re reviving this,” Epstein says. “It’s set in 1954, as the polio epidemic is ravaging the United States, and the iron lung, and the whole vaccination theme. But the show is also political. It’s about class and equality. Like all great stories, it’s timeless. Class and politics are themes that are evergreen, but polio and the pandemic – it’s all too apt.”

Adam Schlesinger, the two-time Emmy-winning and Tony nominated composer of Cry-Baby, died last year of COVID-related complications at the age of 52. “It’s been a tragedy,” Burgess Rosen says. “So many lives lost. But it’s also been devastating on an emotional, financial, and intellectual level. The performing arts have been shut down. Live theater stopped. This show spoke to me as being right for this time. It’s hilarious, and we all need to laugh, but the lyrics are rife with social commentary and social injustice.”

While the romantic setup will feel familiar – high society debutante falls for hillbilly juvenile delinquent – a darker ribbon of poignancy runs through the storyline. The star-crossed lovers are both orphans, but the circumstances surrounding Cry-Baby’s situation are a little more sinister. 

And yet…it’s funny. With musical numbers like, “Girl, Can I Kiss You With…?” and “Thanks for the Nifty Country!” there are several laugh-out-loud moments full of sexual innuendo and subtle nods to our imperfect union. “My favorite line in the show reads, ‘I’m proud to say that the Women’s Club has come out strongly against polio by a vote of 56 to 8,’” says Burgess Rosen. “I mean…that’s hilarious. It’s so applicable to what’s going on right now.”

No Square Epstein watching

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Cry-Baby’s Broadway Producer, Adam Epstein, watches a rehearsal

Epstein got a little emotional after watching the cast run through a few of the numbers. “I haven’t seen these songs performed since closing night on Broadway,” he says. “I remember where I was when this was first rehearsed. But this is more fun. It’s 13 years later, and I don’t have $13 million on the line. I just have a lot of pride.”

How community theater builds community

Apart from being an entertaining show with an astoundingly talented cast, the production stands as a moving reminder of the importance of community theater. 

The majority of the cast’s twenty-two members are between the ages of 16 and 22. Many grew up in Laguna Beach, participating in community and school theater since they were small. Malin Glade, Shelby Thomas, Claire Tigner, Joe Hovanesian, Lila Goldstein, Luka Salib, and choreographer Sabrina Harper are some of the members who grew up on Laguna’s stages. Harper went on to enjoy professional success in the field.

No Square dancing

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Braxton McGrath (Baldwin), Malin Glade (Allison), Austin Arnwine (Cry-Baby), and Sophia Barajas (Lenora) share an impromptu dance

Creating a cast that includes a mixture of seasoned adults with aspiring young actors has its own unexpected rewards. “It builds tolerance and understanding,” says Burgess Rosen. “You might have people who fear the ‘other,’ whether it’s a racial, religious, socioeconomic, or political thing. Maybe it’s a sexual orientation thing. We have such a broad spectrum of people who perform together. But when you know somebody, and you work closely with them, you realize they’re not so different. That’s a gift theater gives to diverse age groups.” 

No Square Schiffer

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Lifelong community theater lovers Eric and Peggy Schiffer (and their son Zachary) recently moved to Laguna Beach. All three joined Cry-Baby’s cast.

Cast members tend to become friends for life, forging relationships that can last years or picking up where they left off even after decades apart. Burgess Rosen calls those her “underwear friends” – stage friends so intimate, it’s as though they’ve seen you in your underwear. “I have underwear friends who are my son’s age, but we’re genuine friends. I love that element of the theater. We find a family in the show,” she says.

Epstein agrees. “Community theater was always something of a lifeblood for me because I had so many friends that did it,” he says. “And through the years, wherever I am – and obviously this happens to be a show I originally produced – I like to take it in and support it. Because everyone wants to be in theater, but it’s hard to make a living that way. If you can’t spend your career doing theater, this is a chance to do theater.”

Lessons from Broadway

Epstein brought with him a wealth of personal experience. He was a Broadway success story by the age of 21, producing such hits as A View from the Bridge (1997), Amadeus (1999), The Crucible (2002), Hairspray (2002), and The Wedding Singer (2006). His theatrical productions garnered 46 Tony nominations and won 12 Tony Awards, one for Epstein himself as producer of Hairspray. Today he primarily spends his time as a political pundit and hosts his own show, The Dispatch.

Having spent more than a decade on Broadway, Epstein came away with a lot of truisms not only about art and theater, but life itself. He generously shared his wisdom with Cry-Baby’s cast. Here are a few of his reflections:

Act with integrity. Epstein’s biggest piece of advice applies equally well on-stage and off. It boils down to this, with stronger language omitted: Being a jerk will catch up with you. In a business rife with jerks, acting with kindness and integrity will be remembered.

No Square Epstein Harper

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No Square’s Costumer, Brigitte Harper, noticed a loose thread on Epstein’s jacket and rushed to assist

Assert yourself. Be assertive about who you are and what you love to do. “It’s too tough a business to be demur or shy,” Epstein says. “Someone else is going to happily speak up.” 

Commit yourself. “Doing a production is like being in a relationship,” Epstein told the cast. “You can’t be in halfway. It’s got to be 100 percent.” Of course, when the show is over, it can feel like a breakup. But you’ve got to fully commit to the cast and the production. That kind of dedication will pay lifelong dividends. 

Actors aren’t responsible for the audience’s reaction. Epstein shared Cry-Baby’s mixed reception on Broadway. Several major publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Newsday, gave the production high praise. Others, including the New York Times and USA Today, weren’t so generous. 

Much of a production’s success is about timing, Epstein emphasized. “No two people see the same movie. Art is subjective and so are people’s reactions to it.” 

Burgess Rosen echoed his comments. “You can’t control the audience’s reaction, and that’s not your job. Your job isn’t to be sensitive. Your job is to make art and, in this case, to make people laugh.” Not to mention, Burgess Rosen pointed out, humor is often at odds with being politically correct or pleasing to everyone in the audience. That’s the nature of satire.

The difficult business of Broadway. Epstein also shared the harsh realities of how Broadway has changed in the past several years. Corporate money significantly shifted the landscape, essentially eliminating smaller off-Broadway venues. “You used to be able to do shows off-Broadway, work through the issues, and move them uptown,” says Burgess Rosen. “But it’s too expensive now. Instead, we have an abundance of television and film actors who are taking Broadway roles and making theater much more competitive. You’re either competing with stars who are talented, or who aren’t talented but nonetheless have name recognition. It feels a bit negative, but it’s important this generation goes in with their eyes open.” 

Still, Burgess Rosen says, if she won the lottery tomorrow, she’d continue doing exactly what she does today, in precisely the same place. “Only with nicer shoes.”

No Square Burgess Epstein

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Director Ella Wyatt and Artistic Director Bree Burgess Rosen pose with Adam Epstein

The intimacy of live theater

In the end – comedy, music, satire, and dancing aside – Cry-Baby is about reaching across the divide, setting fear aside, and forging human connections. That’s what Epstein’s visit was about, as well. He brought a bit of Broadway back to the community and created a space where amateurs and professionals could sit on the same stage and share a lot of laughs. Every member felt present. 

“I’m here,” Epstein told the cast. It was a phrase he repeated often throughout the evening. “Ask me anything. I’m here.”

For tickets, go to www.nosquare.org.


LCAD’s art takes center stage at the 28th Annual Collectors’ Choice (not so) Silent Auction

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeff Rovner

No one stayed silent about their love of art – and appreciation for LCAD – at Laguna College of Art + Design’s 28th Annual Collector’s Choice Silent Auction last Friday night. Artists, patrons and community members poured into [seven-degrees] for a festive night of live jazz, seasonal bites, cocktails and, of course, lots of art. The proceeds benefited the college, supporting its students and programs, and helped fund the $2.5 million in scholarships the school awards each year.

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Not only the art was colorful at the Collectors’ Choice Gala

LCAD faculty, alumni and other celebrated professional artists offered up oils, charcoals, photographs and sculptures. There were watercolors, wooden boxes, and blown glass. As guests gathered, sipped and ate, one woman painted another’s portrait onto her canvas in the corner of the room. 

There’s plenty to love about Laguna Beach, but the LCAD event summed up one of my favorite things about our town: this community is authentically passionate. Art auctions have the potential to feel pretentious. For someone like me, who barely knows her Jasper Johns from her Jackson Pollocks, that can be intimidating. Yes, this town appreciates art. But, more importantly, people just dig it. You can feel the difference between folks who are politely supportive and those who are sincerely passionate. 

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Artist in action at the Collectors’ Choice Gala

I pulled LCAD’s president, Jonathan Burke, aside to talk about this. Burke has been with LCAD for 38 years, serving in various capacities as professor, dean and president. He embodies passion, and he’s focused on making LCAD one of the premiere art institutes in the United States. He explains that recently, the live auction (held this year at Montage Resort) is now separate from the silent event, giving guests on each occasion an entirely different experience. For serious collectors, or donors looking for a more extravagant evening, Montage Laguna Beach provides that ambience. But Burke is committed to making art available to everyone.

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LCAD’s president, Jonathan Burke, addresses guests

“We wanted to have a party in town and make it more accessible,” says Burke. “We brought the price point down to embrace more of the community. The artists here love the college and want to donate.” Burke himself donated a piece, as he does every year, often to both the silent and live auction, and sometimes more than one. 

As the evening wound down, I watched people pick up their art. Couples talked about where new pieces would hang. A man was hurrying to bring the car around, having won three wooden boxes. He’d lost a few paintings he wanted, but he still looked like a little boy on Christmas morning, triumphant and giddy. The artists watched their work going off to new homes, elated they made someone happy. 

And LCAD is now able to do more of what it does best . . . produce another generation of artists who instill this passion and carry the torch for art. 

That circle of love for art sums up what it feels like to live in Laguna.

To view more of Jeff Rovner’s outstanding photographs, click on the gallery below. Jeff will be exhibiting his fine art photography at the Festival of Arts for the second year this summer. The theme of his exhibit is Cirque Noir.

 


The artistry and magic behind Ellen Reid’s Soundwalk in Heisler Park

By MARRIE STONE

Regardless of how many times you’ve visited Heisler Park, the experience will feel wholly different when enjoyed through Ellen Reid’s orchestral lens. Laguna’s latest art installation offers an acoustic encounter, instead of a visual one. Using the natural beauty of the coastal landscape – from the tranquil tidepools to the crashing waves, the beach’s quiet coves and the park’s grassy knolls, to the cheers and jeers on the lawn bowling greens – Reid’s musical compositions enhance the innate splendor of every piece of the park. 

The artistry Heisler Park

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Ellen Reid’s art installation Soundwalk takes visitors on a symphonic journey through Heisler Park

After downloading the free app and donning your headphones, simply start walking wherever you choose at whatever pace feels comfortable. Using enhanced GPS technology, the app will follow your natural movement throughout Heisler Park – from Diver’s Cove to the hill above Main Beach. The music provides a soundtrack for your stroll, intentionally curated to your surroundings. But unlike a cinematic sound experience where the music is timed to the action of the movie, you’re in control of this soundscape. You guide the music, triggering different musical cells depending on where you walk, instead of the music leading you. This ensures no two visits are alike, and every visitor’s experience is unique.

“This temporary piece is part sound installation and part concert,” says Sian Poeschl, Cultural Arts Manager for the City of Laguna Beach. Responding to the need for alternative programming and experiences, the Arts Commission sought out something both unique and unobtrusive. “The Commission felt this installation would be soothing for our collective souls, and envelop the site without being obtrusive,” Poeschl says.   

Poeschl saw an article about Ellen Reid’s installation in New York City’s Central Park some months back and shared it with the Commission. “I asked Ellen if she would ever think of doing a project in Laguna Beach,” Poeschl says. “I was delighted when she said she would come and visit the site. When we met, she immediately said yes. It is her first installation where the ocean sets the scene.”

Using the natural world as an instrument

Conjuring up John Cage’s 1952 experimental composition 4’33” – a three-movement performance comprised of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence – Reid acknowledges that the listening experience is enhanced by the random noises of the surroundings. “There’s room in the soundwalk for nature’s sounds, and for that to impact the listening experience,” says Reid. “That was part of the concept from the beginning. The experience is in harmony with nature, and not intended to shut it out.”

Depending on the time of day you stroll, the weather outside, or the specific season, your experience is bound to be different. An overcast November evening will lend a different mood to the music than a sunny August afternoon. The light changes from May to October. Those details enhance the rich experience of the music. “Heisler Park has a unique beauty,” says Reid. “That kind of beauty asked for a specific soundscape that was very sparkly and flowed well. It has a lot of sensual textures strung together.” 

Soft strings and soothing flutes lead you down to Diver’s Cove. As you gaze out at the ocean, the orchestra gives you the sense of being in a spa. Wander up to the lawn bowling greens and the excitement builds as the drums and cymbals take charge. Stroll out to the Gazebo at the southern edge of the park for another unique encounter. 

The artistry gazebo

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Stroll out to the Gazebo at Heisler Park’s southern tip to experience one of Reid’s hidden Easter eggs

“There are some Easter eggs hidden throughout,” says Reid. Musical movements are hyper-located to unique areas of the park. “There’s a special rock out in the ocean that’s not always easy to access. But it’s worth the effort.” Reid also recommends slowing down and stopping at a few benches to experience something new. “There were some locations where I thought it would be fun to have an interactive experience. I enjoyed moving through the landscape and thinking about these unique locations, the flow of the space, and the way different paths intersect with themselves. I thought about how the music could move through those different intersections.” 

The artistry bird rock

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

For intrepid adventurists, hike out to the rocks off the coast for a unique sound experience

A collective collaboration

Reid spent several weeks at Heisler Park, interrogating the landscape. She liked the history of public art in the space, suggesting that visitors would be naturally curious and primed for a unique experience. “I got to know Heisler, experience it, and test out different music to make the specific composition,” she says. “Because the visuals bring so much to the experience, I knew Heisler Park would be an excellent collaborator.” 

There’s also a formidable team of musical and technical collaborators behind Reid’s project. Fourteen freelance musicians from across the United States make up the ensemble, which includes strings, percussion, brass, wind instruments, piano, harp, voice, and Reid on the synthesizer. “A lot of the musicians are layering with themselves,” Reid says. “So, although it sounds like several violins, it’s the same violinist playing all the layers.” 

The artistry lawn bowling

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The percussion picks up when guests close in on the Lawn Bowling Club, suggesting that the tension might rise as players compete

Reid recommends taking this walk alone. “It’s about choosing your own adventure and allowing your soundscape to follow your curiosity,” she says. “If you’re with a friend, there’s always some kind of negotiation or compromise.”

Whatever pace feels right will work well with the music, though a casual stroll might be optimal. “If you’re moving fast, it’s definitely still a great experience,” she says. “Even if you’re unable to walk, there are ways to experience it by being in one place and allowing the music to move around you.”

Reid’s rich melding of musical traditions

Reid grew up in the small town of Oak Ridge, Tenn., located about 25 miles from Knoxville. The musical influences there were strong. Reid sang in the church choir and played percussion and piano in the school band. “That part of the world is such a musically rich landscape between the bluegrass music and the local high school band culture around the football teams there,” she says. “There’s a wide sound-world that exists in that part of the country.”

She went from Tennessee to New York City’s Columbia University for college. “I encountered this whole other world of music in New York. It was more experimental, coming from different places and with a more international perspective. I had a great experience learning about music in a different way in New York.” From there, Reid traveled to Thailand, living and working with traditional Thai musicians for about two and a half years. “It was a mind-opening experience,” she says. “It’s certainly the case that the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know.”

This rich melding of diverse musical experiences gave Reid an appreciation for what music could accomplish, and how it might build emotional bridges across cultures, geographies, and various life experiences. 

In 2019, Reid won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her opera, “p r i s m,” which documents a sexual assault survivor’s psychological struggle. She is also the first composer to have been commissioned by all four of Los Angeles’s four major classical musical institutions – Los Angeles Opera at REDCAT, Los Angeles Philharmonic, L.A. Master Chorale, and L.A. Chamber Orchestra. In addition to classical music, Reid also composes for film, TV, and – of course – soundwalk art installations.

The artistry Reid profile

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and creator of Soundwalk, Ellen Reid

Reid’s soundwalks hit the ground running

Reid began her soundwalks last September, launching the first in New York City’s Central Park. From there, momentum grew fast. There are now eleven soundwalks available throughout the country, including L.A.’s Griffith Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Heisler Park, however, offers the only oceanic landscape. 

“The harmony and discovery are the most exciting elements of the piece and allow us to experience and appreciate such a stunning coastline park in a completely different way,” says Poeschl. “I hope the community downloads the app, takes a walk, and enjoys the exploration.” 

The installation will be available to the public through the spring of 2022. The free app can be downloaded atwww.ellenreidsoundwalk.com. Visitors are invited to experience the installation anytime during Heisler Park hours (5 a.m.-1 a.m.), seven days a week. The Arts Commission and Cultural Arts Department hope you enjoy your visit, funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.


Inspiring the next generation: the profound impact of the Festival of Arts’ Junior Art Exhibit 

By MARRIE STONE

“Can I tell you my story?” Hochang (Daniel) Lee emerges from the crowd of young artists who gathered at the Festival of Arts’ grounds on Sunday, Aug 15 for the annual Junior Art Awards Ceremony. A medal around his neck and certificate in hand, Lee eagerly talks about his artistic inspirations.

The rising Sunny Hills High School freshman took third place in the category of two-dimensional art for 8th graders. Jurors selected his photograph, The Greatness of Nature, from hundreds of works submitted by Orange County students and their teachers. 

The South Korean teen grew up in the concrete jungle of Beijing, only recently moving to the U.S. “I didn’t have a chance to see much nature there,” Lee says. Southern California’s natural landscape quickly captivated him. “As I came to California, I saw a lot of nature. I began taking pictures with my iPhone and editing them. Then I posted my photo and the Festival of Arts chose it for an award.”

Inspiring the JAE Lee

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“The Greatness of Nature,” a photograph taken by 8th grader Hochang (Daniel) Lee, won third place in its category

While Lee’s backstory is unique, his pride in receiving recognition for his artistic achievement is universal. The nearly 250 young artists on display in this summer’s Junior Art Gallery each have exceptional stories. The exhibit provides an opportunity to tell them.

Young artists range in age from 4 to 18. They use crayons, cameras, clay –and every implement in between – to communicate a piece of themselves and share a hint of their inner lives. What they don’t reveal is what these awards mean to them. Here are some of the hidden ways the Junior Art Exhibit impacted these young artists’ lives.

Cultivating confidence

Andrew Arellano’s first day of school didn’t look like a typical first day. At four years old, Arellano stayed home instead of sitting in his transitional kindergarten (TK) classroom. His teacher, Jeanette Davert, conducted class from the other side of a screen. Arellano’s first assignment was to draw a picture in his journal. “Andrew started to cry because he didn’t know how to draw,” Davert says. “I told him, ‘Just do your best. I’ll know what you’re trying to draw.’” 

Arellano attempted to draw himself swimming in a pool. “He couldn’t even draw a stick figure,” says his mother. “He just kept crying.” 

Davert encouraged him, telling him she knew exactly what he’d drawn. “‘I see the swimming pool,’” she told him. “Then he got a little smile,” she says. “From there, every day, he gained more confidence. All of a sudden, he sent me a piece for the art show, and it began winning awards.” 

Soon Arellano’s piece was turned into a poster and displayed at South Coast Plaza’s Crystal Court. Then, says Davert, she got the email announcing he’d won an award through the Festival of Arts. “I’ve never had a student get in here,” she says. 

Arellano took home the distinguished Festival of Arts Director’s Award for his crayon drawing, Shark!, as well as winning a medal for a postcard of the same piece.

Arellano, now five, told his mom, “I didn’t know how to draw, and now everybody knows my art.” 

Inspiring the JAE Shark

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Five-year-old Andrew Arellano shows his drawing, “Shark!,” winner of the FOA Director’s Award and a medalist for the postcard prize.

High school senior Kylie Watson discovered polymer clay when she was 11 years old and sculpting soon became an obsession. “Being an artist has always been a big part of my life,” Watson says. “Getting to express myself in different ways. I hope I can continue to pursue that.” 

Watson’s sculpture, Something On My Mind, took first place in Grade 12 three-dimensional art. She credits her Huntington Beach Union High teacher, Shane Borowski, for supporting her artistic endeavors. 

“I’ve always been inspired by the weird, the cryptic, and the less seen parts of the imagination. It’s something I’ve loved being able to explore,” Watson says. “I’m just happy to have found a medium that suits me. And I guess it’s something I’m good at.”   

Inspiring the JAE Watson

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Sculptress Kylie Watson with her award-winning piece, “Something On My Mind”

A year like no other

While the past year presented endless challenges for both students and educators, few academic disciplines suffered more than the arts. “Certain things don’t work well over Zoom,” says Nikita Young, junior art coordinator. “Art is one of those things. It’s literally hands on.” 

As a result, submissions were significantly down this year compared to years past. “I was pleased how many students still produced work from home and submitted as much as they did,” she says. “Working in their homes without teachers present is quite remarkable.”

Inspiring the JAE Addison

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Kindergartener Addison Williams took first place for her drawing, “Rocky,” as well as a medal in the postcard category

Young estimates nearly 500 young artists submitted works for this summer’s exhibit across a wide variety of two- and three-dimensional mediums (the typical number is closer to 2,000). Artists created drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, digital art, computer graphics, photography, and contemporary works (including assemblage, collage, and conceptual images). “The quality of the art and purity of expression were astonishing,” says Brian Giberson, juror for the Junior Arts Exhibit and longtime FOA mixed media exhibitor. “It was extremely difficult to select among all the art submitted.” 

Much of the work reflected what young people endured over the past year. Jaelin Louise Tabaniag took first place for her portrait of a graduate wearing his cap and gown – as well as his mask – surrounded by red viral balls circling his head. It’s appropriately titled “Unprecedented.” 

“My inspiration for this piece comes from my older brother and a streamer I was watching at the time,” Tabaniag says. Her brother graduated high school this past spring and Tabaniag worried he wouldn’t have a proper graduation. “Additionally, the boy in my art piece closely resembles the streamer I was watching. The materials I used were HB, 2B, 4B, 6B pencils, along with a blending stump and different sized erasers.”

Several other students drew portraits of themselves and others in masks, thanking our heroes, and encouraging people to distance. 

Inspiring the JAE Tabaniag

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“Unprecedented,” a drawing created by 8th grader Jaelin Louise Tabaniag, took first place in its category

Ninth-grade new media artist Mikayla Aguilar won third place for her digital artwork, Hope, Not Fear. The powerful piece combines newspaper headlines and images superimposed over a photograph of a young child’s face. The effect is a haunting reminder of how much anxiety our children internalize while still choosing hope over fear.

Inspiring the JAE Aguilar

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

“Hope, Not Fear,” a new media image created by 9th grader Mikayla Aguilar, won third place in its category

“All the young artists are to be commended for having the courage to express themselves and present both their unique views of the world around them, and a glimpse into their vivid interior worlds,” says Giberson. “I’d encourage anyone attending the Festival and Pageant to spend some time enjoying the Junior Art Exhibit and seeing the world through the eyes of these talented young people.”

Young worries about schools deemphasizing their arts programs in favor of math, science, and technology. “It concerns me,” she says. “Educating students to be smart in science and math is one thing. But nurturing them, and helping them develop as human beings, is another. I personally believe that’s more important. We don’t need more technology. We’re already overwhelmed by it.” Not giving students artistic outlets to express their emotions results in their emotions ruling them, she says.

Past as prologue

Few people can better attest to the lasting impact of the Junior Art Exhibit on their careers – and their lives – than three longtime FOA exhibitors who were once Junior Art Exhibitors themselves. Watercolor artist Molly Hutchings, oil painter Anthony Salvo, and photographer Cheyne Walls all began in the Festival of Arts’ Junior Art Exhibit. 

Hutchings’ first watercolor painting was submitted by her art teacher in 1967 when she was in 10th grade. That abstract landscape painting shaped Hutchings’ budding identity. “I started to see myself as an artist,” Hutchings says. “It was a life-changer. It gave me confidence and helped me enjoy the rest of my high school career. I became focused on taking as many art classes as I could take, and then majored in art in college.”

Hutchings has displayed her watercolors in the FOA for 28 years and served for over a decade as juror in the Junior Art Exhibit. “I was one of those kids,” she says. “And it was very inspiring.”

Inspiring the JAE medals

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Gold, silver, and bronze medals, as well as Honorable Mention certificates, were awarded by grade level and artistic medium to 65 recipients

Salvo shares a similar story. He was just 15 years old in 1975 when a high school teacher submitted his woodblock print entitled Shipyard to the Junior Art Exhibit. “I didn’t even know about the Festival of Arts,” Salvo says. “I lived in Costa Mesa and my parents weren’t involved in going to art shows at that time. When I went down to the Festival and saw my work hanging on the wall, I was just amazed. I was in awe of all the amazing art and these artists. I thought it was the coolest place in the world.” 

Salvo started coming to the Festival every year, only missing the summers he attended college. But it wasn’t until 2012 that he applied for, and was juried into, the show. Now he’s been an exhibitor for four years and has served as juror for the Junior Art Festival for the past two years. “There’s so much talent out there,” says Salvo. “I’m excited about these kids. They’re the ones who will take our place and they’re amazingly creative. They just need to keep going and not get discouraged. It’s so easy for artists to get discouraged.”

Though Giberson wasn’t raised in Orange County, he too had an impactful experience as a student that paved the way for his career in the arts. “I know from personal experience how much a little encouragement can mean in how a young person views themselves and their place in the world,” he says. “When I was in the third grade, I placed third in a school district competition and exhibition much like the Festival of Arts Junior Art Exhibit. Seeing my work exhibited publicly was my first experience in how it felt to have my art appreciated by a broader audience than my supportive family. It was a powerful first step in my lifelong art career.” 

History and sponsorship of the exhibit

Since its inception in 1947, the Junior Art Exhibit has historically become one of the highlights of the summer show. “Over 70 years ago, exhibitor and board member Russell Iredell created the very first Junior Art Exhibit,” said Festival of Arts President David Perry in his opening remarks at this year’s annual awards’ ceremony. “It was a hit from the very beginning and continues to be a favorite among Festival visitors.” 

Without financial support, of course, such impacts are impossible. The 2021 Junior Art Exhibit is funded in part by California First Leasing Corporation, Mark Porterfield of Laguna Beach, and a grant from the FOA Foundation. The exhibit is produced in partnership with the Imagination Celebration, Arts OC, and the OC Department of Education. The Festival of Arts is a nonprofit organization. Proceeds support the arts and art education in and about Laguna. This support is critical to the Junior Art Exhibit’s ongoing success.

Inspiring the JAE group

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

The 2021 Junior Art Exhibit Award winners, jurors, presenters, supporters, and educators gathered to celebrate on Sunday, Aug 15 

In a world increasingly focused on promoting science, technology, and math – and a culture obsessed with screens – opportunities for cultivating artistic expression among our youth are dwindling. Sunday’s awards ceremony, as well as the many incredible works on display, highlight the importance of nurturing not only an education in the arts, but giving students creative outlets for self-expression. Early opportunities can have a lasting and profound impact. Just ask these many artists.


Think global, eat local: Taste of Laguna returns to take visitors on an international ride

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

For local foodie and music fans, the wait is almost over. On Thursday, Oct. 14, Taste of Laguna returns to the Festival of Arts grounds for its 14th annual event. This year, though, it offers an international twist.

Twenty restaurants and two world bands will take visitors on an around-the-world culinary and cultural adventure. “We decided to put a global theme to the event this year,” said Alyssa Hayek, general manager of Laguna’s radio station, KX FM. “Since travel has been rough on everybody, we’re bringing the travel to you.” 

Think global bites

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Visitors will enjoy flavors inspired from around the globe

Visitors can take their tastebuds around Latin American, across Europe and Asia, or stick with the comforts of home. The theme is a natural fit for Laguna. “The town is kind of a melting pot, so it worked well,” Hayek said.

In addition to an amazing array of restaurants and the sounds of incredible bands, visitors can also bid on a range of silent auction items. Here are a few of the highlights guests can expect. 

New kids in town

There are a few notable newcomers on this year’s culinary scene. Sueños (better known as “Dreams” in Spanish) opened its doors just last month on Ocean Avenue. Executive Chef Alan Sanz’s Latin American menu incorporates flavors from Peru, Colombia, Mexico and other Aztec-inspired dishes. From citrus to spice, Sanz’s selections include everything from light fish dishes to hearty ribeye steaks. 

Comedor, located inside the historic La Casa del Camino hotel, came to town last spring. Chef Marcel Vigneron – runner-up in season two of Bravo’s Top Chef – brought his tapas-inspired menu to Laguna, including Spanish octopus, garlic prawns, a variety of flatbreads and everything in between. 

The long-anticipated opening of Hotel Laguna is happening later this month. Chef Craig Strong, formerly at Ocean and Main, is opening Larsen (after Laguna’s beloved original greeter), as well as Fin. Guests will get a sneak peek at their menu as Hotel Laguna will appear at Taste of Laguna for the first time. Attendees of the 2019 event may remember Chef Strong winning the 2019 Foodie Award for “Most Delicious.” 

Think global Chef Strong

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Chef Craig Strong returns with a new restaurant and menu this year

Family owned and operated Jedidiah Coffee is passionate about the craft of creating a perfect cup of coffee and bringing the community together to enjoy it. “We’re honored to be a part of this year’s Taste of Laguna,” said owner Embry Munsey. “As a local coffee business and family, we absolutely love partnering with others that give back to our special community. Come by for some hot coffee, cold brew and cocoa. We can’t wait to hang out!” 

Finally, Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Beach – which opened this past May on South Coast Highway near Pearl Street – is also appearing for the first time. The restaurant offers an assortment of spring rolls, egg rolls, bao, noodle and Bánh Mì dishes. The perfect destination spot for lovers of Asian cuisine. 

Laguna’s longtime favorites

Several local treasures will return this year including Broadway by Amar Santana, Harley Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Beer Company, Nirvana Grille, Starfish Laguna, Splashes Restaurant, Oak Laguna Beach, Oliver’s Osteria, Ristorante Rumari, Terra Laguna Beach, The Cliff Restaurant and Wine Gallery. 

After struggling through economic hardships last year, and still managing to weather the pandemic’s storm, these chefs are more eager and grateful to return than ever. Here’s what a few of them told us:

“My favorite part of Taste of Laguna is seeing my fellow peers in the industry. Besides my ever-loyal customers and friends, visiting with other restaurateurs, operators, chefs and general managers – and catching up and tasting their offerings – is my favorite part of the event. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone after a year off. This will be a great homecoming,” said Chris Olsen, co-founder of Wine Gallery. 

Think global Wine Gallery

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Chris Olsen brings the beloved Wine Gallery back to Taste of Laguna this year

“Our first year participating in Taste of Laguna was in 2011, when it was on top of the parking garage downtown,” said Starfish Laguna’s Owner/Partner Gretchen McConnell. “Now, reuniting with our community to celebrate the rebirth of the businesses that fought so hard during COVID closures, is tremendous. I think this is a special time to rejoice in the simple pleasures of food, wine and the entrepreneurial spirit. Starfish will be doling out our classics with a twist this year and we can’t wait to see all our fans.”

Harley Laguna Beach won the 2019 Foodie Award for “Best Plant Based” and received honorable mentions for “Most Delicious” and “Best Table Presentation.” They’re back this year and perhaps readier than ever. “We’re so excited to bring Harley to the Taste of Laguna this year after last year’s hiatus! Such a cool event,” said Chef Greg Daniels. “I know the locals are excited to get out and ready to enjoy what we all have to offer. We’ll be bringing a couple favorites from our menu this year and can’t wait to see everyone!” 

Italian inspired Oliver’s Osteria (named after the chef’s son, who was born the same day the restaurant opened in 2018) brings a taste of Chef Erik De Marchi’s Emilia-Romagna home region to Laguna. “I am so excited to participate in Taste of Laguna this year, especially since we couldn’t last year,” said Chef Erik. “It’s been a crazy time for all of us in the industry and I am blessed to be in such a great community like Laguna Beach. I can’t wait to see everyone October 14th at the festival and for the community to sample some of our fall menu.” Oliver’s received Bib Gourmand status (connoting “excellent food and moderate prices”) from the Michelin Guide last month. 

Female-owned Nirvana Grille serves cuisine inspired by the California wine country. “It’s nice to see things move forward after last year, when time seemed to stand still for most of us in events and the community,” said Chef Lindsay of Nirvana Grille. “It will be great to visit with my colleagues, as we rarely get to see one another behind the kitchen curtain. We also look forward to sharing some of our culinary specialties – and a sneak peek at my fall menu – with our local Laguna community of patrons and newcomers!” 

“We are very excited to be a part of the Taste of Laguna again this year,” said Catlin Robbins, bar & assistant manager of Oak, who’s been serving crafty cocktails since the restaurant opened in 2017. “We are humbled and grateful to be able to bring the Laguna community together by sharing our American Rustic cuisine and hospitality. We want to thank all our locals for their support through these crazy times. Let’s come together to celebrate making it through to the other side! Laguna Strong!”

Think global Cliff

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The Cliff Restaurant returns with some American classics

International music

The internationally acclaimed group Nova will bring sultry Bossa Nova and lively Samba sounds to the stage. With more than 32 million views and 127,000 subscribers on YouTube, the Brazilian born group is known worldwide for their smooth South American styles. “They are absolutely wonderful,” said Hayek. “We all fell in love as soon as we heard them.” Nova will play for the VIP hour (5 p.m.) and the first hour of the event (6 p.m.), so be sure to come early so you don’t miss them.

Tino Productions will take the stage at 7 p.m. “They’re a seven-piece band with horns,” said Hayek. “They sing in multiple languages, so they’ll play a lot of cover music, international music and some salsa. It’s a mix of all different types and genres of music, which makes it a little unique and different than the last time we put on the festival. It should be a fun little party for us.”

A KX FM DJ will also be on hand to spin records between sets. 

Setting the stage for a world record

Be sure to stay for the Mick Jagger Strut happening at 9 p.m. KX FM DJ Ed Steinfeld, who hosts Mornings with Ed, will lead the crowd in setting a world record for the most people doing the Mick Jagger strut at one time. 

Think global Beer Co

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Grab a beer (or two) before hitting the dance floor

Going once, going twice…

This year’s silent auction can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own phone. Winners need not be present to win and are notified immediately if they’re outbid.

Items range from incredible trips to works of art. “We just got a BBQ grill delivered today,” said Hayek. “The items available run the gamut.” 

You can register for the auction now by visiting www.TOLaguna.Givesmart.com, or simply text “TOLaguna” from your mobile phone to 76278. The auction will be viewable prior to the event and live that night.

Proceeds from this year’s silent auction will go to KX FM and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. 

Think global Auction

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Watch for opportunities to enter and win

The collaborative synergies of two all-female-led teams

While this is the second time KX FM is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to stage the event, it’s the first time these two new management teams collaborated. “It’s all female run, so it’s a big deal for both of our organizations. I’m excited about it. It’s been a great partnership,” said Hayek.

As KX FM’s general manager, Hayek is supported by Development Director Jayne Herring and Music Director Erica Delamare.

Sandy Morales, president/CEO of Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are excited to bring the community together for an evening of amazing food from our local chefs, great music and unique silent auction items. There is truly something for everyone and we are very thankful for our sponsors and volunteers, working together to create a magical night in Laguna Beach.”

Tickets are now on sale at www.tasteoflagunabeach.com/tickets.html. General admission is $85, which includes all food items. Drink tickets will be available on the festival grounds with several bar locations throughout the event. VIP tickets ($150) include one-hour early entry, two drink vouchers, a private bar and lounge area.


Art Museum publishes tribute to artist Marcia Hafif, 1929-2018

The news of Marcia Hafif’s death has saddened us all. She was a good friend to the museum, and in 2015 we had the privilege of presenting an exhibition of her paintings. 

Marcia considered an exhibition to be a work of art in itself, and the experience of discussing, designing, installing, and lighting the show, along with the production of the accompanying book, was an education in the aesthetics of perfection. 

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Courtesy LAM website

Exhibition of Marcia Hafif’s work

Knowing and working closely with an artist of her stature was an honor made all the more memorable by her graciousness, her humor, and the sheer liveliness of her mind. 

Although she made her reputation on the east coast and in Europe, we have reason to be proud of this celebrated artist who grew up in Laguna Beach and returned to live here, largely under the radar, for the last twenty years of her life. She loved Laguna, and the natural beauty of the place was an important source of inspiration for her art. 

“Walking often on the shore,” she wrote, “I was influenced by the colors of the sea, the sky and the sand, by the seashells and seaweed, the dark clouds over the horizon in the evening, the shining colors reflected in the sand as the waves fell back.”


Sawdust artists share their skills and expertise in daily summer workshops

By MARRIE STONE

The Sawdust Festival is more than an artisans’ show. It’s a happening. In keeping with the Sawdust Festival’s spirit of providing a fully immersive and interactive experience, guests of all ages will delight in the daily artist workshops offered across a wide variety of mediums to patrons of every skill level. From painting to collage, wire sculptures to printmaking, aspiring artists can choose their own adventure. Every class is designed to ensure its participants leave with a finished product worthy of their walls.

Sawdust artists Burt wave

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Photo by Franky Duschane

Sawdust artist Michelle Burt demonstrates her wave painting, taught on Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Here are a few samples of their many offerings. A full schedule can be found on the Sawdust Festival’s website under “Festival Classes.”

Tim Hahne’s watercolor and ink sunshine workshop

Experienced exhibitor Tim Hahne showed his pottery at the Sawdust Festival from 1979 through 1996. He then took a nearly 24-year sabbatical to work as a missionary in Romania. Hahne brings his temperament of gratitude and giving back to each of his watercolor workshops.

Hahne teaches what he calls the “sunshine swirl,” a colorful blend of bright paints. “I take people step-by-step through the process and show them there’s no wrong way of doing it,” he says. “Once they understand the concept of inking, they’re able to produce something that looks really nice. People leave saying, ‘Wow! I didn’t think I could do that.’”

Aawdust artists Hahne

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Photo by Franky Duschane

An example of a sunshine swirl creates in Tim Hahne’s watercolor class

After Hahne’s last class, a woman approached him to say she’d been afraid of using watercolors. “Having you explain it and show me opened a whole new door today,” she told him. 

Appropriate for ages four through 104, Hahne assures his students that no experience is necessary. Whether it’s his approachable personality, his patient teaching, or the finished product, his classes overflow with participants, several of whom have returned for a second class.

“I just keep rotating people,” Hahne says. “Some person finishes, and I’ll let somebody standing there come on in.” Insider tip: late arrivals get a little extra attention towards the end.

Hahne teaches the class every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Class size is based on available space and the course is free.

Shamus Koch’s wire sculptures

Shamus Koch is a self-defined “sculptor of found objects.” He developed his wire sculpture techniques while working at LOCA. He’s also taught students at every level. “I like kids and I like teaching,” he says. Now he brings that skill of tangible teaching to the Sawdust Festival grounds. 

Students of every age (ideally four or five and up) will learn the difference between abstract and representational art. “I’ll twist some wire into a daisy and tell them they’re drawing in the air or doodling in 3D. That’s representational art.” He’ll play with the class, twisting up a figurine of George Washington and curling the wires into his ponytail. 

Koch says his always insists on snappy titles in abstract art because the title completes the imagery. Other advice imparted: “Work in threes, fives, or sevens. Perfect symmetry is boring.” He also stresses to his students that there’s beauty in chaos, and there are no mistakes in art. 

Sawdust artists Koch

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Photo by Franky Duschane

Wire sculpture created in Shamus Koch’s workshop

Koch also loves the ecological aspect of his art. “I ask the carpenters to save me the ends of their two-by-fours,” he says. He uses the blocks of wood as bases to mount the metal sculptures. Copper wire often comes from Home Depot, but Koch loves to salvage and save. 

Koch teaches the class on Friday mornings from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Class size is limited to about eight students, and perfect for ages four and older. There’s a $2 cost for attendance to cover the materials used in the course. 

Hedy Buzan’s apples in watercolor pencil

Laguna Beach native Hedy Buzan’s summer workshop has evolved to fit her students. “It started as a class called Sketching Secrets, which was a mini-drawing class,” she says. “I conceptualized it being for adults, but I had so many children attend that I’ve adjusted it.”

“I decided to focus just on drawing an apple,” Buzan says. Then, the third week of class, as Buzan was setting up, a boy arrived and asked if he could work with colored pencils while he was waiting. Buzan found some watercolor pencils in the supply cabinet and integrated them into the experience. “Now we start in graphite pencil but finish with a quick color sketch in watercolor pencils and add a touch of water to transform them into mini watercolor paintings. The class still covers basic drawing content, but it introduces a new media – watercolor pencils – and gives students more of a finished product.”

Buzan incorporates several skills and different lessons into her classes. Students learn about line weight variation, simple shading, contour drawing, and color theory. “I put a lot of focus on teaching, and by ‘teaching’ I mean developing skills. Even though it’s a 45-minute workshop, the class size is small and they receive some individualized attention. The results have been very good. I’ve gotten people to be observant, and that’s what drawing is all about.”

Sometimes, Buzan says, young children combine just one or two ideas with their own juvenile drawing style. “These are some of my favorite results.” 

She adds, “I love introducing people to a new media. A simple set of Crayola watercolor pencils, a small drawing tablet and a half-inch synthetic flat brush can be purchased for less than $15. It’s great for sketching or travel journaling.”    

Sawdust artists Hedy

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Hedy Buzan leading her watercolor pencil class, guided by an apple

Buzan’s workshops take place on Wednesday afternoons at 1 p.m. Class size is limited to ten, and the class is free.

AnnJo Droog’s watercolor cupcakes

Though not a Sawdust exhibitor, AnnJo Droog is a passionate longtime artist and instructor. She attended art school in her home country of Ireland and has worked across a variety of mediums from chalk art to watercolor. 

Every participant receives a paper plate with a pallet of color and a piece of watercolor paper, as well as a few brushes and pencils. “I go through the process of drawing the picture first to show them how a cupcake is broken down into its various parts,” Droog says. “The little flame is an upside-down heart. The candle is a long rectangle. I compare the frosting to a fluffy cloud. Then we have the cupcake base. I break it down into segments and we draw each segment before we start painting.”

Sawdust artists Droog

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Photo by Franky Duschane

A creation from Droog’s watercolor cupcake class

Some students are picky perfectionists. Others let their pencils wander. Droog’s approach is easy-going and not the least bit intimidating. “I tell people there are no rules. You can’t paint something badly. You can just assume this is your interpretation of a cupcake, however it may turn out.” 

Once everyone finishes drawing, they pick up their brushes, dip them in water, and start mixing the paint. Students learn about paint consistency, water-to-paint ratios, and shading. “A lot of people think bold colors create darker shades,” she says. “That’s not the case with watercolor. I teach them to build up the layers.” The more technique her students ask for, the more Droog shares. But she’s conscious of not overwhelming them.

Droog’s watercolor workshop is perfect for both seasoned artists and those who have never lifted a paintbrush. “The greatest thing is when someone is surprised they could create something so polished,” she says. “They approach the white sheet of paper with a sort of terror. I hopefully take some of that fear away just by introducing a fun way of painting. It’s lovely when people say, “Wow, I’ve done that!’” 

AnnJo Droog teaches the cupcake watercolor workshop on Sundays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The course is free. Participants are encouraged to wander in mid-class if space is available. 

More information on all the workshops, including an updated schedule, can be found on the Sawdust Festival’s website, under “Classes.” Click here for more details.

Sawdust artists printmaking

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Photo by Franky Duschane

The last scheduled printmaking class of the season happens this Saturday, August 14, at noon


The Festival of Arts’ notorious trickster returns to mark the end of the summer season

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeff Rovner

No one quite remembers when the tradition began. Some folks swear it’s been more than 20 years ago. Others say it’s closer to 15. Let’s settle on something around the mid-aughts. How it began is an easier question to settle. 

“A thousand years ago, there were three guys who pranked their friends,” says Dagmar Chaplin, who’s been exhibiting in the Festival of Arts for 39 years (but around the grounds for the past 45). “They were a little nastier. They did things to make their friends crazy.” The evil elves eventually faded away, but not before planting an idea in Chaplin’s mind. In those days, not much happened as the Festival wound down in September. The final curtain closed on the Pageant earlier then, and Chaplin figured her friends deserved some fun. So began her tradition of secretly pranking her fellow artists by inserting subtle, hilarious, and carefully crafted images into their work. 

The Festival Chaplin portrait

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Dagmar Chaplin’s acrylic paintings have been displayed in the Festival for 39 years. She’s held the title of prankster for at least the last 15.

Using meticulously cut-out magazine photos – scaled and lit to perfection – Chaplin begins each summer studying the art. Could a band of elderly bathing suited beauties blend into Susan Hoehn’s Vernazza beach? What if a boy duct taped his little brother to Jeff Rovner’s missile, launching him into space? How about a bungee jumper taking a header off Mitch Ridder’s St. Trinity Bridge? 

The Festival prank Booth 49

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Susan Hoehn’s “Bathing Beauties”

After spending the summer curating her pranks, Chaplin and her small band of brilliants sneak onto the Festival grounds after hours to execute their plan. Artists Elizabeth McGhee, Kate Cohen, and Bruce Burr, as well as Linda Bortone (wife of FOA jeweler Luciano Bortone) add their own talent and whimsy to the team. McGhee is the glue-master, having perfected the delicate art of adding images without damaging the work. Burr adds his wry twist of humor. He was the mastermind behind this year’s diamond ring price tag in Lance Heck’s jewelry booth ($1,000,050.99). McGhee added, “Plus tax.” It’s a team effort, but no one disputes that Chaplin is their steady captain. 

The Festival prank Booth 73

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Lance Heck’s “Fake Diamond”

Like every beloved tradition, stories from bygone days begin to accumulate. A painting once sold without the buyer realizing the prank. Chaplin had added a series of small “Burma-Shave” signs to an old country road. “We found these signs somewhere and measured them so the signs got smaller farther down the road,” Chaplin says. The effect proved a bit too realistic. The painting sold while the artist was away. When he later received an email from his buyer saying, “I love my Burma-Shave painting,” he realized what happened. “Oh my God,” Chaplin told him. “Those things are going to fall off in three or four days.” When they did, the artist got another email, this time asking him to permanently paint the prank into the scene.

That wasn’t the only artwork that sold with the joke. “I added people hanging out the window of an old Caribbean bus, and the people left it on there,” says Chaplin. “There have been a few over the years that stayed up because people love them.”

Chaplin not only has the talent and eye of an artist, she’s got the gift of wit. “Her sense of humor amazes,” says fellow prankster Kate Cohen. “Not only does she have mad cutting skills, but her gift for placing the pranks ‘just so’ is genius.” There’s a lot of giggling going on, every artist says.

The Festival prank Booth 105

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Jeff Rovner’s “Guess Surprise”

“You can tell a lot of thought went into these,” says Mike Tauber, who’s exhibited in the Festival for 23 years. “The subjects, proportions, and colors are visually very effective. Plus, it helps the Festival end on a fun and humorous note.”

Even the tricksters have their favorites, though Cohen says disclosing her choice would amount to cheating on the others. McGhee, who’s been assisting Chaplin since she joined the Festival in 2010, loves the wicked dwarf threatening Gregory Boratyn’s desolate tree (aptly entitled, Survival) with an axe. “The lighting was perfect on the printed image compared to the photograph,” she says. McGhee stresses that, no matter how funny or fitting the image, if the sizing or lighting is off, Chaplin won’t use it.

The Festival prank Booth 99

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Gregory Boratyn’s “Monster with Axe”

Dennis Dunton, who’s exhibited his photography for 23 years, points out the crying baby inserted into Michael Ward’s acrylic painting of a pink vintage pool chair. “If you didn’t know better, you’d never in this world believe that wasn’t part of the painting. The transition was so seamless. It just knocked me out.” 

Ironically, that prank was an unplanned happy accident. “That wasn’t even my idea,” says Chaplin. “We were getting down to the wire and someone said, ‘You know, that baby would be good on that chair.’ It looked like it belonged there.”

The Festival prank Booth 45

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Michael Ward’s “Crying Baby”

Dunton’s own work got subtly pranked with a pair of crossed eyes on his cow. “It makes you feel like you’re accepted in the community,” Dunton says. “Out of 120 artists, Dagmar only does maybe 30, so it’s an elite group and it takes time. I really appreciate that.” 

Chaplin carries a thick notebook of visual treasures – grinches and gnomes, crying babies, even a man stuck inside a jar of mayo sandwiched between two…well…sandwiches. The spaces between their tiny fingers are meticulously trimmed, their shadows carefully cast. The pandemic offered her time to add to her collection of cut-outs. “I have a full array of cut-up stuff already,” Chaplin says. “I’m ready to go next year, if there is a next year.”

Chaplin’s home is filled with stacks of magazines, collected from her job at the Assistance League and donated by friends. Cooking magazines are no good, she says, but the New Yorker is often gold. Chaplin occasionally incorporates objects – piles of fake poo, plastic skeletons, phony diamonds, and once a few maggots. “I don’t do as many physical pranks because people keep stealing them,” Chaplin says. “I’m running out of dog [poo].”

Artists were particularly appreciative of Chaplin’s efforts this year as she suffered through the summer with a bad back. Getting around proved painful. One of her mischievous minions, Linda Bortone, found a wheelchair the day the pranks were placed. “She raced me all over the grounds,” Chaplin says. 

Like every great tradition, as soon as it ends, the anticipation begins building for the following year. Fortunately, Chaplin’s overflowing notebook is ready. She better be ready, because the crowd declares her irreplaceable. “Her sense of humor is so unique,” says McGhee. “No one would ever be able to hold a candle to Dagmar.”

Speaking of holding a candle, that’s not a bad idea for a prank…

For more photos by Jeff Rovner, click on slideshow below


Laguna College of Art & Design returns to campus stronger than ever

By MARRIE STONE

After 18 months away from campus, Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD) students returned to in-person classes this fall. Like most college campuses, the time away presented some challenges. Art, after all, is a particularly difficult curriculum to teach from a distance. And yet not only did the school adapt, but they discovered a few conveniences that will likely stick. 

The college also returns under the leadership of a new president who arrived on campus this week. Steven Brittan was appointed last month to assume the role from retired president Jonathan Burke. 

Finally, on September 2, the LCAD Gallery welcomed David Harrington in an artist’s reception for the First Thursday Art Walk. The downtown gallery is once again open for public viewing. 

As a new school year kicks off – and LCAD celebrates its 60th anniversary – the college shares lessons learned from the pandemic, some exciting news on and off campus, and how their community is stronger than ever before. 

Laguna College students

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Courtesy of LCAD

LCAD students returned to campus this fall for the first time since March 2020

Lessons learned after a year away

When the campus closed in March of 2020, LCAD’s faculty scrambled for ways to continue delivering the same high-quality, personalized education their students expected. While remote learning presented difficulties for every demographic, art and design proved particularly hard. Even elementary school instructors reported that teaching art over a screen posed greater challenges than other subject matters.

“We had to reinvent how we delivered the curriculum in an online setting with art and design – which is obviously something very much associated with being in person,” says Marc Lyncheski, director of marketing and communications at LCAD. “How do you teach a brushstroke online? The resilience, adaptability, and ingenuity shown by our faculty and students was phenomenal.” 

Laguna College painter

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Courtesy of LCAD

Back inside the classroom for hands-on instruction

Those very obstacles now account for the excitement felt across LCAD’s campus as students return to class. Exercising every precaution – including both vaccination and mask requirements for students, faculty, and staff (with limited exceptions) – there’s good reason to remain optimistic about their ability to stay in person this year.

But the pandemic wasn’t all bad news. Three significant advancements emerged from this past year. Like many schools, remote learning forced faculty and students to adapt to virtual classrooms. Using those newfound skills, students who suffer illnesses, travel, or encounter other obstacles no longer must miss a class. “It’s created new ways of helping both students and faculty stay on top of the curriculum,” Lyncheski says. In addition, LCAD can now offer certain staff members more flexibility to work from home. 

Likewise, while students were forced to exhibit their work in virtual gallery spaces last year, they’re now able to show both in-person and virtual exhibits online. This new capability expands their audience, allowing the inclusion of participants from geographically diverse locations. “It’s added another layer and a larger potential audience to the exhibitions,” says Lyncheski.

New LCAD President Steven Brittan assumes the helm

The college’s new president reported for duty this week. Steven J. Brittan was appointed LCAD’s 14th president by the Board of Trustees in August, following Jonathan Burke’s retirement last year. Brittan spent the past five years as president of the Studio Arts College International in Florence, Italy (where he attended, taught, and served on the board). 

Laguna College Brittan

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Courtesy of LCAD

LCAD’s new president Steven Brittan arrived on campus this week

Brittan brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Cape Town and holds a master’s degree in the same subject from Harvard University. He’s served as assistant professor at Harvard, Columbia University, and Rhode Island School of Design. He also benefits from over 30 years of experience in the business field, having worked with several architectural firms.

Lyncheski says Brittan plans to become ingrained both in Laguna Beach and the expanded communities within Orange County and beyond. “Not just within the art world, but also within the business community,” Lyncheski says. “There may be parallel or adjacent partnerships and cross-promotional opportunities that help each organization grow and support each other.” 

As Brittan settles into his new position, further exciting announcements will likely be made in the coming months.

Illustrator David Harrington on display at the LCAD Gallery

In off-campus news, members of the community can once again enjoy the wonderful work on display at LCAD’s Gallery on Ocean Avenue. Now through September 23rd, the public is treated to the incredible illustrations of David Harrington. 

Laguna College sign

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Courtesy of of LCAD

The LCAD Gallery is located on Ocean Avenue in downtown Laguna Beach

As a freelance illustrator for the past 27 years, Harrington has produced artwork across several industries including entertainment, advertising, publishing, and packaging companies. His work has also been included in numerous children’s books. 

At the LCAD exhibition, Harrington demonstrates his creative process – step-by-step – in a twelve-panel series called Slim Shooter Cowboy. Beginning from a primitive pencil sketch consisting of little more than circles and lines, the series continues to a fully realized, detailed painting. Those early sketches attempt to capture the energy, mood, and emotion of the piece. Then the real artistic work begins. Audiences can easily study the evolution of an illustration.

Laguna College gallery

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Courtesy of LCAD

Opening reception for illustrator David Harrington’s exhibit

“It’s wonderful seeing people in person again, when they can experience the art from a few feet away versus virtually,” says Lyncheski.

LCAD looks forward to showcasing another powerful exhibit next month. The Moulton Family Exhibit opens on October 7th. A reception will be held on the First Thursday Art Walk featuring a Nellie Gail impersonator steeped in Moulton family history. “We’re hoping for an interactive, multi-layered exhibition,” Lyncheski says. More information on that event will be coming soon.

Founded in 1961, LCAD is a dually accredited, nonprofit college located in Laguna Beach. LCAD offers undergraduate degrees (BFA) in Animation, Drawing + Painting, Drawing + Painting with Sculpture Emphasis, Drawing + Painting with Illustration Emphasis, Entertainment Design, Game Art, Graphic Design + Digital Media, Graphic Design + Digital Media with Action Sports Emphasis, Graphic Design + Digital Media with Illustration Emphasis, and Illustration. LCAD also offers Graduate degrees (MFA) in Drawing, Game Design, and Painting. 

LCAD is located at 2222 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For more information, go to www.lcad.edu or call (949) 376-6000.


Laguna Beach Live! presents Live Music Insights with Dr. Robert Istad at Mozambique on May 22

On May 22, Laguna Beach Live! presents Live! Music Insights with Dr. Robert Istad who will explore “The Grass is Blue: America’s Legacy of Bluegrass and Spirituals.”

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Dr. Robert Istad

Dr. Istad is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at California State University at Fullerton, and has been serving as Pacific Chorale’s Artistic Director since July 2017. Demonstrating the musical highlights of his talk will be Denean Dyson, mezzo-soprano; Jeff Askew, guitar and banjo; and Chris Booke, bass.

The evening takes place in the Boma Room at Mozambique where guests are invited to come starting at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy social time and the Happy Hour menu. The talk and music will begin at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are $10 and can be made online at www.lagunabeachlive.org or by phone at (800) 595-4849. Seating is limited.

Coming up on June 10 is the Great Bluegrass music by the Barefoot Movement at Laguna College of Art & Design.


Behind the scenes at the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center

By MARRIE STONE

Even longtime locals might not know the hidden wonders behind the steel door on Forest Avenue. Look closely as you pass the Candy Baron. Sandwiched between the historic sweet shop and Violet Boutique lies the entrance to one of Laguna’s unintendedly best kept secrets. 

When Laguna Beach legend, and co-founder of BC Space, Mark Chamberlain passed away in 2018, the fate of 235 Forest Ave remained uncertain. Chamberlain’s gallery was a town treasure, hosting photography exhibits, film showings, poetry readings, concerts, solstice celebrations, and other artistic events for 45 years. What would happen to the iconic space after he died?

Enter Rick Conkey. Known around town as the beloved Laguna Beach High School tennis coach, Conkey is also an avid music fan, and an enormous supporter of the arts. He swooped in to save the space, transforming it into the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) and expanding its offerings to include a wider array of arts. Today, the LBCAC has something going on nearly every night. 

Behind the door

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Submitted photo

LBCAC Director Rick Conkey shows the way inside the somewhat hidden gallery

Stu News sat down with Conkey to talk about what’s happening inside our town’s cultural treasure, and what might soon be in store. 

Stu News: Talk about your backstory with BC Space and how you came to launch the LBCAC. Did you have a relationship with Mark Chamberlain? 

Rick Conkey: Mark and I first met and became friends at Alta Laguna Park, on the tennis courts. We both shared a love for tennis and developed a friendship from there. Over the years, and getting to know Mark, I came to realize we had other common interests and ended up attending a few of his events. Over time, we became closer and eventually, he allowed me to showcase a few of the region’s most talented music acts. 

SN: Does the LBCAC’s vision differ from – or perhaps reinforce – the work Mark Chamberlain was doing at BC Space? What similarities do you share, and how do you differ?

RC: Both were rooted in driving change through artistic expression. Just like the BC Space, the LBCAC is a beacon and catalyst for advancing art appreciation, enhancing the quality of life, and promoting civic and cultural development. Where we differ is simply due to our evolution as a cultural arts’ hub. The original BC Space began by focusing on the photographic arts. While it expanded over time to include many other artistic mediums, its roots were in photography. That was Mark’s passion. Today, we still celebrate photography, but we don’t emphasize any particular art form. We showcase music from all sorts of genres, and we offer a diversity of other audio and visual events including film, television, dance, and poetry. I like to think that Mark would not only want to be part of this evolution, but he would be so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.

Behind the Tell

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Photo by Marrie Stone

A piece from Mark Chamberlain’s “The Tell,” a 636-foot-long mural installed on Laguna Canyon Road that helped stop development in the Canyon. Chamberlain’s “art as activism” led him to coin the term “artivism.”

SN: How would you describe the art, artists, and work you’re seeking? Laguna focused? Edgy? Thought provoking? Experimental? Entertaining or intellectually arousing? Is it creating an environment that promotes a marketplace of ideas where folks might debate art? Or is it more a relaxed atmosphere of pure entertainment?

RC: All of the above! We’re always on the lookout for local, regional, national, and even international artists. We search for exceptional individuals who are able to channel the spirit, while being humble enough to get out of the way of it. In other words, they are the most efficient conductors of something we all possess – the Spirit! Through their life experience, dedication, hard work, and pure love for what they do, they’ve arrived at a place many feel is inspirational. So, to say it simply, we want to bring attention to artists that can inspire, and harness the energy needed to drive positive change within our community. 

Behind the stage

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Submitted photo

LBCAC currently offers an intimate space and ample stage (with state-of-the-art audio, video, and lighting equipment). Continued renovation and expansion plans are in the works.

SN: What does the LBCAC look for when booking movies, exhibitions, poets, music, etc.? 

RC: At the LBCAC, we’re committed to the deep experience that comes from great storytelling and the ability for it to expand peoples’ minds…and maybe even inspire a few of them to change their own behavior. That’s powerful stuff. Mark would call it “artivism.” I like that term because it inspires a lot of what we do around here and our mission to be “harnessing the power of the arts for the benefit of the community.   

Growing up as a kid in Orange County, I always wanted to have a positive effect on our area and the world. Over the years (and after many ineffective approaches), a few realizations began to materialize for me. I came to the conclusion that the arts are key to affecting positive change. The LBCAC wants to demonstrate why Laguna Beach – a town largely founded as an artist colony – is the perfect place to start making that positive change and, simultaneously, offer Laguna up as an example to communities everywhere. 

SN: Tell us about a few of your favorite past events. 

RC: Although these events were organized before the birth of the LBCAC, the “Here Comes the Sun” Flood Relief Concert, Blue Water Music Festival, and Earth Day Beach Cleanup are all great examples of art benefiting the community. 

--The “Here Comes the Sun” Flood Relief Concert was a great way to showcase our local music scene and dedicated individuals coming together to help those most devastated by the December 2010 flood. If you’ll recall, this was the year the Main Beach parking meters were completely submerged. The mayor at that time was Elizabeth Pearson and she sent out a plea for the community’s help. I responded by throwing a benefit concert for those most in need of support. In just over two weeks, we gathered renowned musical artists for the concert, and encouraged visual artists and local businesses to contribute to our silent auction (which was largely organized by the late Sue Pons). Ultimately, we raised close to $20,000 for the families most devastated by the disaster. 

--In 2006, The Earth Day Concert was created as a reward for those who participated in a beach cleanup. Those who helped make Laguna a cleaner place were invited to a free concert on the Moss Point Estate featuring Common Sense. We ended up with the largest cleanup volunteer turnout in memory. 

--The Blue Water Music Festival (BWMF – 2005, 2013 and 2014) was one of my all-time favorite events to pull together. The BWMF was originally organized to acknowledge the musical aspect of Laguna’s world-renowned arts’ scene, shine a light on issues vital to the town, and help protect our most vital resource: the ocean. I really look forward to the day when we can host this festival again, so we’re looking at some dates in 2023 to make it a reality for this next generation of “artivists.”

SN: Any exciting upcoming events? We encourage readers to follow your calendar by clicking here, but what’s particularly noteworthy? 

RC: Well, a few upcoming events we are hosting in September have me really excited. First up, we are screening the arthouse film Tell No One on Wednesday, September 8th, at 6:30 p.m. 

We have ukulele virtuoso, Andrew Molina, leading a workshop where attendees can actually learn to play the uke or fine-tune their skills. Then, he’s going to perform for us. That’s on Thursday, September 23rd. And a few days later, we have the one-and-only, Grammy-nominated, reggae legend Pato Banton gracing our stage. 

I also can give you a heads up to an outdoor “Mask-a-rade” fundraiser we’re holding at the seaside, picturesque Moss Point Estate, just before Halloween on October 30th. We’re looking forward to a great program with a silent auction for this one, and we’ll be able to update your readers with details in the coming weeks.

Behind the sign

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Rick Conkey showcases the LBCAC’s rich calendar of events 

SN: Any standout moments or things of surprise that have come up since your inception? 

RC: Of course, COVID came as a complete surprise to all of us, but especially those of us tied to the arts. The good news is, we were driven to launch our “Anything Goes” online TV program and we have over 20 episodes you can watch on our website. During this program, I interview some really interesting guests including Rick Graves, Kurtis Gentile, Tom Lamb, David Kizziar, the Kalama Brother, and our very own Laguna Tenor, Rick Weber.

Behind the TV

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Submitted photo

Visit the LBCAC from home by watching “Anything Goes.” Almost two dozen episodes can be viewed online through their website.

Then, after the restrictions were lifted and we were able to get back to hosting events, I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support from all over Southern California. I’ve long dreamed about what this place could be and now we’re recognizing how much the town appreciates all the arts and how this is a gem that needs to be preserved. 

SN: Anything else we should highlight, know about, or share with our readers? 

RC: I guess the most important thing I want your readers to understand is that we have a lot more programming coming, and we need everyone’s support, especially in these initial launch stages. Attend an event or two, volunteer to help us pull off an event, keep the LBCAC in mind for end-of-year tax donations, and encourage friends and family to do the same. We are a volunteer organization and are looking for artists who have a particular skill that’s aligned with our mission. Even if it’s only for an hour or two, here or there, the commitment of time makes a huge difference. 

For more on the BC Space backstory, watch the Mark Chamberlain Tribute here.

Visit the LBCAC website atwww.lbculturalartscenter.org for more information about the organization and a complete calendar of events, updated frequently.


“Art in Public Places” – The Love That Binds by Rude Calderón and Roberto Delgado

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This is the 26th article in our weekly series featuring Art in Public Places. Since there are over 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout Laguna, it will take a while to cover them all.

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. 

The Love That Binds, a travertine and tile bench created by Rude Calderón and Roberto Delgado, was installed in Crescent Bay Point Park in North Laguna in 2016.

Funded by Norman Powell, it celebrates the “50 years of love” he shared with his late wife Armena. Powell was part of the city’s open space committee that zoned the area as the site for a potential public park in the 1970s.

Art in bench front

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“The Love That Binds” benches celebrate Norman Powell’s love for his late wife Armena

“Norman wanted to gift funds for a public art piece in memory of his wife, but he wanted to experience the piece himself and see others enjoy the installation, which he has been doing,” says Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl. “Making a donation to public art and enjoying it during your lifetime is such a gift.

“Currently we are undertaking a review of the Public Art Ordinance and Policy and will be considering approaches and addressing donations for the future. This study should take 8 to 12 months and will provide comprehensive review and policy for future permanent and temporary art installations.”

Artists

Calderón is known for his stone carvings and Delgado for his hand-painted tile and silk screening techniques.

Calderón was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he spent the first seven years of his life. His family immigrated with him to Los Angeles in 1964 where he has remained all his life. His father apprenticed and worked in his uncle Manuel Zuñiga’s sculpture studio, creating religious sculpture in the Spanish baroque tradition. His deep respect for materials and craftsmanship is rooted in this family history.

Delgado says, “My work evolves from the reality of the photo. I was born and raised in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, did my time in the U.S. Army, and UCLA’s graduate MFA program. I spent most of the 70s and 80s in Chiapas State, Mexico, where I honed my skills in murals and public art.” 

Art in ocean view

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The benches overlook the ocean view from Crescent Bay Point Park

Both artists were inspired by their surroundings and translated that into their work. Delgado’s hand-painted tiles are reminiscent of the vibrancy and history of Mexico City, and Calderón’s use of stone reflects the intrinsic beauty of nature.

“In 1985 I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and lived in Mexico City, working on large monotypes and murals,” continues Delgado. “I saw the influence of Mexican-American-Chicano barrio realism on the Mexico City art world first-hand, with young artists discovering the gritty streets of their own city.” 

“Stone as a medium inspires my appreciation of its dynamic and intrinsic natural beauty, and its perpetual place in human history,” says Calderón. “The materials and methods used are those that resonate most with my own nature and thoughts; my lifelong interest in geology, sculpture, and mystical philosophy stirred my vocation in art. It’s a living natural material that provides me with the dynamics required for concepts that ponder and question our state of consciousness and the essence that unites us as human beings.”

Crescent Bay Point Park is located where Cliff Drive intercepts North Coast Hwy.

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.


“Art in Public Places” – Laguna Locals by Terry Thornsley

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This is the 27th article in our weekly series featuring Art in Public Places. Since there are over 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout Laguna, it will take a while to cover them all.

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. 

Art in cormorants

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Comorant – one of the “Laguna Locals” at Crescent Point Park

Laguna Locals, a pair of bronze sculptures of cormorants and a sea lion, were created by Terry Thornsley and installed in Crescent Bay Point Park in North Laguna in 2007. They were funded by the City of Laguna Beach and the lodging establishments.

Terry Thornsley was a professional sculptor and painter who resided in Laguna Beach for over 30 years. Hundreds of his bronze, marble, stone, and mixed media sculptures, as well as his exquisite paintings, are held in private collections throughout the world. Publicly, people enjoy Terry’s work in a number of cities where his work is permanently displayed. He has five here in Laguna.

 He created life-size bronze sculptures through his experiences of swimming and being in the ocean. He could go out on his kayak and experience the environment, its textures, movement, and scale. He was an environmentalist and his life-size works meant the viewer got to experience the kelp beds on dry land. 

Art in fish

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Fish adorns base of comorant sculpture

“A perfectionist, Terry would meticulously design and create the bronze sculptures, concealing every nut and bolt to ensure the works are seamless,” says Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl.

In his early 20s, Terry moved to Laguna Beach where he began showing his work at the Festival of the Arts, the Sawdust Art Festival, and his home studio. His art medium was ever-changing including pen and inks, watercolor, oil painting, soot paintings, stone and bronze sculptures, and bas reliefs. Terry’s public artworks can be found along the California coast at the San Diego Airport, several places in Laguna Beach, Balboa Island, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Long Beach, and also in Maui, Hawaii. 

Art in sea lion

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Sea lion – “Laguna Locals” 

Thornsley said of these sculptures, “The other fine residents of Laguna Beach, a colony of sea lions and cormorants, reside on the offshore outcroppings of rock just below Crescent Bay Point Park. Visitors can now experience these ‘Laguna Locals’ up close and hands-on through my two life-sized bronzes.”

Sadly, Thornsley passed away in 2015.

“Terry’s work and creative contributions installed throughout the city will be enjoyed for generations,” says Poeschl.

Crescent Point Park is located where Cliff Dr intercepts N Coast Hwy.

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.


LBCAC Arthouse Theatre presents Metropolis on September 29

On Wednesday, Sept 29 at 7 p.m., the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center presents the legendary silent sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis. 

LBCAC Arthouse Metropolis

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Courtesy of LBCAC

When Academy Award-winning composer Giorgio Moroder re-released Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis in 1984, it was the best the film had looked in years. At Moroder’s instigation, the film had undergone a three-year restoration process that restored whole sequences not seen in years. How it sounded was another matter. In addition to adding color tinting and replacing intertitles with subtitles, Moroder gave Metropolis a soundtrack that mixed his own synth-driven score with songs by Bonnie Tyler, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, and others.

This influential German science-fiction film presents a highly stylized futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers. When the privileged youth Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) discovers the grim scene under the city, he becomes intent on helping the workers. He befriends the rebellious teacher Maria (Brigitte Helm), but this puts him at odds with his authoritative father, leading to greater conflict.

Proof of vaccination or mask required. 

To purchase tickets, which are $10, click here

The LBCAC Arthouse Theatre is located at 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach. www.lbculturalartscenter.org


Original Laguna Beach Mermaid, artist Leslie Davis, creates her namesake

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Local artist Leslie Davis passed the time during the COVID pandemic by creating The Laguna Mermaid. “It was never my intention to make a life-size mermaid out of glass, copper wire, Fiberglass and Bond,” said Davis. “So, The Laguna Mermaid is a silver lining that came from the COVID sequester!”

She adds, “My apprentice of the past five years was a major part in creating The Laguna Mermaid. His name is Brian Falzgraf. He is also a wonderful stained glass artist.” 

It took Davis and Falzgraf one year to complete The Laguna Mermaid.

Davis has a long history here in town. “I have been a working artist in Laguna Beach at my studio Opal Aura Glass since 1971. The first 25 years, I worked in beveled and stained glass. I have work installed in both public and residential settings, most notably one in the wedding chapel on the Queen Mary, and a grant from the Jewish women’s league for an installation on women’s right to vote at the outside entrance of West Hollywood Park. I also did the exterior window of Laguna Drug, which was, of course, a Laguna sunset.” 

Original Laguna sculpture

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Photo by Joel Goldstein

“The Laguna Mermaid”

Davis recalls how the original “Laguna Mermaid” title came about. “I have also been a dancer for 40 years of my life. In 1962, I was dancing in a summer stock production of Peter Pan and designed the mermaid costumes. A well-known photographer from Laguna Beach named Rolland Hendrickson came backstage to take pictures of all of the cast and asked me if I would go to Moss Point Cove in Laguna Beach with him the following day to model for a photograph.” 

Hendrickson then wanted to enter Davis’ photo in a national photography competition. Named the “Laguna Fantasy,” he won that competition and made it into a poster that sold all over the country. 

Soon, people started recognizing her and commenting, “Oh, there’s the Laguna Mermaid.” Since then, Davis has collected glass mermaids. 

Original Laguna old photo

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Photo by Rolland Hendrickson

A 1962 photo of Davis 

Along with the mermaid sculpture, Davis was busy with another project during the “stay in place” restriction. 

In March of last year, Davis installed a glass and steel sculpture on her front gate, COVID Crisis, as a symbol of much-needed optimism during those trying times.

“I was motivated to make this sculpture to promote hope rather than fear of the virus,” said Davis. “We are a close community of family, friends and neighbors that can protect each other with our masks up.”

Davis’ passion for glass has taken many forms.

“One of my true loves is Egyptian art, and I was commissioned to do the opening of the Neiman Marcus building in Newport Beach with a 6’ x 6’ three Egyptian glass panel for use when they had the Chicago Art Museum’s traveling show of Tutankhamen reproduction jewelry,” she said. 

From there, Davis went on to what she calls, “hot glass” glass blowing, furnace casting and scientific glassblowing. “I was lucky enough to jury into Dale Chihuly’s International Glass School Pilchuck in the Stanwood Forest, WA,” she said.

Original Laguna Brian

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Photo by Joel Goldstein

Davis with artist Brian Falzgraf 

Subsequently, Davis was given three full scholarships to attend his school where she learned many other glass-forming techniques. The last 16 years she has dedicated herself to making art that educates and informs the public. 

Davis often marries science and art in her work.

“I did a glass show on stem cells for the opening of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Center at UCI in 2006,” said Davis. “Their director, Dr. Peter Donovan, asked me if I would do another show that included all 22 of their researchers at the stem cell center and so I curated and participated in “The Art of Stem Cells” at the Center for Contemporary Art of Orange County. OCCCA is a museum-like gallery that I have been a member of for the past 18 years.” 

Original Laguna Gregg

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Photo by Joel Goldstein

Davis and her brother, artist Gregg Stone

Davis has several things in the works. She is currently part of the “OC All Glass” show at John Wayne Airport where she has seven pieces. The exhibition will continue until October 24.

 “I was curated by Antoinette A. Sullivan at the Art Institute Of Southern California to make a large global warming piece about restoring and conserving global rain forests,” Davis shared. 

“I am always working on more than one piece at a time,” she said. “My brother, Gregg Stone, has been a great influence on my life. He is an internationally known watercolorist who exhibited at the Festival of Arts for 14 years. We are currently working on a “brother and sister” installation called The Guardians. It consists of two life-size Aztec warriors.” 

Stone became a full-time fine artist in 1999 and exhibited in the Festival of Arts until he retired in 2012. 

“The mermaid would have never come to life without the artistic and physical strength of these two wonderful artists, my brother and Brian,” said Davis. “I cannot take full credit for this mermaid without their names being mentioned.”


Doheny Blues Festival rocks it May 19 and 20

By MAGGI HENRIKSON

Right down the road there’s a little something to get you on your dancing feet. Looking for lively music fun? Go no further than Dana Point for the Blues Festival. 

Dana Point’s Doheny Blues Festival returns with a rockin’ lineup May 19 and 20. Participating musicians include legendary blues rocker George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Buddy Guy, Blues Traveler, Jimmie Vaughan, Beth Hart, Larkin Poe, The California Honeydrops, and many others. There will be more than 20 performers, on three stages.

The Blues event is Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at www.dohenybluesfestival.com and also available for purchase at Wahoo’s.

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Submitted photo

Buddy Guy will be performing at Doheny Blues Festival

By the way, this year’s festival has found a new home. The event producers, Omega Events state that, “After 20 successful years of bringing the world’s finest Blues musicians to Orange County, we are also excited to announce our new venue, Dana Point’s Sea Terrace Park. The award-winning festival will be reimagined at its new seaside home, with more intimate stage areas, elevated food and beverage offerings, and involvement from many local businesses.”

The new location means that the Laguna Beach trolleys can take visitors and locals all the way to the festival entrance this year.

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Submitted photo

There will be a Blues Festival pre-party on Thursday, May 17 at Mozambique.  Featured will be international artist from Sweden, Knock-Out Greg and the Jukes, pictured here.


“Art in Public Places” – Peacescape by Terry Thornsley

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

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

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. 

Peacescape by Terry Thornsley was installed in 2003 and funded by the Montage Resort and Spa. 

Art in birds closeup

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“Peacescape” by Terry Thornsley is located at the Montage Resort

This 12-foot-long ornate bronze landscape sculpture features an oak tree by Laguna Beach artist Thornsley, whose studio was nestled in Laguna canyon. 

At the time of the installation, he said, “Twenty years of absorbing the beauty of Laguna Canyon is reflected in this piece. I love where I live, our hills, canyons, trees, birds, and the sea.” 

Thornsley was a professional sculptor and painter who resided in Laguna Beach for over 30 years. Hundreds of his bronze, marble, stone, and mixed media sculptures, as well as his exquisite paintings, are held in private collections throughout the world. Publicly, people enjoy Thornsley’s work in a number of cities where his work is permanently displayed. 

Thornsley moved to Laguna when he was in his early twenties and was a longtime exhibitor at the Festival of Arts and occasionally participated in the Sawdust Art Festival. He lived in the canyon and had a studio next to Randy Bader. 

Art in distance

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Twelve-foot-long bronze landscape sculpture

“I miss Terry Thornsley very much,” says Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl. “I worked with him on so many of his projects that I hear his voice telling me that the sculptures need cleaning or sealing and where the bolts are hidden. He shared his process and inspiration with me; his enthusiasm for his work and its inspiration was contagious. He gave me an MFA crash course in bronze, and although we did not always agree, and we were both argumentative – perhaps him more than me! – I have a huge amount of respect for his talent and creativity.” 

His work and creative contributions installed throughout the City will be enjoyed for generations. 

Art in flying

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Thornsley’s work reflects Laguna’s hills, canyons, trees, birds, and the sea 

Thornsley has six public art pieces in the City: Grace at the Lifeguard Headquarters, Main Beach; Peacescape at Montage; Laguna Locals at Crescent Bay Point Park; Pacific Patinas at 1191 N Coast Hwy; Laguna Kelp Beds at 31852 S Coast Hwy; and Water Puppy at the Festival of Arts.

He said of all his works: “These sculptures will be still here long after I have gone. I will leave a little bit of myself behind and know I contributed to my community.”

Sadly, Thornsley passed away in May 2015 at the age of 57.

Peacescape is located at 30801 S Coast Hwy.

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.


Supporting students in the arts: how several Laguna Beach Arts Alliance organizations foster youth programming in the visual arts

By MARRIE STONE

High school senior Soren Almeida first picked up a camera around the age of 13. His older brother loved photography, and Almeida soon shared his passion. Together they often drove from their Ladera Ranch home to chase Laguna’s sunsets. 

Eventually Almeida bought his brother’s old camera and invested in a drone. In 2018, he created a two-minute film about the Korean War and was immediately accepted into Orange County School of Arts’ film and television conservatory. “I love OCSA,” Almeida says. “It’s really helped get me out of my comfort zone and expand myself in general.”

This summer, another opportunity arose for Almeida to step outside his comfort zone. He was selected as the Laguna Art-A-Fair’s 2021 Student Artist and has been exhibiting his photographs at their festival all summer. “This is a huge opportunity for me,” says Almeida. “To be here, meeting new people, and getting my work out there. I’ve been taking photos for a decent amount of time. The fact that I’m able to sell them is amazing.” 

Supporting students Almeida chair

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

OCSA Senior Soren Almeida is showing his photographs in Booth B4 (near the gazebo) at the Laguna Art-A-Fair through September 5 

Each year – for over 15 years – the Art-A-Fair invites high school juniors and seniors (predominantly from southern California) to apply to their Student Artist Program. From the few dozen portfolios they typically receive, board members call four or five for interviews, and select one or two young artists for their summer program. 

“We pick up the tab for everything,” says Art-A-Fair Foundation President Ron McWhorter. “We do all their scanning, printing, proofing, and framing. We build their booths and hang their work. Then they get a grant check [representing 100 percent of their sales’ proceeds].” 

Mentors instruct students about the business of art. “We teach them how to sell, how to talk to people, and how to interact on the business side,” says McWhorter. “Most schools teach students how to draw, but they don’t tell them what to do with their art afterwards.”

Advisors also coach participants on practical skills – how to set up a booth, frame their work, and choose the pieces most likely to sell. “We show them demographics of how festivals work,” says McWhorter. “We’re open seven days a week, but products generally move on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. We stress when it’s important to be in their booth.” 

Almeida was a natural fit for the program. “Soren is way ahead of his age,” says McWhorter. “He’s urban. He’s cutting edge. He’s in tune with his generation. But he loves buildings, architecture, textures, and structures. He’s really outside the box.” 

When Almeida traveled to Montana last spring, McWhorter encouraged him to take some nature shots – cattle and cowboys and Montana life. “He shot 200 to 300 pieces and blasted them back to us. He’s a smart kid, very quick, and never has to be asked twice,” McWhorter says.

Almeida also came to the program with a lot of parental support which, McWhorter says, is critical. “We look for applicants whose parents back up their passion. Many parents don’t want their kids in the arts. They want them to be doctors or go to Harvard.” McWhorter laughs as he remembers one former participant who was, in fact, admitted to Harvard Medical School. His artistic background helped him visualize human anatomy. “Once he drew something, he remembered it. Both sides of his brain worked, and it helped his medical career.”   

Student artists have gone on to Stanford, UCLA, and Harvard, pursuing careers both in and out of the arts. “One wild surfer boy was shooting 50 to 55 weddings a year before COVID,” says McWhorter. 

For Almeida, this summer has been an overwhelming success. An aerial sunset shot of In & Out Burger – taken as a plane descended into LAX – sold several times in a single day. “I’ve gotten to understand what people are looking for,” Almeida says. “There’s a broad range of different photography here. Seeing what draws people’s attention is interesting. I took all these photos, so I like watching what pulls them in.”

Almeida reports each sale to program administrators, who replace the pieces on his wall. “He’s selling like crazy,” says McWhorter, who’s responsible for framing and replacing each empty space on Almeida’s wall. McWhorter estimates over 40 canvas prints have sold. “And that doesn’t count all the postcards and ceramic tiles. What can I say? The guy is just frickin’ good.”

The most difficult part of photography, Almeida says, is finding the unique shot that hasn’t been taken before. “Instagram and social media make every place so known,” he says. “There’s usually a photo already taken of every spot. My goal is to take photos that have never been taken. That’s a challenge.” 

Almeida says he’s also learned how to talk to new people, which is a skill often lacking in a generation who grew up on screens. “That’s a big, important thing that gets overlooked,” he says. “Just my overall appearance, my smile. All that stuff really helps to sell the work.” 

As a rising senior, Almeida’s future is still undecided. He sees himself at the University of Washington or New York University, studying journalism or film, but he can’t yet say. One certainty is his intent to travel. Though he’s already been through Russia and Finland (he speaks conversational Finnish), he aims to visit at least 100 more countries. Working for National Geographic would be a dream. “You know what they say,” he says. “Travel is the best form of education.” No doubt his camera will come along.

The Laguna Art-A-Fair Foundation is supported by proceeds from their local giftshop, as well as funding by Bank of America. “We also received some grant money from the State of California this year,” says McWhorter. “That helped.”

Supporting students Almeida booth

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Almeida’s work captures the colors and textures of Southern California, from landscapes to urban skylines

While the Art-A-Fair’s Student Artist Program is unique in plucking out a single student (or two) and transforming the trajectory of their lives, many of Laguna’s arts organizations have a wide variety of programming for youth. Here are a few of those behind-the-scenes outreach efforts many of us local adults never know are happening.

LPAPA incorporates California history into the arts for local students

Fourth grade students around the State study California’s storied history as part of their public curriculum. But few students have the chance to immerse themselves in California art and the rich plein air tradition that grew out of our coastal landscape.

Supporting students LPAPA Obermeyer

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Courtesy of LPAPA

LPAPA Signature Member Michael Obermeyer instructs local students on the techniques of plein air painting at Laguna’s Heisler Park

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) provides both Laguna’s public and private school students the opportunity to study plein air painting with local masters of the form. The Younger Generation Plein Air Project reaches an average of 500 students each year (300 in Laguna Beach alone, and as many as 700 in years past). Each fall, a LPAPA Signature Artist visits classrooms at El Morro Elementary, Top of the World Elementary, and the Anneliese Schools (as well as many schools outside Laguna Beach) to talk about plein air paintings and the history behind the art. 

Students then attend a field trip to the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art to tour an exhibition of both historical and contemporary examples of California Impressionism. A LPAPA Signature Artist visits their classrooms to demonstrate the process used by professional painters to produce their plein air paintings. Students learn composition, paint color and mixing, and brush techniques.

Finally, a handful of budding artists from each school are given the chance to spend a day outdoors, painting with the masters. Applying the knowledge they’ve learned, these young acrylic artists produce canvases that hang in LPAPA’s gallery for the public to purchase. Proceeds from all sales are returned to their schools. 

Supporting students LPAPA Neubert

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Courtesy of LPAPA

LPAPA Artist Member Erich Neubert leads a plein air painting session at Laguna’s Heisler Park

“The whole process is wonderful,” says Celeste Gilles, LPAPA’s vice president. “Getting to see a mentor artist paint the scene, following along, and then doing it themselves.” Measurable growth happens within minutes. Gilles enjoys watching younger artists reimagine their paintings to include ocean favorites. “They’ll decide they want a dolphin jumping out of the ocean and paint a huge dolphin in the middle of their scene,” she says. “It’s so fun.”

Jeff Sewell, director of education and a LPAPA Signature Artist, has six children of his own. “Fourth grade has always been a great age for me,” he says. “I get the students out of their seats and looking at paintings. I teach them about impressionism – how the paintings are abstract and blurry up close, and how they change into something more photo-realistic when students move away.”

The chance to see their work hanging in a gallery is transformative for many of the students. Gilles smiles and says, “Explaining to them why they don’t receive any money for their sales is another matter.” 

Laguna Art Museum’s LAM + LAB

In partnership with the Laguna Beach Unified Schools, the Laguna Art Museum (LAM) offers kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade students the chance to learn about California’s rich art history through the lens of the Museum’s current exhibitions. While these classes moved to a virtual setting last year, LAM hopes to reenter physical classrooms this fall. 

“Typically, our docents teach a bit of art history in the classrooms based on whatever exhibitions we currently have on view,” says Education Associate Kristen Anthony. Because the Museum exclusively showcases California art and artists, the lessons are relevant to California culture. “Students then come to the Museum for a field trip. Artmaking happens either at the Museum or in the classrooms in response to the exhibitions they’ve seen.” 

During the pandemic, LAM wanted to ensure students of all ages could still participate in creating art inspired by the Museum. As a result, LAM launched their “Art at Home” program. Twenty-five “Art at Home” projects are posted on LAM’s website for artists of every age. “They’re geared toward materials we know most people already have at home,” says Anthony. “Nothing too novel or hard.” 

Wayne Thiebaud’s Clowns exhibit inspired several of the most recent activities, from flipbooks to clown faces. Young artists were also challenged to create pointillist poppies, calm collages, shallow shades, and ephemeral art. They were then encouraged to post their creations on Instagram to share with the larger world. “This is one of those ideas, born out of the pandemic, that’s hopefully going to stick,” says Anthony.

Perhaps one of the more impactful programs, however, is LAM’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana. “Once again, we focus on art history and artmaking lessons in response to an artist or exhibition currently on view at the Museum,” says Anthony. “But serving traditionally underserved communities is wonderful. It’s extremely important to those families, and we get a lot of positive feedback from them.” 

For a community that struggled exponentially more during the pandemic, opportunities to bond were essential. LAM gave families an organic reason to come together and create something special. 

Supporting students LAM

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Courtesy of Laguna Art Museum

An example of work created from LAM Lab’s Boys & Girls Club outreach program in Santa Ana

“The program is relaxing and fun,” said one participant. “The history of art is interesting, and I love watching my family create art together,” said another. “While things are a little different due to the pandemic, I really appreciate how Laguna Art Museum is still so supportive and open-minded about how we were going to keep this going,” shared a family member. “As an Auntie who loves to bond with my babies and create art together, thank you so much.”

“Not only did this create a great opportunity for art education and artmaking,” says Anthony, “but it helped make space for family time. Many students in that program are in upper grades. It’s an age where they start feeling too cool for their parents. We called it ‘Family Art Night.’ It gave them opportunities to spend time together during the pandemic, and it was a positive time to share together.” 

LOCA’s enduring community outreach

“Arts education” is literally in LOCA’s name. The nonprofit coalition of arts educators, professional artists, and advocates interested in the arts have been instructing people of all ages for over 25 years. Their programs serve our public schools, our local library, and both branches of Laguna’s Boys & Girls Club. And that’s just the youth. They serve our adult communities, as well.

Supporting students LOCA teacher

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Courtesy of LOCA Arts Education

LOCA arts teacher Lisa Rainey showing works produced in her tidepool workshop

While the pandemic impacted much of their in-person programming, LOCA was undeterred. They hired a professional videographer and filmed all their art lessons so students could access instruction online. 

In partnership with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), LOCA leads tours of the PMMC facility and educates students about sea lion and seal rehabilitation work. Following the tour, LOCA instructors conduct an ocean-themed art lesson on site. Held on select Saturday mornings, the workshops are perfect for families with children ages 9 and above. Each session offers different instructors and new mediums of art to explore. 

LOCA also partners with the Boys & Girls Club, Laguna Beach High School, and the local library (in connection with their story time events) to teach age-appropriate art lessons. 

Supporting students LOCA student

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Courtesy of LOCA Arts Education

A LOCA student works on her creation

Professional artist Olivia Batchelder joined Laguna Beach High School’s Fine Arts Department for an intensive study on painting. “They created their own big, beautiful five-foot-long banner,” says Sherry Bullard, honorary board member and program coordinator for LOCA. “Then we celebrated with a reception for students and their families.” 

“We’ve also done ceramics installations at both elementary school campuses,” says Bullard. “We have professional ceramics artists work with students to create their own pieces and then install them on campus.” 

LOCA instructors are all professional and highly skilled artists. But they’re also excellent educators. “Being a good teacher is key,” says Bullard. “That makes all the difference in motivating a child.” 

These are just a few of the many ways Laguna’s art organizations support our youth. There are several other scholarship offerings, outreach programs, and workshops offered for local students. One needs only to go looking.

“Every child is an artist,” said Pablo Picasso. “The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”


Dance Festival dazzles and Lagunatics a hoot

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Last weekend was a bonanza in Laguna Beach.

The Laguna Dance Festival awed the audiences and Lagunatics made us chortle. What more could anyone ask? Oh, maybe the Angels playing in the post season, but let’s not be greedy.

For 14 years, the Festival has brought top dancers to Laguna Beach, enriching our lives and helping to keep alive Laguna’s identity as an art colony. All three performances were sold out. 

“We are so lucky to live in Laguna and get to see performances of this caliber,” said Betsy Jenkins who was in the audience both Friday and Saturday night.

Festival board member Bob Braun called the opening night’s tribute to the late David Bowie “transcendent,” Jenkins said and couldn’t have agreed more. 

“It was incredible,” said Joy Dittberner, executive director of the Festival. “It took us to another level. After the performance the dancers said they could feel the energy from the audience.” 

The Saturday night audience was equally enamored. And there was an added attraction for long-time Laguna residents, National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Skylar Campbell, who grew up in Laguna and is the grandson of the late Lida Lenney, who was instrumental in the acquisition of Laguna Canyon in the 1980s.

Dance Festival Skylar

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Photo by Karolina Kuras

Skylar Campbell wows crowd

“He was the best male dancer,” said former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman.

 It’s been more than 15 years since a group of dance-lovers met in Stuart Byer’s North Laguna home to hear retiring ballerina Jodie Gates propose some kind of dance performances in Laguna Beach. The meeting gave birth to CA Dance, which was the cradle for the Dance Festival. Rocking that cradle were Byer, Janet Eggers and Christine Rhoades, all three emeritus Festival board members; Nancy Meyer and Kathy Conway, current board members.

“It is Jodie who brings this quality of dancers to Laguna,” said Rhoades on Saturday. “She danced with many of them.”

Gates was a principal dancer with the Joffrey, Frankfurt, and Pennsylvania ballet companies and with Complexions Modern Ballet. She has choreographed and directed dance performances. She is also an educator of some renown. 

Gates began her academic career as an associate professor at UC Irvine. In 2012, Gates was appointed professor of dance and the inaugural vice dean and director of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, the university’s first new school in almost 40 years. 

Among the audience at Saturday’s performance: Eggers, Byer, Karyn Philippsen, Randy Kraft, Chris Quilter, Beth Majors and Bobbi Cox, a Festival donor, who also ponied up funding for one of the dance studios at the Third Street Centers. 

In addition to providing an extraordinary weekend of dance, the Festival also raises funds for educational programs and scholarships for young dancers, several of whom attended Saturday’s performance. 

The 2018 Festival also honored the late Lila Zali, who was born in 1918. Zali moved to Laguna in 1959 after a career in dance that included classical ballet and appearances in films such as “An American in Paris” and “Silk Stockings.”

She founded a dance school in Laguna and a group that became known as Ballet Pacifica, which performed at the Playhouse and later at the Center for Performing Arts. Skylar Campbell’s early training was at Zali’s school.

Dancers Chase O’Connell and Beckanne Sisk of Ballet West performed the classic “White Swan,” dedicated to Zali.

Dance lovers will have to wait a whole year before the Festival returns to Laguna. So sad. 

But lovers of satire and just plain fun have three more opportunities to attend Lagunatics’ annual Roast of the Coast: weekends through October 28.

Lagunatics

The 2018 show opened on OctOBER 5. Bree Burgess Rosen conceived Lagunatics about the same time she conceived her son – the show that year had to be rewritten to accommodate her bump. 

Dance Festival Rosen

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bree Burgess Rosen welcomes the crowd on opening night of Lagunatics

For the seriously impaired or who come from another planet, Burgess Rosen directs, stars and writes parody lyrics for the show, complemented by writers Rufino Cabang, Bridget English, Rebecca M. Lyles (who showed up at the opening costumed as Minnie Mouse – which ought to tell you something), Paul Nygro, Chris Quilter and Ella Wyatt

Quitler also contributed dialogue, some of it spoken by Musical Director Roxanne Ward, tongue in cheek. 

As always, the dialogue and parodies are designed to puncture the pompous, pinpoint the ridiculous and make the audience laugh even when their own pet projects get skewered. 

There was no lack of subject matter for this year’s show. Jennifer Zieter particularly laughed at “Underground/I will survive,” performed by Ella Wyatt, Burgess Rosen, English, Charlee Rubino, Rebecca Butkivich, Jay Rechter and Rob Harryman

Dance Festival parody

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Parodies Galore

Other topical parodies included “Hotel Laguna/There’s a Small Hotel,” sung by English and Mark Marger; “The Village Entrance/It’s DeParking,” performed by Eric T. Anderson and Yvonne Browning; “The Public Garden, Help Our Garden Grow,” featuring Fernando Acevedo and Butkivich; “Accessory Dwelling Units/A Town that Can’t Say No,” soloed by Kristen Matson; “Trees/Less is More,” performed by Anderson and the cast – and that was just Act One. 

Act Two featured “Parking Fees/The Rates Go Up,” sung by Harryman; “Nest Door/I Feel Petty,” soloed by Ward; “Pop Up Public Art/A Waste of Money;” featuring Marger, English, Butkivich and Harryman.

The entire cast performed the closing number: “The Candidates for City Council/Tap your Troubles Away.”

In the audience: former Mayor Jane Egly, Carolyn and Dr. Tom Bent, Dee Perry (costumed as Medusa), Pageant of the Master’s Director Diane Challis Davy, and No Square Theatre President Rick Gold.

The show is sponsored by the Business Improvement District, the City, the Festival of Arts Foundation, Laguna Board of Realtors Charitable Assistance Fund, Ketel One, Rodney Strong Vineyards and Pavilions.

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. Contributions are welcomed.


One way or another, Hollywood Blondie entertains old and young at Bluebird Park

Photos by Scott Brashier 

One way vocalist

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Diana Grace of Hollywood Blondie captures the audience at Music in the Park on Sunday with her voice, performance, and energy. The band’s musicians were exceptional and entertaining too!

One way bubbles

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Blondie and bubbles, something for everyone 

One way crowd

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Not an inch of ground to spare for music fans on a beautiful Sunday at Bluebird Park

One way dancers

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Tiny Blondie dances to tunes…

On Sunday, Aug 4, Bill Magee plays the blues at Music in the Park from 5 to 7 p.m. The series is a function of by the Laguna Beach Arts Commission and is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. Please do not set up before 3 p.m. to allow children to enjoy the park prior to the concert.

For more photos by Scott Brashier, see slideshow below:


Behind the curtain with Circus Bella 

By MARRIE STONE

According to Ernest Hemingway, “The circus is the only fun you can buy that is good for you.” Imagine getting all that good-for-you fun for free.

Circus Bella, a one-ring outdoor circus show, is bringing its troupe to Laguna’s Bluebird Park for two free shows on Saturday, Sept 25 (performances are scheduled for 1 and 3 p.m.). Nineteen performers – including a six-piece live band – will wow audiences with their feats of strength, grace, skill, and showmanship. A perfect family show for audiences ages one to one hundred, the crowd will be treated to clowns and contortionists, acrobats and jugglers, a hooper, a trapeze artist, and a chair stacker. 

Behind the Group

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

Circus Bella will perform in Bluebird Park on Saturday, Sept 25 at 

1 and 3 p.m.

Humorous, a wholly original show produced and directed by Circus Bella co-founder Abigail Munn, is being offered as a limited engagement. Generally available to Bay Area audiences only, for the first time – though hopefully not the last – the troupe is traveling to Laguna Beach.

“This event has been such a long time in the making,” says Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl. “We started the conversation back in 2019 with the performance originally scheduled for June 6, 2020, and then rescheduled a couple more times. This will be a uniquely Laguna Beach experience, a first-time event that will be well worth the wait. I hope it becomes an annual community tradition.” 

Humorous celebrates the fantastical world we can discover together through the simple act of shared wonder and lots of laughter. It also marks their first show after a challenging and tumultuous year off. 

We peeked behind the scenes to uncover the origins of this incredible troupe, how these talented performers came together, and what they’ve learned along the way. Before you “step right up,” you’re invited to “sit right down” and hear the backstory behind Circus Bella and its modern twist on an ancient tradition.

In the beginning…

For Abigail Munn, Circus Bella’s co-founder and artistic director, an obsession with the circus began almost 40 years ago. Munn grew up in San Francisco, the child of parents who were steeped in the arts. Her father was a lighting designer for operas, her mother involved in art management for nonprofits. 

On a whim, Munn’s parents signed her up for a Saturday class at the Pickle Family Circus when she was nine years old. Back in the 1980s, circus training was unusual, especially for kids. Aerial silks hadn’t been invented yet. Other traditions that have since fallen out of favor – like the Spanish Web and Rolla Bolla boards – were still being taught. “I learned trapeze, juggling, tightrope, rolling globe, Rolla Bolla, and stilts,” Munn says. “A different curriculum than kids learn now. Much more focused on ground skills.” Munn benefited from the instruction of Chinese acrobats, who came to the U.S. to teach at the Pickle Family Circus, elevating her skill set once again.

For Munn, the circus was love at first sight. “This is it,” she told her parents, who today call themselves “circus grandparents.” Indeed, it was. Those early days laid the foundation for a career that’s now spanned more than two decades and counting. 

Behind the Munn

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

Abigail Munn, Circus Bella’s co-founder and artistic director

Circus life before Circus Bella

After studying dance in college, Munn worked as both a dancer and trapeze artist. She began traveling the United States with the Zoppé Family Circus, a 179-year-old, one-ring tent show. In 2006, while working a series of hot and tumultuous three-day shows with David Hunt (Circus Bella’s co-founder), the two conceived of the idea of bringing a similar outdoor, single-ring circus to the Bay Area. “With the Pickle Family Circus, Make *A* Circus, and a few other one-ring shows, it was a familiar style,” Munn says. “And the weather is so good in California. An outdoor circus made sense.” 

Before the circus was even off the ground, they got their first gig. Bella Winery called, saying they’d heard Munn had a circus and asking if it was true. Without an act, or even a name, Munn responded yes. She and Hunt scrambled to put a show together for one of the winery’s upcoming events. When the winery asked for promotional materials, Munn settled on the name “Circus Bella” until a better fit arrived. 

Those first costumes were an eclectic mix of hand-sewn fabrics. Munn collected old relics from the San Francisco Opera. There were six members in the original troupe, who all came with their own acts. Munn borrowed a small ring curb to create a circus stage and painted a tarp. They didn’t have a curtain, but they did have a wine barrel.

That first show was rocky. Without a curtain, off-stage performers stood frozen in the visible background. And although they dropped a few clubs during the grand juggling finale, they came away from the performance with a lot of enthusiasm and the seed money necessary to get off the ground. The name “Circus Bella” stuck, and “the little circus that could” was finally born in 2008. 

Behind the Ensemble

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

The Circus Bella ensemble

The essential foundations for Circus Bella

Circus Bella may have lacked a curtain and a few performers in the beginning, but its original vision remains unchanged. Retaining the traditions of an old-style circus troupe while incorporating a modernized twist was essential. Munn and Hunt set the tone for the troupe with three guiding principles.

Performing inside a ring was the first key component. “We always perform in the round,” Munn says. This tradition dates to the 6th century B.C., during the Roman Empire’s Circus Maximus. Chariot races, in particular, benefited from the round. London circus performers borrowed this architectural model in the 18th century, which proved especially useful during their equestrian performances. For Munn and Hunt, the intimacy of the ring was important. Having their audience surround them, seeing the show from every angle and blending into the scene felt right. 

The second requirement was that performers bring their own individualized acts to the stage, but also come together during the grand finale for an ensemble act. “Having your own circus act is very traditional,” says Munn. “Doing some ensemble work is where we cross over into a more modern approach. You’ll see that with the grand finale. Everybody in the company passes clubs. If someone can’t juggle, we’ll pass them around that person, but we always do this big ensemble juggle.”

Behind the Freire

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Photo by James Watkins

Jefferson Freire shows off his juggling skills

The last ingredient – and perhaps the most essential – was live music. “For me, music is really important,” says Munn. “Maybe that’s my opera background. My mom also managed a new music ensemble when I was a kid, so live music was important for me. We’ve always had a live band.”

Strike up the band

There’s a famous saying within Circus Bella: “Be brave, be safe, be funny, be better than the band.” For Munn, a live band was essential for Circus Bella to function. 

Composer Rob Reich has been with Circus Bella since its inception, creating all original musical scores for the shows. “By providing live accompaniment to the circus acts, we are engaging in dialogue with the performers in real time, and that communication helps clear the way for a greater connection with the audience,” says Reich on the website’s blog. “My job as musical director is to keep a constant empathetic eye on the performers, the musicians, and the audience; and provide a musical frame that will encourage everyone to shine.”

Behind the Reich

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Photo by Ron Scherl

Rob Reich, Circus Bella’s bandleader, composer, accordion player, keyboardist, and glockenspiel artist

The band sets the atmosphere of the show. Is the act creating suspense? Are the clowns acting silly? Is the performance elegant or risky? Music can build tension or help the audience relax. Rob says one of the biggest difficulties is knowing when to leave enough silence and space to allow for an audience’s natural reaction. “Nothing can accentuate a moment quite like a sudden silence,” he says. “Or just letting things breathe for a few moments after a particularly intense act.”

The Circus Bella All-Star Band includes Rob Reich (bandleader, accordion, keyboard, and glockenspiel), Benito Cortez (violin), Ian Carey (trumpet), Kasey Knudsen (saxophone), Michael Pinkham (percussion), and Jonathan Seiberlich (tuba). 

“Playing tuba with the Circus Bella All-Star Band is one of the most fulfilling experiences in my career so far,” says Seiberlich. “The music that Rob Reich composes for us covers a wide spectrum of musical styles and sonic textures. It can be incredibly challenging and incredibly silly, with strict written scores alongside moments of complete improvisation. The whole band is constantly reacting to what’s happening on stage, feeding off the energy of the performers, and creating a wholly unique performing experience. Every year I am blown away by the talented individuals on stage, and every year I look forward to the next opportunity to perform with this incredible troupe.”

Despite whatever financial challenges live performers faced in the past year, Munn insists she’ll never perform without a live band. It was part of her original vision, and one she intends to carry into the future. “In the beginning, I would sometimes book the show without a band in order to cut costs,” says Munn. “But I don’t do it anymore. No band, no Bella. The music is half of what we are as a company. They are a character in the show. I would rather do fewer shows and do them correctly. That’s my choice.”

Behind the band

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

The Circus Bella All-Star Band 

Send in the clowns

Munn also puts a lot of effort and consideration into selecting her performers. Each of them comes to the circus with their own act, but personality is just as important as talent. “I’m very particular about who is invited into the show,” Munn says. “There’s a certain kind of personality that’s required to be an artist in our company. My rule is you must be nice to me at 7 a.m. That makes it easier.” 

It takes a village to create a circus. Beyond the six-piece band, there are nine performers and a sizable production crew responsible for making the show happen. Performers include Garrett Allen (chair stacking), Toni Cannon (strong man), Jamie Coventry (clown), Jefferson Freire (juggling and unicycle), Dwoira Galilea (aerial hoop), Elise Hing (contortion), Natasha Kaluza (clown and hula hooper), and Calvin Kai Ku (clown). 

“Clowns may be ‘third responders,’ but our job is no less important,” says Coventry. “We pour our hearts into our art in the hopes that we’ll provide lasting joy for those that spend an afternoon outside with the circus.”

Behind the clowns

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

Circus Bella’s Clowns: Jamie Coventry, Natasha Kaluza, and Calvin Kai Ku

“The Circus Bella experience builds a real familial bond between the company members,” Galilea says. “From weeks of rehearsals and juggling, to setup and tear down, to performing the show itself, we all work together as an ensemble to create this pop-up circus in the park. We are stronger together.”

The Circus Bella production team includes Judy Finelli (juggling director and coach), Autumn Adamme (costume designer), Carlo Gentile (production director), James Touzel (sound engineer), and Jack Weinstock (ring crew). 

“A lot of us have worked together for many years,” says Munn. “I love that connection between the performers when you perform together for a long time. We’re literally standing on each other’s shoulders.”

Beyond the big top: the deeper meaning of circus

Spend only a few minutes at a circus and it’s not difficult to understand its power. Behind the dazzling acts and silly clowns, there’s something more profound happening. For a suspended 60 minutes, both the audience and the performers share a moment of collective delight. They bond over communal experiences, common emotions, and moments of levity. 

One occasion stood out as particularly poignant. “In Washington, the Circus Bella All-Star Band got to play music for a naturalization ceremony where roughly 20 children were becoming U.S. Citizens,” Kaluza says. “It was beautiful, funny, and poetic all at once. And it struck me that the importance of art in culture stretches deeper than we can even grasp. It’s like a tree with roots unseen far below the surface. As we roll into a park, schlepping and hoisting, building our set, placing our equipment, and hustling to create a moment of magic, I imagine that we are planting an invisible seed. A seed that will grow after we are gone, in the hearts and minds of the community, reminding all to persevere, to dance, to play, to find balance, and to lift one another up.”

Behind the Kaluza

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Photo by James Watkins

Natasha Kaluza, Circus Bella’s clown and hula hoop artist

Finding our common humanity is something that’s foremost on Munn’s mind. Creating moments that allow communities to come together and let go of the outside world gives her a lot of satisfaction. “I try to stay out of politics because it’s so toxic,” she says. “But there’s more we can agree on as humans than disagree. Maybe we can make some progress if we just sit next to each other and enjoy something together.”

“Sharing unique events like these with our neighbors builds joy within our community,” says Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “The circus has always been about making people laugh, which is something we all can appreciate and enjoy right now.”

It’s hard to leave a circus in a bad mood. Everything about it makes you smile. From the bright backgrounds and colorful costumes to the silly clowns and miraculous acts, the whole experience brings out the inner child regardless of your age. 

“I love watching the children in the audience after the show,” says Galilea. “It’s magical to see them cartwheeling through the grass, arching back to put their feet on their heads, and seeing the world with new stars in their eyes.”

Behind the Galilea

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Photo by Daisy Rose Coby

Aerial hoop star Dwoira Galilea

There are few live performances that are equally satisfying for kids and adults alike. That straddle cultures, languages, and time. That cut across geographical and generational boundaries alike. “What I think is amazing about the circus is that it’s so universal,” says Munn. “A whole family can go to the show and every person in that lineup is going to find something that’s enjoyable about the experience.” 

Circus Bella will perform in Bluebird Park on Saturday, Sept 25 at 1 and 3 p.m. All performances are free, though donations are appreciated. To support Circus Bella and learn more about their organization, visit www.circusbella.org.


“Art in Public Places” – Cathexis by Steve Harmon

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This is the 29th 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.

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. 

art in public street

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Cathexis at Riddle Field, created by Steve Harmon

Cathexis by Laguna artist Steven Harmon was installed in 2001 at Riddle Field. Riddle Field is home to Laguna Beach Little League, the third oldest chartered little league in the country. Red, as he called himself, donated the sculpture to the city.

Harmon grew up in El Centro, CA. While in high school, he participated in the American Field Service student exchange program and lived for a summer in New Zealand. After high school, he attended Northern Arizona University and graduated from San Francisco State University with a major in Industrial Design. His emphasis was in metal sculpture. 

art in public sideways

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Cathexis was installed in 2001 and restored in 2012

After working at various jobs, Harmon began to devote his life strictly to his love for art. Harmon was a sculptor who worked primarily with metal, but he was also a stylistically diverse painter and was said to be influenced by 20th century Expressionists. 

In late 2010, Cathexis was removed by the city due to rust and safety issues caused by the harsh elements. However, after an appeal from the artist’s mother Alice, who pledged to restore the piece at her expense, the Arts Commission agreed to a proposed deadline for repairs, barring any further expense of public funds.

For his mother, it’s more than a sculpture – it’s a memory and a legacy of her son, who sadly passed away at the age of 33 in 2006.

art in public closeup

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Cathexis means the concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea or object 

However, restoration costs would be around $8,000, and she was unable to get the sculpture repaired without some help. Reaching out to the community, she hosted a get together in May 2012 at the studio of sculptor John Alabaster to raise the funds necessary for the renovation.

As a result, with the talent and skill of Alabaster, Cathexis was restored to its pristine condition. The restoration required sandblasting exterior paint, dipping it into hydrochloric acid to remove rust and cutting out corroded areas, rewelding areas and then galvanizing and repainting the piece to weatherproof it further. 

Cathexis was subsequently reinstalled at Riddle Field.

In memory of her son, Alice said of the work, “Cathexis is a sculpture of intertwined scrolls. It is dedicated to all those in love who sit within it.”

Riddle Field is located at Cliff Drive and Hillcrest Drive behind Boat Canyon.

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.


Sawdust guest artist Jwan Peres Ramos experiences the best of Laguna Beach benevolence

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

At the Sawdust Festival Benevolence Art Auction last Sunday, guest artist, 20-year-old Jwan Perez Ramos, saw his mural auctioned off at $800. 

Perez Ramos, who is from Puerto Rico, is attempting to make enough money this summer to put a roof back on his home, shared with his father, grandmother and aunt. Their home was leveled by Hurricane Maria last fall.

Perez Ramos and his father, Billy Joe Perez, painted murals depicting Aguadilla before the hurricane to help inspire the reeling community.

sawdust guest jwan

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Jwan Perez Ramos

“The customer had heard that the board was going to match the price of the mural up to $1,000,” explains Sawdust trustee Jay Grant. “When she came to pay, she gave us $200 more for the piece so Jwan would receive the full matching amount. Just so heartwarming for all of the trustees who facilitated the auction. And Jwan was so touched.”

The Sawdust Artists’ Benevolence Fund is a source of financial assistance for artists in Laguna Beach who have suffered a catastrophic event, leaving them unable to work. 

“Over the years, our art auction has raised over $150,000. It’s encouraging to see how much our community of art patrons values local artists,” said Monica Prado, president of the Artists’ Benevolence Fund board of trustees.

sawdust guest mural

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Mural depicting Aguadilla before Hurricane Maria

The auction featured an exciting selection of art created by Sawdust artists, including paintings, mixed media, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, photography, and more. These artists generously donated their work with the goal of raising funds for fellow artists in times of need. 

Professional auctioneer Tony DeZao, who presided over the live auction, packed the experience with lots of laughs and entertaining stories.

Perez Ramos has his own booth and is staying in a local home, organized by the Festival.

sawdust guest booth

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Jwan Perez Ramos working at his booth

“Our goal with this is to help somebody in distress,” Grant is quoted as saying. “We want to encourage him, his family and community. We will do everything we can to let him know there are people who care.”


MerriJane Morrison stays in the creative flow for 15 years at the Sawdust Festival

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

For MerriJane Morrison, a 20-year Laguna resident, exhibiting at the Sawdust Art Festival is about much more than just selling her handcrafted, original sterling silver and 18k gold jewelry. 

“It has illuminated my real purpose, which goes beyond jewelry,” says MerriJane. “It’s about the connection with people – and it’s given my jewelry design career new meaning and purpose. I love engaging with customers.”

The path to the Sawdust

Born in Seattle, MerriJane attended UCLA and after graduating with a degree in design, continued her education at Pratt Fine Arts in Seattle. It was there that she first began experimenting with various techniques in jewelry making.

“MerriJane has always loved art,” says her mother Kate, who is her daughter’s number one fan – and a salesperson at her booth.

However, MerriJane’s collections don’t require a hard sell, they speak for themselves. Pairing refined sculptural motifs accented with semi-precious stones, she creates exquisite one-of-a-kind pieces. “The technique I use now is lost wax casting. I also use 18k gold to enhance the sterling.”

MerriJane Morrison closeup

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MerriJane Morrison in her 15th year as Sawdust exhibitor

Before she began showing at the Sawdust (at both the summer and winter festivals), MerriJane’s jewelry was represented all over the world but strictly on a wholesale basis. It sold to stores such as Barney’s, Nordstrom’s, and Bendel’s – all in New York – and stores in Japan and London.

“When I was just starting, I worked 16 hours a day filling the wholesale orders, and my mom helped me pack them up to mail,” MerriJane says.

In the ensuing years, she’s worked hard to drive her business online, and that has never been more important than last year.

During the pandemic, her 24-year-old daughter Olivia – who works in post-production in the television and movie division at Apple – created a five-minute video preview of MerriJane’s jewelry collections, so that customers could schedule a virtual shopping experience online.

MerriJane Morrison with mom

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MerriJane and her mother Kate

While the Sawdust was closed in 2020, MerriJane put the time to good use.

“Since I wasn’t here last summer, I used the time to create,” she says. “I worked on a lot of new things. It made me realize that I’m still very passionate about making jewelry.”

MerriJane describes her style as modern organic. Her designs are inspired by spirituality, love of nature, and traveling. Recent trips to Bali and Spain motivated her to create the Bali Flower. 

Collections

The Laguna Collection features her nature inspired designs – the Dragonfly Wings and Fern Leaves.

MerriJane explains the story behind the Dragonfly Wings. “A few years back there was a dragonfly in the booth for two days, and that inspired the dragonfly pieces.”

Her Signature Collection includes the Signature Flower, the Journey, and the Inner Journey pieces.

“May Day is my birthday, and I designed the Free Form Signature Flower,” says MerriJane. “The Inner Journey means, ‘Go within for inspiration and wisdom through your connection to the universe. Expanded Journey means ‘I have learned to go with the flow.’”

MerriJane Morrison lady with hat

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Engaging with a customer

The Circle and Oval Collections include oval and hoop earrings, necklaces, pendants, and bracelets. 

“The hoops are not inspired by nature,” she says. “I just happen to love hoops.”

Chinese Characters in the collection are Peace, Love, Happiness, Lucky, and Gratitude. 

Her Ocean Series is comprised of Coral, Limpet, and the Sand Dollar. 

“Living at the beach always creates inspiration for me,” says MerriJane. “The natural beauty, power, and life from the ocean are amazing.”

Family affair 

Over the years, MerriJane’s role as an exhibitor has turned into a family affair – her husband Greg Sheets, who formerly worked at Studio and St. Regis Hotel, has run Tacos Durrell on the Sawdust grounds for 10 years. 

In addition, Kate has been manning her booth for several years. Until six years ago when Kate’s husband Eric Wells transferred down here, Kate commuted from Seattle to help. Now she’s less than a mile away.

MerriJane Morrison flower

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Signature Flower necklaces

Evidently, creativity runs in the family. Kate is also an artist and ran a photography studio in Seattle. Once she moved here, MerriJane inspired her to start taking art classes (she paints landscapes and portraits) and now Kate shares an artists’ space in the canyon with a friend. The talent goes even further back – MerriJane’s (maternal) grandmother made beadwork jewelry.

Giving back

For the past few years, MerriJane has used her artistry to give back.

In 2019, she worked with the nonprofit BISKIDS to create the Believe Collection. All proceeds from the sale of the jewelry line benefits their programs, teachers, and staff. BISKIDS is a proactive prevention program for kids. The two-day workshops teach children about the disease of addiction. BISKIDS provides children and families confidence for a promising future by giving them an array of life-changing skills they can utilize to make healthy choices and have the confidence to stay drug-free. 

MerriJane Morrison necklace

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MerriJane wearing some of her pieces

Sawdust gratitude

“I’m so thankful for this place,” MerriJane says, “and the connection with other people. It has led me on an amazing spiritual path.”

MerriJane is a follower of the book Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, who says that the purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow. There is no goal. You lose yourself in the experience. 

“Our purpose in life is to evolve consciously which made me see the gift that expressing myself through creativity has given me,” says MerriJane. 

So, stop by MerriJane’s booth at the Sawdust, say “Hello,” and take a look at her unique jewelry collections. 

For more information on MerriJane Jewelry, go to www.merrijanejewelry.com.

For more information on BISKIDS, go to www.biskids.org.


Inside the studio: LOCA printmakers invite the public to experience their process

By MARRIE STONE

Printmaker Vinita Voogd and her husband were on a road trip to Arizona when he pointed out the window toward a ridge of scenic mountains. “I absolutely could not see what he was seeing,” says Voogd. “I was so busy looking at the space between the mountains and the skyline, I couldn’t see the mountains themselves.” 

Welcome to the mind of an artist. Voogd says she often sees the world backwards, in mirror images. After 40 years of printmaking, she’s trained to see the negative space around an object, rather than the object itself. “If I’m looking at a tree and the shadows around the tree, my mind starts to abstract,” she says. “I’m actually looking at the space around the tree, not the tree itself. It’s like I’m looking at the same thing, but with different eyes.”

inside the press

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Courtesy of LOCA

Vinita Voogd demonstrates the printing press

Not only are these the mental techniques of a talented printmaker, but they’re also the observations of a gifted instructor. LOCA Arts Education – a nonprofit coalition of professional artists, art educators, and advocates – is filled with artists who are not only able to translate their worldview into images on paper but transfer that knowledge to students. The organization has served the Laguna Beach community for more than 25 years, providing artistic instruction to students of every age. Workshops are offered in the Laguna Beach Unified School District, Glennwood House, the Laguna Beach Library, the Boys & Girls Club, the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center, and other organizations. Classes are also often available to the public.

On Sunday, Sept 26 at 11 a.m., the community is invited to the Sawdust Festival grounds for LOCA’s popular Champagne brunch and annual meeting where board members Vinita Voogd, Carla Meberg, and Joy Vansell will present “Printmaking 101.” The lecture intends to demystify this ancient and often misunderstood artform. The members will introduce three of the five printmaking methods, along with the necessary tools, plates, and printmaking examples. 

In the meantime, two of these artists invited us inside their studios – and inside their creative minds – to reveal the endless possibilities printmaking offers not only to seasoned artists, but to almost anyone willing to get their hands messy and their minds challenged.

Inside the mind of a printmaker

Artistic instruction isn’t simply a matter of training the hand and eye. It requires training the mind. Voogd’s experience of seeing only the white space around an object isn’t unique for artists working in her medium. That is, after all, what printmakers do. They create images out of negative space. Relief prints – such as woodblocks, etchings, linocuts, and metal cuts – carve out the picture. The ink represents the air space. The design revealed represents what isn’t there, or a mirror image of the block or plate that was cut.   

inside the linocut

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Courtesy of Vinita Voogd

An example of a linocut by Vinita Voogd

“Your brain has to translate things backwards,” Meberg says. “We do think backwards in a lot of ways.”

Meberg says it took about a year of drawing classes before she could feel a distinctive shift in her thinking. “Art changes the way you see,” she says. “I began noticing the shapes of things after studying drawing. I was able to see lines and colors completely different because I’d been creating them. You don’t have to come out of class as a great artist, but you’ll definitely see things differently.”

Not only do artists see objects and space in remarkable ways, but they process color in distinctive ways as well. “You start to see color in a new way. When you’re looking at a leaf, you realize there’s a bunch of colors on this leaf other than green,” says Meberg. “You’d never think mixing all these colors that look nothing like green could produce this new and interesting color green. It’s fascinating. Life becomes alive in a different way because you’re seeing it differently.” 

Voogd and Meberg also stress the meditative benefits of printmaking. “The creation of the plate, the inking of the plate. It’s a very meditative process,” says Voogd. “It becomes part of the printmaker.”

“You’re constantly using your hands to carve or wipe the plates,” says Meberg. “There’s something about that movement of the hands. When we’re stressed, we clench our hands. But making prints frees that up. A lot of emotion comes out of using your hands. It’s very therapeutic and it becomes part of you.”

Even the ink and paper used can be soothing. “There’s something peaceful about this ink,” Meberg says. “I don’t know what it is, but I hear a lot of printmakers say it. There’s such a soothing calm about the smell of the ink. My studio is a place where I can go and breathe. When life gets a little hard, I just walk into my studio and all my problems are gone.”

Both women have home studios, each of them owning their own press. Meberg even donated her old press to LOCA when she upgraded to a larger press. It’s now located at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center and available when classes are taught.

Inside the mind of a teacher

Voogd benefited from a string of talented art instructors, stressing those strong teachers were essential to her development. She declared her intent to become an artist at age six and never wavered. 

Meberg also took an early interest in art, finding her passion in grade school. But when she arrived in college, prepared to major in art, she had several poor professors and soon switched majors. “Maybe they weren’t bad teachers,” Meberg says, “But they never reached me, so I switched majors.” She eventually graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a communications degree but continued seeking out art classes. She didn’t find a strong professor until she arrived at Saddleback College and took a drawing course from Bill Riley, the same man who taught Voogd. “I loved it all over again,” she says. “And, boy, I became very successful very fast because I’d always loved it.”

inside the Meberg

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Photo by Mike Tauber

Carla Meberg teaches a class at LOCA

These experiences infused both women with a commitment to teaching, recognizing the importance of inspiring each student, conveying their own passion for art, and remaining supportive throughout the process. 

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” Albert Einstein once said. LOCA teachers, maybe more than most, recognize the truth in that statement. Every instructor is a professional artist who holds a wealth of both academic and experiential wisdom, and they delight in offering it to our community.

Drawing from ancient traditions

Printmaking is one of the more ancient and misunderstood of any of the visual artforms. “It dates back to the second century BC,” says Voogd. It began in the Han Dynasty in China. 

By 906-1279 CE, before the advent of silk, Chinese artists in the Song Dynasty were using human hair to make screen prints. Hair, like silk, had two advantages. It was strong enough to hold a stencil in place, and fine enough to allow dyes and pigments to pass through the unobstructed spaces onto the underlying layer. “I can just imagine these women with long hair getting told to not throw it away,” Voogd laughs.

Papermaking – the other essential component to the printmaker – holds its own fascinating origins. Asian nations like Japan, India, Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, and China each developed intricate techniques according to the natural resources readily available. “They boil the insides of a reed to make a certain paper,” says Voogd. “They’ll add materials like mulberry, mango leaves, banana and coconut. All different materials to make paper, depending on what they have available.” 

Because printmaking can only take place in a studio, the general public doesn’t have as much exposure to the process as other artforms. Painters, photographers, even sculptors and other artists can be observed doing their craft. Printmaking, which generally requires an enormous press, is less accessible. “No one understands how it’s done because most people will not have access to an artist who’s in a printmaking studio,” says Voogd. 

The language used around printmaking can also feel misleading. A “print” might sound like a “reproduction” rather than an original work of art. “There’s a lot of confusion, especially with new printing technology,” says Voogd. “Many people – even other artists – don’t understand the laws of the land, how fine art is defined, and what print editions mean.” 

inside the woodblock

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Courtesy of Vinita Voogd

A woodblock printed with a three-ton steamroller on hand-loomed silk by Vinita Voogd

“I wish that printmaking had another name, because it doesn’t seem fair to what the experience is,” says Meberg. “It makes it sound like you’re just making a static print. But you’re not. You have this endless ability to explore color, size, image, concept, message, and form. I’ve never seen any other art that comes close to what printmaking has to offer.”

Both Voogd and Meberg were eager to share the many varietals printmaking provides.

The endless possibilities of printmaking

“Printmaking” isn’t simply one process. Within the artform, there are at least five general techniques. And, within those five categories, there are numerous subcategories. Voogd outlined the essential five for us, three of which will be introduced to the community at LOCA’s annual meeting on September 26. 

Relief. Relief printing includes woodcuts, linocuts, and collagraph. This is the most common method and perhaps the easiest to understand. Using wood or linoleum (a process popularized by Pablo Picasso), the artist carves the design into the matrix and inks the surface. When the block is pressed onto the paper (either by hand or printing press), what transfers to the paper is the ink that wasn’t carved. 

inside the stages

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Courtesy of Vinita Voogd

This series shows the stages of a woodcut, from carving the design into the wood to the finished woodcut to the actual print (a mirror image of the block)

Intaglio. Intaglio is an Italian term meaning “below the surface.” The artist cuts an image into the surface of a plate using sharp hand tools or acid. The plate is usually made of copper, zinc, or other soft metals. When the artist applies ink to the plate, the incised design holds the pigment. They wipe the excess from the surface and press the image into a dampened sheet of paper. 

Lithography. Invented in the late 18th century, this chemical process is based on the natural resistance between oil and water. Using greasy pencils, crayons, or other synthetic materials, the artist draws an image on a smooth stone or plate. After the design is created and processed with a mild etching solution, the artist dampens the plate and applies the ink with a roller. The greasy image repels the water and holds the oily ink while the rest of the plate’s surface does the opposite. Printing is accomplished in a press similar to that used in intaglio processes. 

Monoprint. Monoprints distinguish themselves from other printmaking methods because every image is one-of-a-kind and cannot be duplicated. While no two monoprints (or monotypes) will ever be identical, some similar elements may occur. Because the prints are created through hand-painting or collages, each piece is unique. These prints are sometimes hand-colored after they are printed.

Serigraphy (Screen Printing). Serigraphic printers force ink through the mesh of a screen onto the object to be printed. The white space, or nonprinted areas, are carved out using cutout stencils or otherwise blocking the mesh. Using a squeegee, the artist presses the ink through the mesh to create the image around the stencil. Recall that ancient Chinese practice which used human hair to create the screen. 

inside the tote

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Courtesy of Vinita Voogd

This woodblock print of the LOCA logo made a perfect tote bag

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” Pablo Picasso once said. After spending a few hours with Voogd and Meberg, those words ring true. Their passion for this artform feels infectious. Printmaking literally transformed the way they see the world. Beyond giving them a means of artistic expression, it’s given them a meditative practice that seems to transcend the art. You can hear their stories for yourself at this Sunday’s annual meeting.

In addition to the outdoor Champagne brunch and printmaking presentation, updates about LOCA’s fall and winter workshops will be announced, and a free opportunity drawing to win a shout-out newsletter feature story will be held. Silent auction items, including a gift basket from The Old Pottery Place, will add to the fun. 

Cost: Visitors $20/Free to LOCA members. 

The Sawdust Art Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

More information about this program can be found at 

www.locaarts.org/event/loca-annual-meeting-and-champagne-brunch/.


Laguna Beach artist Rosalie Marsh-Boinus to exhibit at The Grace Galleries

The Grace Galleries welcomes Laguna Beach artist, Rosalie Marsh-Boinus for a group show at the gallery’s Opening Reception on Thursday, Oct. 7 between 6-9 p.m. 

Laguna Beach modern

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Submitted photo

“Modern Woman”

Marsh-Boinus’ art is a fusion of post French Impressionism, German Expressionism and surrealist abstract that she calls “Modern Expressionism.” Her Modern Expressionism is a journey of color, light and line that features subjects reminiscent of a bygone era facing an unknown destiny in which the vibrancy of life’s journey is on full display. 

Marsh-Boinus’ background includes exhibiting 15 years at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival, as well as many private art exhibits and a one-woman show at the Jewish Community Center in Irvine. 

The Grace Galleries is located at 347 S. Coast Highway, steps away from Main Beach in Laguna Beach. Call 949.690.0318. https://thegracegalleries.com


Laguna Dance Festival Gala takes on a musical theme with tribute to legacy of West Side Story on May 18

Laguna Dance Festival’s 2018 gala will celebrate the launch of the festival’s 14th season with a West Side Story theme in honor of the centennial birthdays of two of the production’s artistic luminaries, composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins. 

The gala will be held at [seven-degrees] on Friday, May 18, and includes a live auction, fine dining, wines donated by Hall Winery of Napa, and dancing into the night. 

The program will include live music and dance from West Side Story and vocal renditions of select songs, and an iconic dance excerpt from “America,” performed by dancers from the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. There will also be several new commissions performed by professional artists - each inspired by the musical, but with their very own “west coast story” flair. 

Submitted photo

Jerome Robbins with George Chakiris during rehearsals of West Side Story

Additionally, Clifford Williams from Complexions Contemporary Ballet will perform a solo as well as the three recipients of the 2017 Laguna Dance Festival scholarship – Emily Eckert, Jocelyn Magana, and Marcus Sarjeant. 

“This year’s gala event not only marks the centennial of two great artists, it also celebrates Laguna Dance Festival’s commitment to quality education and innovative programming. The night will be full of glorious music and dance that represents the brightest stars of today and tomorrow,” says Artistic Director and Founder, Jodie Gates. 

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Submitted photo

West Side Story dance number - America

Laguna Dance Festival offers world-class dance on a theatre stage, art galleries and site-specific outdoor venues throughout Laguna Beach and Orange County. Since its inception in 2005, Laguna Dance Festival has presented companies such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Parsons Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, BalletX, and Ballet BC, among others. In addition, the festival is committed to providing quality dance education to the west coast through master classes, a summer intensive workshop, and scholarships for young dancers.

Go to www.lagunadancefestival.org for tickets and more information.


LPAPA finds a new home in one of Laguna’s historic locations

By MARRIE STONE

Since its inception in 1996, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) has been searching for a permanent gallery space. This month, it found one. On Thursday, Aug 19, artists, board members, patrons, founding artists, and spectators gathered for the gallery’s grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. As they welcomed the public into their new home, LPAPA settled into a storied space with roots that began nearly a century before. 

The historic El Paseo building in North Laguna’s gallery row (located between Jasmine and Myrtle Street) has a rich past befitting of its new occupants. LPAPA has an equally robust history of its own. Together, this perfect union of plein air art with early 20th century Spanish design creates a pleasing sense of synergy. The building’s use of natural light and open spaces, and its reflection of 1920s architectural sensibilities, allows the plein air collection to feel like it’s found an innate home.

LPAPA finds building

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

The historic El Paseo building, located at 414 North Coast Hwy

LPAPA celebrated the opening by honoring its own roots. The current gallery exhibition features work by its five founding members: Ken Auster, Jacobus Baas, Cynthia Britain, Saim Caglayan, and John Cosby. Their paintings will be on display through September 6th. 

In that spirit, let’s look back in time – both to the building itself and LPAPA’s own origins – to appreciate how the past rose to meet this present moment in providing the organization’s new home.

The storied history of this unique place

Early plein air artists founded the original Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918. That same year, they secured the Old Town Hall as an exhibition venue and opened their first art gallery. The small group of artists began a permanent collection and, in 1926, secured the property that would become their public gallery. That location would eventually become the Laguna Art Museum. 

LPAPA finds LBAA

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Courtesy of LPAPA

The original Laguna Beach Art Association members

During this same period, right down the dirt road, Lynn and Thelma Aufdenkamp – descendants of two of Laguna’s earliest settling families who were instrumental in founding the town – built their marital home which would eventually become the historic El Paseo. Then, the structure was a modest, small-scale bungalow for the newlywed couple. Aufdenkamp says he bought the materials and townspeople “just showed up” to build the house. No one then imagined that, nearly a century later, it would become the latter-day artists’ gallery space.

No doubt, though, those early plein air painters were familiar with Lynn and his father. In 1914, the elder Aufdenkemp opened a box-ball and bowling business, as well as a silent movie theater (which would eventually become Laguna South Coast Cinemas) in town. Lit by kerosene lanterns beneath an enormous tent, Lynn operated the theater for years by hand-cranking the movie projector. Lynn’s father also co-founded the lawn bowling green in Heisler Park. Both Laguna’s artists and businessmen were building their legacies, side by side, in this budding new town. 

LPAPA finds 1933

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Courtesy of Jay and Mary Linda Strotkamp

Plein air master George R. Brandeiff instructs a class at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach, circa 1933

By 1939, Lynn and Thelma expanded their cottage to include a modest U-shaped apartment complex around a courtyard, naming the compound “Aldeita Court,” meaning “little village.” The brick courtyard still features the Spanish tiled fountain which graces the north side of the gallery. 

LPAPA finds tile

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Photo by Marrie Stone

This tile piece by Martin Roberts (the past occupant of the space) depicts El Paseo’s courtyard. The work was recently acquired by Jay and Mary Linda Strotkamp for their private collection.

The historic property eventually became the site of the Martin Roberts Gallery for over 20 years. When Martin Roberts moved to the center of town, the building’s owners contacted Celeste Gilles, LPAPA’s new vice president and a local real estate agent. The owners had a long relationship with Gilles and wanted to ensure the property continued supporting the arts and artists. 

When Gilles saw the building, she knew it would be an ideal fit for LPAPA. “The space is so charming,” Gilles says. “And the owners gave us a beautiful arrangement. Their generosity, their desire to support the arts and support us, made this possible. They love our history, they love plein air, and they love that long plein air tradition in Laguna Beach.”

LPAPA finds three women

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Executive Assistant and Gallery Manager Bonnie Langner, Executive Director Rosemary Swimm, and Vice President Celeste Gilles

Celebrating its own roots – LPAPA’s founding members

This month, as LPAPA settles into the new space, they honor the five people who made their organization possible. The founders came together in the mid-1990s with the goal of maintaining and fostering this long artistic tradition and educating the next generation about its history and techniques. Here are those five founders and their unique backstories. 

LPAPA finds entryway

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tom Lamb, Mayor Bob Whalen, Cynthia Britain, Celeste Gilles, Mary Linda Strotkamp, Saim Caglayan, Bonnie Langner, Rosemary Swimm, Anthony Salvo, and Jeff Pierce

Saim Caglayan. LPAPA was founded in 1996, when Turkish-born Saim Caglayan invited four of his local artist friends to launch the Laguna Beach chapter of the national organization known as Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA). 

“I was trained as a sculptor,” says Caglayan. “I saw a plein air exhibit from a New Mexican artist and knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Caglayan attended the artist’s workshop in Taos and was hooked. His instructor was the president of PAPA, and Caglayan realized Laguna needed a chapter of its own. He returned to Laguna and immediately began organizing LPAPA. 

“Most of these Laguna painters were members of the California Art Club, which was far away,” says Caglayan. “Laguna is the painting grounds for all these great California painters, so why not have an organization here?”

Though Caglayan moved to Hawaii two decades ago, he’s never left LPAPA and keeps a studio in town. He did, however, bring the plein air painting tradition to Hawaii too. “They call me the Johnny Appleseed of plein air,” he says. “Spreading the love of this art.”

Ken Auster. Laguna native Ken Auster was steeped in the town’s 1960s surf culture for decades. In the mid-1990s, he turned his artistic focus to plein air, uniting his love of the ocean with the artistic immediacy of oil paints (as opposed to the laborious and slow process of his past printmaking endeavors). 

It didn’t take long for Auster’s work in this new medium to be recognized as he began garnering awards at juried exhibits and quickly becoming a collectible artist among major corporations and distinguished patrons. Auster was awarded “Best of Show” in the Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational in both 2000 and 2002 and received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2014. 

“I simply want to achieve the ultimate communication on the canvas,” Auster said. “To say more with less.”

Auster passed away in 2016, but his work lives on in LPAPA’s gallery. There is a collection of his work on display, as well as a compendium book about Auster, his life, and work available at the Gallery.

Jacobus Baas. Born in the Netherlands in the mid-1940s, Jacobus Baas was steeped in the Dutch masters’ artistic tradition. Lush landscapes and moody skies framed the backdrop of his childhood. Trained as both a painter and goldsmith, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Baas began painting on location. On a trip to Santa Fe, Baas discovered plein air. “It was like discovering a new world,” he says. He now divides his time and shows his work in Hawaii, California, and Maine.

“I seek to expand my painting experience searching for scenes with a natural beauty that the viewer might miss in their rush through everyday life,” Baas says. “This could be as simple as the reflections in water of fishing boats tied to a dock, a wave breaking against the rocks, or clouds floating across the sky. The more I paint, the more I see this beauty around me.”

Cynthia Britain. Inspired by natural light and the beauty of Laguna’s cliffs and lush landscapes, Britain’s paintings have been exhibited at the Laguna Art Museum, the Bowers Museum, the Monterey Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and the Pasadena Museum of Art. Her work has received a gold medal from the San Diego Museum of Art, and a silver medal in the Carmel National Plein Air Competition. 

“My intent is to express the intrinsic truth and beauty of my subject,” Britain says. “To reveal the power or presence of spirit in a place or person. I am inspired by what I feel and by what I see…they reflect one another.”

LPAPA finds Britain

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Cynthia Britain’s oil painting “Autumn Glow”

John Cosby. It was John Cosby’s grandmother who, at a young age, introduced him to the possibilities of oil painting. “She would give me the paint, some brushes, and a scrap of canvas and set me off to paint,” says Cosby. “This early experience took the fear out of creating a painting.”

At age 18, Cosby was selected as an advance man for the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, serving under two presidents and traveling the world. While the experience exposed him to a broad range of people, places, and ideas, it was the great works of art that captivated his interest. “They haunted me and helped set the course for my career as a painter,” Cosby says. Traveling the Eastern Seaboard on an old classic sailing sloop that he restored, Cosby wedded his love of nature to his talent for oil painting. Cosby’s work has been shown in the Irvine Museum, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Presidential Museum in Texas, the Haggin Museum, the Bakersfield Museum, the Autry Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. 

“When a person stands in front of one of my paintings, I want that person to feel the wind and the heat I felt when I painted it,” he says. 

LPAPA finds interior

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LPAPA’s gallery opening on Thursday, Aug 19

LPAPA’s founder passed down his own historic home

Before moving to Hawaii, Caglayan lived just up the block from LPAPA’s new gallery space for nearly two decades. He used his Jasmine Street home as the organization’s original headquarters, maintaining his own sculpting studio while hosting artists in residence and holding events. 

Caglayan sold the historic 1917 bungalow to Jay and Mary Linda Strotkamp in 1999. The Strotkamps were avid art collectors and enthusiasts of early 20th century architecture. They soon assumed their new home’s legacy, hosting the annual gathering of plein air painters and collectors, and inviting artists for extended stays during the annual invitational.

“Every year we open up the house – and the guest house – and let people enjoy the art,” says Jay. Most of the invited artists’ paintings hang on the Strotkamp’s walls. Once, two renowned masters met at one of these parties, having known about each other’s work for years. 

LPAPA finds Strotkamp

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Jay and Mary Linda Strotkamp in their North Laguna home

The Strotkamps now own one of Laguna’s largest private plein air collections. They’ve amassed nearly 200 works of art, most of the pieces by contemporary California artists. More important, the couple has formed personal connections with almost every artist in their collection. There’s literally a story behind every work of art. Many of the paintings are signed with long notes and personal insignias to Jay and Mary Linda. Jay then attaches the history of the painting, the artist, and other important information on the back of each canvas. 

“Pretty much all the artists have been to our house,” says Jay. “And we’ve visited their galleries, been to their studios, and some of their homes. It’s such a personal collection.”

 “We didn’t set out to create a collection,” Mary Linda adds. “We just kept gathering works we loved and then suddenly…”

Intent aside, the Strotkamp’s story and their extensive assemblage have been documented by several publications.

In 2008, Mary Linda joined LPAPA’s Board and just recently passed the baton of her vice presidency to Celeste Gilles. In 2015, she and Jay were presented with a “Lifetime Member” award. 

“Our home had been the headquarters of LPAPA,” says Mary Linda. “We live where it all started, and now we’ve come full circle with a collection of our own.”

The next chapter

Standing inside the old El Paseo building for the grand opening ceremony, Caglayan’s eyes scan the space. “It’s perfect,” he says. “This architecture takes you back. It’s a time warp in here.”

LPAPA finds room

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The 1923 space has been restored but retains its original roots, including the fireplace and casement windows

Beyond the perfection of the space are the options afforded by having a dedicated gallery with room for growth. “This is a big opportunity for us,” says Gilles. “It’s opening up a lot of possibilities.” While Gilles isn’t at liberty to share any major announcements yet, her excitement suggests she’s on the brink. “It’s like the old Field of Dreams adage,” she says. “‘If you build it, they will come.’” 

The LPAPA Gallery is located at 414 North Coast Hwy.

Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Founder’s Exhibit will run through Monday, Sept 6. Laguna’s City Hall is currently hosting the LPAPA installation From Dusk to Dawn, going on now through September 30th. For more information, visit www.lpapa.org.


Hollywood celebrities gather on the Festival grounds for the Pageant’s final weekend to celebrate the arts

By MARRIE STONE

Photos by Jeff Rovner

Since moving to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, 3rd Rock from the Sun star French Stewart had always acted in one or two plays each year. Along with pausing his film and television appearances, the pandemic forced Stewart to break his near 40-year streak performing on stage. “It all made me sad,” he says. 

Then some friends planned a COVID-safe backyard wedding and asked Stewart to officiate the ceremony. “Yes!” he told them. His voice deepens, his chest rises, and his face transforms into a superhero’s expression as he recalls the moment. “Yes, I will! I will do your wedding.” Stewart recounts how the event felt like a live theater performance as he stood on the backyard stage. “It was all about me,” he laughs. 

When his eight-year-old daughter asked if she could still visit Santa last year, he told her (with that same superheroic enthusiasm), “Yes you can! I will build Santa’s entire village!” 

The point is, Stewart says, theater finds a way. “Even if it’s self-serving and in your own yard, you’ll find a way to make art.” 

Hollywood celebrities Stewarts

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French and Vanessa Stewart with their daughter, Helene Claire

As the curtain closes this week on the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, Stewart’s story captures the theme that permeated this year’s successful season following a year of unprecedented challenges – art always finds a way.

On Saturday, August 28th, nearly two dozen Hollywood stars came out to celebrate the Festival and Pageant’s final weekend. Actors, musicians, comedians, television and radio show hosts mingled with Festival artists and Pageant volunteers to share a collective moment of near normality. Celebrities brought with them their appreciation for the arts, made more meaningful by recent events. They also brought their stories and experiences from the past 18 months, and the impact of world events on their profession. 

Hollywood celebrities Montegnas

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“Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna poses with his daughter, Gia Mantegna, who stars in “The Middle” and “Dead Girls Detective Agency”

While the mediums and methods between actors, painters, photographers, and performers may differ, they’re all united by their shared passion for human expression. We talked to several celebrities to learn how the arts influence their personal lives, and how art helped them not only endure this past year but – in some cases – discover something new about themselves. 

Art as survival

John Savage – best known for his roles in The Deer Hunter (1978), The Onion Field (1979), Hair (1979), and Salvador (1986) – had a rough boyhood. Born premature in 1949, he contracted polio as a child and spent time in an iron lung. No stranger to hospital beds, Savage taught himself to read and immersed himself in art. “I started reading really, really young,” Savage says. “I was in the hospital a lot, so I also discovered art on my own as a kid. Reading and artwork –those two things brought me to another place. I can look at a painting, Rembrandt or van Gogh, sometimes for hours.” That’s what sustained him, Savage says. Along with a little black and white TV and some subtitled Italian films. 

Hollywood celebrities Savage

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John Savage starred as “Claude” in the hit feature film “Hair”

“The arts are what we are, beyond mere survival,” says Christopher Knight (who played Peter Brady for five seasons in the 1970s series The Brady Bunch). “They are the proof that our culture is going in the right direction. Look to art for proof that things aren’t as bad as they seem.” 

Knight’s mother had been an artist. She attended Parsons School of Design and produced several paintings she kept sequestered in storage. But she stopped painting when her children were born. Knight didn’t become aware of his mother’s artistic endeavors until just before her death, when her collection was discovered. He bought her an easel and his mother started painting again before she died. “I really wish I’d known about the art pieces earlier,” Knight says. “I’m glad other members of the family found them and collected them. But, to me, art is very personal. And yet it’s something that speaks to all of us.” 

Hollywood celebrities Knight

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“The Brady Bunch” star Christopher Knight poses with his wife, Cara Kokenes

The Young and the Restless star Kate Linder also says her mother painted. “All of a sudden, one day, she just stopped,” Linder says. “I don’t know what that was about. She was really very good.” 

Art as personal expression

Of course, it’s impossible to speculate why these women relinquished their passions, but such stories aren’t uncommon. Often, it’s lack of confidence, or reluctance to call oneself an “artist,” or concerns about the marketability of art. Actors understand self-doubt. But they also know how to overcome it. A few of them shared their thoughts.

Dean Butler, best known for his role as Almanzo Wilder on the television series Little House on the Prairie, eventually shifted his career from acting to producing. Having been in the industry for nearly 50 years, he takes a more philosophical approach to art. “It’s wonderful if you can bring your art to a place like this and people see it, they like it, and they want to take it home. But really, art is for the person who’s doing it,” Butler says. “It’s about their process. It’s what they see. It’s what they feel. It’s their expression. If someone happens to like it, that’s wonderful. But human expression is what art is about. It’s a very worthwhile endeavor in whatever form it takes.” Now Butler views fine art through a cinematic lens, studying paintings to understand their use of light.

Hollywood celebrities Butler & Cannon

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Dean Butler (“Little House on the Prairie”) and wife Katherine Cannon (“Beverly Hills, 90210”)

Child star Shane Kinsman (and his twin brother Brent) came to acting young. The boys starred in the 2003 film Cheaper by the Dozen and its 2005 sequel, opposite Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, when they were only four years old. They also spent four years as young Porter and Preston Scavo on television’s Desperate Housewives. They left the industry for many years and are now reentering the profession at age 23. 

“It’s easy to be intimidated by the term ‘art’ and compartmentalize a small group of people as ‘artists’ or ‘creatives.’ Art is an expression of who we are as human spirits,” says Shane. “Everybody’s got an art. Whether it’s martial arts, music, acting, performing, painting, computer coding – you can find art in whatever you find interesting. That’s the misconception about the arts – they aren’t exclusive. Art is the most inclusive and vulnerable act you can be involved in because it’s about authenticity and self-expression.”

“It’s interesting coming back to this environment with young adult minds and understanding the art and craft of acting with a new perspective,” adds Brent. “To see my past through an artistic lens. That’s not how I viewed myself then. I realize now, directly or indirectly, we all do things in an effort to connect. We’re all 

looking for grounds to relate to each other. That’s art.” 

Hollywood celebrities Kinsman

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“Cheaper by the Dozen” stars Brent and Shane Kinsman

Photographer Matthew Rolston’s exhibit Art People, currently on display at the Laguna Art Museum, depicts several of the 2016 Pageant of the Masters’ cast members. In the opening remarks to Saturday’s Celebrity Night Pageant, Rolston addressed the audience in a pre-recorded video. His comments echoed these celebrities’ sentiments. “Here’s to art people,” he said. “Not just the art people of the Pageant. But all of us. We’re all art people. Because art is people.”

Hollywood celebrities Rolston

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This year’s Pageant of the Masters incorporated famed Hollywood photographer Matthew Rolston’s pieces from his collection “Art People” 

Art as self-discovery

Several celebrities say they used some of their time off last year to reconnect with lost artistic passions or discover new ones. Tony Guerrero, who co-hosted the event alongside Dave Foley, says he wanted to be a cartoonist as a kid. Not surprising, when asked about his artistic inspirations, Guerrero named the famed Snoopy cartoonist Charles Schultz. “Then I fell in love with music and pursued that,” he says. “But this last year, sitting at home not making music, I rediscovered my love of drawing and I’ve been doing quite a few illustrations. I love it. I even did some this morning.” 

Comedian Foley, co-founder of the comedy group “The Kids in the Hall” and NewsRadio star, chimed in behind him. “I liked being locked at home so I could enjoy the arts without having to interact with artists.” 

Hollywood celebrities Guerrero & Foley

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Pageant of the Masters’ Hosts Tony Guerrero and Dave Foley

Wesley Jonathan, who’s currently starring in his second season as Carson on the Netflix series Monogamy, returned to one of his first passions last year –dance. “You sit in the house and your mind starts to wander,” he says. “You think, I’m not going to auditions, I’m not in castings. So, what am I going to do? Am I going to write? Am I going to create in that way? But I’m a dancer. I’ve been a dancer since I was a kid. And I have a little girl now, so my outlet was dancing. We have lots of music in the house. I taught my daughter some choreography. Now she’s a big fan of Michael Jackson, so we ran around the house singing. But it’s been tough. The creative suppression was tough. It felt like a long form of writer’s block. I hope we’re coming out of it, but it’s been hard.” Thank God for music and dancing, he says.

Hollywood celebrities Jonathans

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Wesley Jonathan and wife Tamara Mitchell

Caryn Richman, who starred for two seasons as the title character on the TV series The New Gidget and performs widely on stage, discovered creativity she didn’t know she possessed during the pandemic. “Our neighborhood would get together and do art projects. None of this was fine art. It wasn’t going to make us famous. But we would sit outside – COVID-safe – and just create,” she says. “It let us express some of what we were going through during this strange and isolated time. At a bigger level, it was about expression and representation of the human spirit.”

Hollywood celebrities Richman

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Caryn Richman, star of “The New Gidget”

Art bridges divisions

In this politically and culturally divisive moment, art also grants us common ground. It is the landscape where we can set aside our differences, transcend language barriers, cross geographical boundaries, and simply marvel at our innate creativity. 

The Kinsman twins shared an experience they had last week that illustrated this point, up close and personal. They attended a five-day master acting class in Los Angeles that included participants from 15 different countries. “It was life changing for many reasons,” says Brent. “I met people who I didn’t relate to because they spoke a different language, they were from a different place, or I didn’t connect with them politically. There were so many differences. But through the scope of art, we found plenty of ways to relate. I was able to access their humanity. When you find that type of relationship with somebody, and you’re willing to get vulnerable to get there – and they are as well – it transcends all those petty little differences.”

Gregory Harrison, known for his roles in Trapper John, M.D., North Shore, and Falcon Crest, has been in the business since the 1970s. “The arts are such a crucial part of not just American society, but our international society. Particularly during this COVID hibernation we’ve all been through,” he says. “If we didn’t have the arts to delve into and refresh our souls when we were stuck in our little bubbles, we would have all gone a lot nuttier than we did. And, let’s face it, we went pretty nutty.” 

Hollywood celebrities Harrison

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“Trapper John, M.D.” star Gregory Harrison

David Perry, president of the FOA Board of Directors, was instrumental in making this summer’s show happen. Hyper-aware of the Festival and Pageant’s importance to our town, he says, “In these difficult times, art forms the basis for bringing the community together. There’s a common bond around the arts that applies to everyone regardless of their background, their political beliefs, or their economic situation. The Festival does a fine job of bringing those diverse backgrounds together.”

Hollywood celebrities Perry

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Festival of the Arts President David Perry with his wife, Terry

Art finds a way

From 1976 to 1978, Richman performed in the Broadway production of Grease. During the pandemic, the cast reconnected on Zoom, meeting monthly to do play readings, discuss artistic issues, and talk about what they could do to keep the arts alive for themselves. “We brought together a group of actors who were together so many years ago, and now we get to experience each other anew and talk about art,” Richman says. “It’s been an important time to be inspired.”

Several other red-carpet celebrities shared that same sentiment. “Who would we be without art in our world?” says Katherine Cannon, who co-starred as Felice Martin in Beverly Hills, 90210 for eight seasons. “Especially now. It’s sustaining. Whether it’s painting, writing, reading, or enjoying art, it’s the one thing you can do by yourself, mask off, and be fulfilled.” 

In addition to Vanessa Stewart’s many acting, writing, and production credits, she’s also the artistic director of Sacred Fools Theatre Company in Los Angeles. “I’ve been so inspired by the many people who continued putting their stuff out there online. They still did theater. They remained involved. They found ways to create,” she says.

French finishes his wife’s thought. “You saw people struggling to make something. You watched them push forward. I found that very touching,” he says. 

“What else can you do?” Vanessa adds.

“Right,” French says. “What else can you do?”

Hollywood celebrities Band

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Grammy-winning jazz musician Poncho Sanchez and his Latin jazz band entertained the crowd


Hot September Nights – Dancing Under the Stars  features world-renown dancers on September 26

 The Laguna Dance Festival makes a vibrant return to the Laguna Beach performing arts scene with their fall gala, Hot September Nights – Dancing Under the Stars on Sunday, Sept. 26, 5 p.m., at Seven Degrees in Laguna.   

“Hosting our gala, in-person, in Laguna Beach is a wonderful feeling,” said Founder and Artistic Director of Laguna Dance Festival Jodie Gates. “We’ve been working with the directors, dancers, and choreographers to ensure a safe and joyous celebration of dance, and to provide a unique, moving and entertaining presentation. We can’t wait to share their artistry once again with the Laguna Beach community.”

Hot September Nights will feature cocktails, sangria, Spanish tapas, and dance performances throughout the evening including: 

hot september nights Rodriguez

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Courtesy of LB Dance Festival

Irene Rodriguez

Acclaimed Cuban Flamenco choreographer, dancer, and educator Irene Rodriguez brings her career of more than 20- years of experience in Spanish and Flamenco dance styles to the event attendees. By fusing her vocabulary of multiple dance forms and native rhythms with her knowledge of the dramatic arts, Rodriguez has evolved Flamenco dance by creating her own unique approach to the traditional movement style. 

With her work, she has turned Spanish dance into something classic and wonderful.” Rodriguez is thrilled to take the stage for her first live performance with Laguna Dance Festival, especially after an intense year of lockdowns and isolation, which brutally affected performing artists. However, throughout the pandemic, Laguna Dance Festival has been committed to supporting artists. Rodriguez says, “Now I have this excellent opportunity to perform once again.” 

Entity Contemporary Dance, founded by choreographers Will Johnson, Marissa Osato, and Elm Pizarro, the company’s intent is to forge connections between commercial and concert dance communities in Los Angeles. By developing a repertory that interweaves modern, jazz, and hip hop dance techniques, the company explores the nuances of human emotionality and connectivity. 

hot september nights entity

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Photo by Mike Esperanza

Entity Contemporary Dance

The group has created four evening-length works and has taught workshops across the US, Mexico, Asia, and Australia.  As Entity prepares for their performance at Hot September Nights, Johnson and Osato reflect on their relationship with Laguna Dance Festival. “Laguna Dance Festival has been a part of Entity Contemporary Dance since our inception. We are so grateful and excited to continuously have a home at LDF to showcase our work.” 

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, founded by Master Choreographer Dwight Rhoden and the legendary Desmond Richardson, Complexions is an award-winning dance company that has performed on 5-continents, 20-countries, to over 20 million television viewers and to well over 300,000 people in live audiences. Complexions commits themselves to reinventing dance through a groundbreaking mix of methods, styles, and cultures. 

hot september nights complexions

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Photo by Katie Mollison

Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray of Complexions Contemporary Ballet

“Together, Rhoden and Richardson have created in Complexions an institution that embodies its historical moment, a sanctuary where those passionate about dance can celebrate its past while simultaneously building its future. In the 27 years since its inception, the company has born witness to a world that is becoming more fluid, more changeable, and more culturally interconnected than ever before –in other words, a world that is becoming more and more like Complexions itself.” Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray of Complexions are so excited to teach dance classes with the organization on the 25th and perform “Gather Round” on the 26th. “Gather Round” is a duet choreographed by Dwight Rhoden to the music of Stray Cat’s Lee Rocker, who will also be in attendance at the gala. 

Since 2005 the award-winning Laguna Dance Festival, based in Laguna Beach California, has presented world-class dance performances in theaters, on film, and public spaces, reaching thousands annually, and exposing new audiences to professional concert dance.  Laguna Dance Festival is a nonprofit organization deeply dedicated to the arts and community. The organization is committed to collaboration, dance presentation, and education through an artistic lens that strategizes innovative ways to commission artists, educate young dancers and unite people of all ages and cultures.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, this will be a small and intimate event with a maximum of 125 attendees. The gathering is outdoors, and COVID-19 vaccination is required. Tickets are $350 each and a few select sponsorship packages are still available for purchase. The event will not feature a traditional auction but rather a chance to experience and support the artistry that Laguna Dance Festival brings to Laguna Beach. Hot September Nights is being held at Seven Degrees, which is located at 891 Laguna Canyon Rd. 

For questions and more details about the Hot September Nights event and the Laguna Dance Festival, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (949) 715-5578. 

For more information, go to: https://lagunadancefestival.org/.


Suzie’s ARTiculation

Sawdust sizzles at 52, gets better with age

By SUZIE HARRISON

Sawdust Art Festival seems to get better with age. If Tuesday’s Preview Night is any indication, a barometer of this summer’s show, well, it’s my fave to date!

While checking out all the spectacular new art, the live music always adds to the cool vibe. Truly there are so many incredible artists, so little time…

To kick off my Sawdust ARTiculation, I interviewed two freshmen and two seasoned artists to get their perspective on the opening, preparation, their booth and their work.

Lisa Mansour, painting, first-year exhibitor

“I have wanted to be in the Sawdust for a very long time. Every summer I would bump into Tom Klingenmeier on the grounds and he would say “are you applying for next year?” Lisa Mansour said. 

Fast forward to this year her “Yes, I think so!” reply became definitive.

“I decided to take a leap of faith and submit my application last November for the 2018 Summer Festival,” Mansour said. “My preparations began from that point on.” 

Graduating last December from LCAD’s Post-Baccalaureate program, Mansour said she’s building on a series of paintings that she completed while studying at LCAD. 

“I tried to paint everyday, and finish at least one painting a week,” Mansour said. “Right now I have about 30 pieces of original art hanging in my booth, and about a dozen in the wings.” 

The charming tagline on her booth sign says “Donuts, Dress Forms, Other Delights.” 

“I love exploring the playful side of fine art and finding a balance between classic technique and exuberant expression,” Mansour said.

Sawdust Sizzles Mansour

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Photo by Scott Brashier 

Recent LCAD grad Lisa Mansour, excited to finally say yes to exhibit at the Sawdust, pictured joyfully with her husband John on opening night

Regarding her booth, “I chose my booth because it was on a shady corner on one of the main paths of the Sawdust, the one that leads to the glass blowing booth.”

She had it built with a triangle wall at the open corner and angled the wall so that when people are entering the Sawdust and walking down the path, they can readily see her work. 

“The great thing about the Sawdust is we can paint in our booths – in fact six hours a week of demo time is required of Sawdust artists,” Mansour said. “I plan on painting all summer long.”

Leading up to opening night, Mansour admits she was a little stressed out, but it turned out well. 

“My longtime dream to be in the Sawdust had arrived and I had art on the walls and donuts as my snack,” said Mansour. “So many friends and well-wishers were there – really the whole community of Laguna Beach – and it was such a warm and wonderful evening. It flew by.”

Catherine Reade, jewelry, 18-year exhibitor

Preparing for the Sawdust is not so literal – she does shows all spring, as well as the winter shows including Winter Fantasy. While she is preparing for the other shows she’s also preparing for the Sawdust summer show, with the end of May to the end of June, of course, the big push.

“I’m also making a lot of custom work, most people don’t buy ready to wear, they want something custom,” Reade said. “They want something that’s different, within my style more personalized to them, more intimate detail.” 

Sawdust Sizzles crowds

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Artist Catherine Reade loves the energy and the crowds, like on opening night

As for her booth, she’s coveted the same spot 14 of her 18 years in the show.

“The importance is to always have a corner booth and have my counter space, so people can walk up and have room to look at my work and spread out and talk to me,” Reade said. “My whole interest is to educate clients and prospective clients about what the materials are, how I’ve created this, what goes into it. I want them to walk away with a really positive feeling about my work.”

Because she is a fabricator she creates every piece from start to finish.

“Nothing is prefabricated. I make all my links, all my settings, I have to cast wax…so it’s all individually made, everything is a one-of-a kind piece,” Reade said.

Her booth is sort of minimalist. Reade said she just wants it to be clean and industrial like her jewelry.

“I love that space because it’s very energetic. I have all the energy from Studio One, across from me, with all these children and adults creating all these art projects,” Reade said.

“It’s very energized in that neighborhood. I love the energy, excitement and openness.”

Lisa Rainey, oil painting and painting, first-year exhibitor

“I started preparing last year before I submitted my artwork for review. I knew that I wanted to be in the show this year building a body of work the past few years since I moved back here from Chicago in 2015,” Rainey said. “There is a lot that goes into it. I always want to grow and I want my work to be authentic to who I am every moment I create.” 

Currently she has about 35 pieces and will be working in her booth all summer in oils and mixed media to create new work. 

“I choose the pieces that speak to me and make me feel something when I look at them,” Rainey said. “I constantly bring work home from my studio so that I can live with them for a while to see how they speak to me.”

She added, “Meditating on my subjects, I’ve learned more and more about color and finding techniques that were new and different.”

Sawdust Sizzles Rainey

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Lisa Rainey can’t wait to share her work as a new exhibitor at the Sawdust

Her large paintings, created within this last year, sparked something new in her. Rainey calls them dream-scapes.

“I mainly have worked in a style that I call impressionistic realism. I work from life so that I can really see the nuances of color and light in flowers and nature,” Rainey said. “I also have recently gone back to working in watercolors, I don’t want people to only see a pretty still life, I paint to tell a story.”

For her booth, Rainey wanted to have a light roof so the sun would shine through. 

“I wanted this space to be light and bright, a nice backdrop for the color in my work and choosing colors to help the work to stand out,” Rainey said.

“Opening night, I was nervous knowing how many people come to preview night, but once it got going I was feeling comfortable and having a great time,” Rainey said. “My friends came to support me, see my booth and my artwork. It was truly a celebration.”

Doug Miller, painting and photography, 48-year exhibitor

“This is my 48th summer at Sawdust – I got out of the Navy in 1971 and got a booth – I bought my booth space from a girl who was moving to San Francisco for $70, which was what she paid,” Miller said. “That was in the early Sawdust days before rules were adopted that would not allow such a transaction to take place.”

He’s been at the same location for 21 years, perfect to be near the music since Miller plays violin and with various musicians during the show. 

“I paint every day – I have painted every day without missing a day for 24 years. I number my paintings and record them in a book,” Miller said. 

His self-imposed rule is to at least begin a painting every day. 

A friend suggested that he record his pieces in a daily journal, that was the impetus he wanted to see how many days he could go in a row…24 years.

Sawdust Sizzles Miller

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Doug Miller is a staple at the Sawdust always wanting to make others smile

“I’m up past 17,500 paintings. There are days I have painted more than one. in fact, I painted an average of two pieces per day most of the time,” Miller said.

He paints about 400 to 1,000 acrylic paintings per year, mostly the small canvasses up to 6 x 8 inches. “I sell an average of about 500 pieces per year. My best year was 2008 when I sold 651 pieces, mostly beaches,” Miller explained.

Larger pieces go on the walls. “I finished painting of Crystal Cove in one evening, two days before the Opening party. A big quick piece that is a real attention-getter,” Miller said. “Opening night party, I sold five pieces and saw so many Laguna friends – several will come back and purchase during the show. They always do.”

Here’s the skinny on locals’ nights – interestingly, 15 places not Laguna Beach, such as Dana Point, the other Lagunas, and the surrounding cities, get in free on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, from 5 to 10 p.m., whereas Laguna locals only get in free Mondays, Thursdays, also after 5 p.m., and the First Friday of the month all day.

To check out Sawdust central, including the live entertainment schedule, art classes and workshops, theme days, special events and more, visit https://sawdustartfestival.org. Sawdust Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Road. For information, call 494-3030.

Until next time…so much Sawdust art, entertainment, socializing, and so little time!


Snow and Santa

Sawdust Winter Fantasy

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Snow and arriving

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Santa arrives at 10:30 a.m. to waiting crowd

Snow and snowfalling

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Yes, it does snow in Laguna

Snow and Skipper

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Naughty or nice, Skipper’s been nice!

Santa’s hours: Available for photo ops in Santa’s cottage 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 

2 to 5 p.m. all days of the show. Remaining days of Winter Fantasy: December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Laguna Art-A-Fair’s summer Sip & Pour and other daily workshops unlock both the inner-artist and the inner-child

By MARRIE STONE

“If you made it through kindergarten, you can do this,” says acrylic pour instructor Emilee Reed. Laguna Art-A-Fair’s last scheduled Sip & Pour of the season happens this Friday evening, July 30th, at 4:15 p.m. Participants will be given two canvases and a drink voucher for a glass of wine. Aprons are provided and casual clothing is encouraged because things are about to get messy…and fun. 

Laguna Art A Fair workshop group

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Photo by Barbara Palmer Davis

Instructor Emilee Reed guides participants Pennilee Fallow, Kelli Amador, Mark Amador, Geri Medway, Richard Jenkins, and Lorna Jenkins at a July Sip & Pour event

Using metal chains, inflated balloons, egg cartons, ice cube trays, bubble wrap, and anything else Reed can conjure – and her imagination is active! – participants will produce two different acrylic pours. Swipe, smash, pull, or pour the paint, and every creation will look unique. 

“I get most of my tools at the hardware store,” says Reed. “I see something and think, ‘What if I tried that?’” Reed even adds silicone to the paint to create bubbles in the image which burst when the paint is spread. “It almost paints itself,” says Reed. “There’s no limit to the things you can do.” The effects are spectacular.

Laguna Art A Fair workshop pour

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Photo by Emilee Reed

An example of one of the pieces produced in the acrylic pour workshop

Originally a watercolor artist whose work is on display in local galleries and the Art-A-Fair, Reed discovered acrylic pours more recently. “Pour painting allows me to loosen up in a way much different than my watercolor style,” she says. “Paint flow and canvas manipulation combine to create endless unique and exciting design possibilities.” 

Although Friday evening’s event is the last scheduled Sip & Pour this season, additional August dates may be announced depending on participation and interest. 

Laguna Art A Fair workshop Emilee

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Photo by Barbara Palmer David

Instructor Emilee Reed begins her acrylic pour

For those more attracted to pouring paint than sipping wine, acrylic pour workshops are offered every Thursday and Friday afternoon on the Art-A-Fair grounds. Reed teaches the Friday class through August 27, introducing a different pour technique each week, ensuring no two classes will be the same. Barbara Palmer-Davis teaches on Thursday afternoons through September 2. Each class is limited to six participants, so students are guaranteed personal attention. “Look forward to controlling the uncontrollable and celebrating the unexpected,” Palmer-Davis says. 

Laguna Art A Fair workshop Gayle

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Photo by Emilee Reed

Participant Gayle Kerfoot demonstrates one of the techniques used in the acrylic pour

Daily summer workshops

In addition to the Friday night Sip & Pour and weekly acrylic pour classes, the Laguna Art-A-Fair offers daily artist workshops over a wide variety of mediums. Courses cover jewelry making and design, an old masters’ style oil painting class, printmaking, watercolor, basketry, and more.

“These workshops are the best kept secret of the festivals,” says veteran workshop participant Chalyn Newman. “Not enough people know about them. It’s an amazing opportunity to create pieces with people who make art their life’s work.” 

Newman has been taking Art-A-Fair summer workshops for years. Her parents took classes, and now Newman attends several different sessions with her 16-year-old daughter. “They’re good for all ages,” she says. “Three generations of my family have done these workshops.”

Laguna Art A Fair workshop jewelry

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Instructor Patrick Sullivan (shown with participants Pamela George and Julianne Zimmer) teaches a jewelry workshop on Sunday mornings

Class sizes are limited to four or six students to ensure personalized attention. Each session runs for four hours, either mornings or afternoons, and generally sell out fast. 

Here are just a few of their workshop offerings.

Beginning Watercolor with Geri Medway

Geri Medway’s watercolor class is an ideal choice for beginners. The workshop explores different watercolor papers and their qualities, as well as color theory, pigment types, transparency, and glazing.

“This is a total beginner watercolor class,” says Medway. “People need that solid foundation. We’ll cover basic washes and fundamental techniques about how much paint is on the brush versus the paper.”

Although each course is intended to be self-contained, and every week is roughly the same instruction, there are a few students who return. “I tell them not to expect anything new,” Medway laughs. But they enjoy practicing on their own.

“After lunch, students apply what they learn. They use a maple leaf and a philodendron leaf, and they practice the principles.”

A signature member of the National Watercolor Society and Watercolor West, Medway’s work has been showcased in several Walter Foster publications, and is included in Art of the American West. Medway is an experienced instructor, having taught workshops in France, Yosemite National Park, and throughout southern California. She’s a longtime exhibitor who has garnered several awards and accolades for her paintings.

Laguna Art A Fair workshop Geri

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Watercolor artist Geri Medway showcasing her pieces in Booth A22 at Laguna’s Art-A-Fair

“When I’m working alongside the students and make a mistake, I’ll talk it out loud so they can learn from my process,” Medway says. “I’ve got no ego involved. We’re all learning.”

Emilee Reed, a watercolor profession in her own right, says, “Even I’m tempted to take Medway’s workshop. I know she can teach me some things.” 

Classes are held every Tuesday morning through August 31. 

Oil & Metal Leaf with Shaney Watters

Every artist can bring home the gold this Olympic season in Shaney Watters’ metal leaf workshop. Another ideal class for beginners, participants will learn how to work with metal leaf, and how to combine different mediums on paper. 

Each workshop is self-contained, meaning students will leave with a painting they could hang on their walls. “So far, one woman has come twice,” Watters says. “The first time she came, she didn’t know what to expect. When she came back, she had a full plan, and I was able to help her execute it. That was a lot of fun!”

Although Watters is a nature lover and gravitates towards wildlife in her art, participants can select their own subject matter. Watters provides a stack of magazines for inspiration. Or students can search their phones or bring their own images if they wish. “I’m teaching a technique,” says Watters. “I don’t have pre-planned images and require we’re absolutely doing these images today.”

Laguna Art A Fair workshop demo booth 1

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Laguna Art-A-Fair’s Demo Booth showcases the various pieces produced in the workshops. The gold leaf flamingo painting in the foreground is an example of Shaney Watters’ work, which is on display at Booth D27 through September.

Of course, the technique has been modified for time. In her own work, Watters takes days to paint the layers and allow the leaf to dry. In a four-hour workshop, participants will lay down the image separate from the gold leaf and paint around the oil. “It’s a very similar effect,” says Watters. And saves a lot of time.

Using solvent-free oil paints and other nontoxic materials, Watters remains conscious of people’s hesitations. “Some people shy away from oil painting because of the mediums and the chemicals,” says Watters. “I use solvent-free mediums. I try to be conscious of that in my own painting practice and pass that on in my workshops.” 

Watters has extensive experience in both fine art and instruction. She also brings a laid back, humorous, and calm demeanor to her courses. “My goal is for people to be engaged in some element of a new process and enjoy their time,” she says. “I see myself as an assistant. It’s not about copying what I do. It’s about me facilitating your process. Nothing beats the environment of creating within such a creative place. It’s just been amazing.”

Classes are held every Saturday morning through August 28 and are limited to four students.

Printmaking with Mo McGee

Not every printmaker requires a press. Discover the basic techniques of printmaking without the cost of expensive and bulky equipment with instructor Mo McGee. Students will learn how to cut linoleum and how to backwards plan their designs by thinking in reverse. 

McGee will teach various inking processes, how to use the tools and inks, and how to create gorgeous prints without a press. Subject matter will include monoprint-making, linoleum, and etching. 

“I enjoy randomness and trying new simple things,” says McGee. “As an instructor, I hope to help students find not only their creative voice but also their artistic confidence.” 

McGee holds both a BFA and an MFA and has worked with formal illustrations as well as printmaking. She can’t wait to share her enthusiasms with her students. 

Classes will take place on Friday, Aug 27 and Friday, Sept 3. 

Laguna Art A Fair workshop demo booth 2

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Photo by Marrie Stone

The art workshop demo booth showcases examples of jewelry, old masters’ style oil paintings, printmaking, watercolor, and collage

Collage with Agnes Copeland

Agnes Copeland’s collage workshops are quick to fill, and it’s easy to see why. The enthusiasm of her students is palpable. Participants learn the different materials and tools used in collage, and work with a wide variety of colorfully patterned papers. 

“I don’t think we can underestimate the value and benefit of the different paper choices Agnes provides,” says one participant. “The interesting textures and colors lead to creativity and wanting to try different things.” 

Using texture techniques and patterns to layer their collages, students also learn how to construct a painting through composition and design.

“Agnes is very creative and makes it all easy,” says workshop participant Fran Greenbaum.

“No experience is required,” says Chalyn Newman. “All the materials are there for you, so it’s a fun and relaxed environment, and a great way to feel like you can be an artist with someone there to guide you.” 

Copeland’s workshop is different each week, so students can sign up for successive weeks and expect to try something new. One week they collaged with koi fish, another with palm trees and buildings. “People keep repeating, so I have to work my brain to think of something new,” Copeland says. “We’re going to do elephants at the circus next time. That’s going to be a real challenge.”

Copeland has been teaching collage classes for eight years, though has done other workshops at Art-A-Fair since 1990. 

“We provide everything from beginning to end,” says Copeland. “Just come with an imagination.”

Classes are held on Wednesday mornings through September 1. 

Laguna Art-A-Fair is located at 777 Laguna Canyon Rd.

More information on these and other artist workshops can be found on the Laguna Art-A-Fair website (www.art-a-fair.com/workshops) or by calling (949) 494-4514.


Ukulele master Andrew Molina holds workshop and concert on September 23 

The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) is proud to present new, world-class acts at its downtown location on the Forest Avenue Promenade. Proceeds will benefit the LBCAC. 

“Although our doors reopened just recently, we are already beginning to realize our vision of creating an accessible and affordable epicenter for entertaining, thought-provoking art,” said Rick Conkey, Founder of the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center. “I’m so excited for our audience to enjoy these two world-class artists.” 

Ukulele master Andrew

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Submitted photo

Andrew Molina to host ukulele workshop and concert on September 23 

On Thursday, Sept 23 from 6-9 p.m., Andrew Molina will host a ukulele workshop and concert. Maui native Andrew Molina is one of the most talented ukulele virtuosos touring the world today. His love and passion for the ukulele truly shows in his song composition and performance. 

Audience members, regardless of skill level, can bring a uke and learn through the master’s exclusive workshop and then stay to be moved and amazed by Andrew in concert later the same evening. The Four Stringerz, Laguna’s very own ukulele quartet, will open the night. 

Tickets for the Ukulele Workshop are $15, the Andrew Molina Concert is $25, and both can be purchased for $30. 

Ukulele master Pato

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Submitted photo

Grammy-nominated reggae legend Pato Banton to perform on September 25 

On Saturday, Sept 25 from 8-10 p.m., Grammy-nominated reggae legend Pato Banton and the Now Generation will perform. This intimate Pato Banton event is a must-see, exclusive experience not to be forgotten. Pato Banton is a Grammy-nominated reggae legend that has recorded and toured the world with The English Beat, Steel Pulse, UB40, and Sting, just to name a few. A British-born reggae singer, known for his uplifting messages, Pato Banton is known around the world for hits like “Go Pato,” “Never Give In,” and “Stay Positive.” With his signature charismatic energy, Pato and his killer band deliver an uplifting show that features upbeat sounds mixed with conscious lyrics. 

VIP tickets can be purchased for $50 and General Admission tickets can be purchased for $30. 

Throughout the ages, civilizations have been judged by their artistic and creative expressions. The LBCAC is harnessing the power of the arts for the benefit of the community, creating artivists and growing the hearts and minds of our youth. This epicenter of art is located along the Forest Avenue Promenade in Laguna Beach, the heart of Southern California’s premier art colony. The LBCAC supports the health and wellness of its audience members, performers, crew, and house staff. So, proof of vaccination or a mask will be required. 

For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit www.lbculturalartscenter.org.


“Art in Public Places” – Trio by Jorg Dubin

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbutf

This is the 28th 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.

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. 

art in closeup trio

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Closeup of one of the three sculptures – “Trio” at Heisler Park

Trio by Laguna Beach artist Jorg Dubin was installed at the north end of Heisler Park in 2000. Embossed with images of pre-historic marine wildlife, the three seating areas are located on a beautiful site overlooking Divers Cove and it provides a place for visitors to enjoy the spectacular views.

Trio was created through a donation by Triad Financial Corporation.

Dubin has had a four-decade-plus career as a working painter, sculptor, ceramist and a production designer. Dubin studied painting at the Art Institute of Southern California with L.A. based painter, Stephen Douglas, and sculpture and design with Kris Cox and Richard White. 

art in benches ocean

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“Trio” overlooks Divers Cove 

Dubin is currently a mentor and adviser in the MFA program at the Laguna College of Art and Design, where he formerly taught advanced figure painting. He has designed and fabricated more than 10 public art works and has worked as an art director and production designer on seven films for O entertainment. He currently maintains a painting and sculpture studio in Laguna.

One of his most well-known public installations is the September 11 commemoration sculpture Semper Memento (Always Remember) at Monument Point in Heisler Park.

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.


Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre opens classic tale of A Little Princess on May 5 at Laguna Playhouse

The award-winning Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre opens A Little Princess on Saturday, May 5 on the Moulton Stage at The Laguna Playhouse. Adapted by June Walker Rodgers, from the story Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess tells the story of young Sara Crewe, privileged daughter of a wealthy diamond merchant. 

All the other girls at Miss Minchin’s school treat Sara as if she truly were a princess. But when Captain Crewe’s fortune is sadly lost, Sara’s luck changes. Suddenly she is treated no better than a scullery maid. Her own fierce determination to maintain her dignity and remain a princess on the inside has intrigued and delighted readers for over a hundred years.

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Little Princess runs from Saturday, May 5, through Sunday, May 13

Actors include; Bridget Phillips as Sara Crewe, Claire Day as Miss Minchin, Cassidy Morgan as Becky, Erin Sawyer as Amelia, Grace Hahn as Ermengarde, Bethany Klause as Lavinia, Lyndsey Grace Stradwick as Jessie, Sienna Voisin as Lottie, Abigail Williams as Anne, Elisa Rodriguez as Marie and Mrs. Perrens, Ella Thimons as Janet, Charlie Grace Goubran as Nora, Carson Kubelun as Guy Lawrence, and Chloe Lawson, Fiona McCue, Sophia Pachl and Raquel Temesvary as School Girls. Terry Christopher will perform as Captain Crewe and Mr. Carrisford, Charles McClung as Mr. Barrows and Mr. Michaels, and Aaron McGee as Monsieur Thibault and Ram Dass. 

A Little Princess is directed by Kelly Herman with costumes by Kaitlyn Kaufman, set by Jim Prodger, lights by Glenn Powell, and sound by Mike Ritchey, and includes a cast of 20.

Performances will be: Saturday, May 5 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, May 6 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m.; Friday, May 11 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m.  

Tickets are $20 for Adults and $10 for youth and can be purchased by calling (949) 497-2787 x1, or going online to www.lagunaplayhouse.com.


Winners of The Artists Fund’s Art-To-Go Best-in-Show announced

The Artists Fund at Festival of Arts presented the Art-To-Go Best-in-Show awards to eight artists recently. The fundraising sale, themed “From Local – to Global,” features originals donated by Festival exhibitors to support the hardship fund for artists. Art-To-Go is available daily through August 29th on the Festival grounds.

Watercolorist David Milton won Best-in-Theme for his painting of the Bun Boy Diner sign titled Highway 15 Classic

Winners of Susan Jarecky

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Photo by Rick Graves

Susan Jarecky, First Place, “It’s why we love Laguna,” oil

The awards juror was Julie Perlin Lee, Executive Director of Laguna Art Museum. She was moved by the artists-helping-artists mission of The Artists Fund, and Art-To-Go. “I’m impressed with the compassion these artists have for each other, and I hope their example of empathy will spread,” she stated. “The diversity of this collection shows the great variety of talented artists we have in Orange County,” she added.

Lee’s picks included Susan Jarecky – first place for her painting of Hotel Laguna, Mariko Ishii – second place, and Tom Lamb – third place. Honorable mentions went to Antje Campbell, Natalie Duarte, and Yuri Kuznetsov. The People’s Choice Award, voted on by Festival patrons, went to scratchboard illustrator Maaria Kader. The Artists Fund President Wendy Wirth handed certificates and gifts to winners, and Christina Georgantas, Festival of Arts Exhibits Director, congratulated the winners.

Winners of group

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Photo by Rick Graves 

(L-R) Wendy Wirth, Antje Campbell, Susan Jarecky, Julie Perlin Lee, Mariko Ishii, Tom Lamb, Maaria Kader, Christine Georgantas, Elena Kuznetsov (for Yuri), Natalie Duarte, and David Milton

All Art-To-Go buyers qualify to win a two-night stay at The Tides Inn. To view the collection online, visit www.theartistsfund-foa.org or call (949) 612-1949. 

For additional information, visit www.foapom.com

Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Live music is in full swing this September 

By MARRIE STONE

Though Laguna’s summer art festivals may be winding down this weekend, live music will still play strong this fall. Whether you’re a classical connoisseur, a jazz enthusiast, a bluegrass hound, or you swoon over the stylings of local legend Jason Feddy, there’s a venue and an artist for every taste. The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) and Laguna Beach Live! are both committed to bringing diverse sounds and high-quality artists to a variety of stages around our town. But it’s the intimacy of the three venues that make these four experiences especially unique. 

The Salty Suites deliver the salt – and the sweet – to the LBCAC 

There’s a reason The Salty Suites have become beloved favorites around our town. The trio crosses musical boundaries – as comfortable playing folk and bluegrass as they are jazz and pop ballads. Plus, their passion for music and their wry sense of humor are irresistible. Any band who claims their lyrics are inspired by cat memes and fortune cookies aren’t to be missed.

Chelsea Williams (vocals and guitar), Scott Gates (vocals and mandolin), and Chuck Hailes (bass and vocals) make up this acoustic trio. They play both covers and original compositions, including Americana, swing, country, and bluegrass. 

“Through their infectious love of American music – both standards and their own – The Salty Suites are loved wherever they go,” says Rick Conkey, director of the LBCAC. “But because of our town’s unique appreciation for incredible talent, and our fun-loving approach, they’ve made Laguna their artistic home.” 

To give you a small taste of their brilliant wit, the band will tell you their first show was held in a high-security prison for the criminally insane, and their music “is influenced by small woodland creatures and traveling encyclopedia salesmen.” Need you know more?

“The LBCAC exists to showcase these types of artists,” says Conkey. “Over the last three years, we’ve worked hard to create a listening room which expands the connection between ‘artist’ and ‘audience,’ amplifying the experience to an entirely new level.”

LBCAC’s venue is, indeed, an ideal setting. The space is intimate enough that audience members blend into the event. The music feels more like an experience than a performance.

If you miss them Saturday night, you can catch The Salty Suites performing at the Sawdust Festival’s grand finale at both 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept 5. 

Live Music SS

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Submitted photo

The Salty Suites (Chelsea Williams, Scott Gates, and Chuck Hailes)

When: Saturday, Sept 4, 8-10 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) 

Where: LBCAC, 235 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach 

Tickets: $50 (VIP), $30 (General). To purchase tickets, click here.

Jason Feddy brings Songs from the Heart and Other Organs to the LBCAC

The LBCAC is keeping their stage open and microphones hot all weekend. Jason Feddy fans – and wannabe fans – have a chance to see their local legend up close and personal at the Center on Sunday, Sept 5. 

Alan Deremo and Adam Topol join Feddy for some old fan favorites, as well as original new music. “If people are familiar with me, they’ll recognize the song,” Feddy says with a smile. “I’ll be playing all of my hit. Singular. Just the one hit.” Feddy and Deremo have been working on new songs, and they’ll play some of those too.

“An opportunity to hear Jason’s music in an intimate, unfiltered setting – unlike a bar or a city park – is really unique,” says Deremo. “People shouldn’t miss this.”

Deremo performs on bass with Feddy in the Laguna Beach-based 133 Band, as well as a Joe Cocker tribute band. Los Angeles drummer Topol has played with such artists as Jack Johnson, Matt Costa, and David Gilmour. “Adam is perfect for original music,” says Feddy. “He’s very creative, and a really interesting musician. He’s one of those drummers, like Ringo, you just know it’s him when he plays.”

Feddy says the Sunday night show will incorporate a lot of storytelling and tidbits from his inner life. “That’s why we’re calling it Songs from the Heart and Other Organs,” he says. “The songs are lyrically and musically pretty intense and emotional. They’ll be interspersed by the usual slightly off-color jokes. That, for me, is a great juxtaposition. Intelligence combined with d**k jokes is the best possible thing, isn’t it?” 

Feddy has opened for or collaborated with such notable musicians as Al Stewart, The Beach Boys, Kenny Loggins, Neil Young, Joe Cocker, Ben Folds Five, The Cranberries, Tears for Fears, and David Gray, to name just a few. A native of the U.K., Feddy spent his younger days playing in British clubs and bars that spawned so much musical talent in the 1980s. He’s performed widely throughout the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, and he holds the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance “Artist of the Year” title for 2019/20. 

But back to Sunday night’s exclusive event. “We will tell a few stories. We’ll have a bit of a laugh on stage. There will be some improvisation, as well as fixed arrangements,” says Feddy. “Hopefully it will be a great collaborative experience between us and the crowd. We want as little separation between us as possible, other than the rules about…you know…tambourines.” 

Feddy is also performing for the Festival of Arts’ final concert with the 133 Band. For more information on that event, visit the Festival of Arts’ website by clicking here

Live Music Feddy

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Submitted photo

Local musical legend Jason Feddy

When: Sunday, Sept 5, 8-10 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) 

Where: LBCAC, 235 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach 

Tickets: $50 (VIP), $30 (General). To purchase tickets, click here.

The Parnas and Herlin Duo perform at the Laguna Art Museum

Classical music enthusiasts will appreciate American violinist Madalyn Parnas Möller and French cellist Juliette Herlin as they perform at the Laguna Art Museum as part of the Laguna Beach Live! series on Thursday, Sept 9. 

The duo has appeared in countless venues across North America, Europe, Asia, and Israel, once taking first prize in Carnegie Hall’s International Chamber Music Competition. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 2015, the women have released several albums featuring both pre-existing works as well as commissioned works by award-winning composers. 

Herlin grew up in family infused with music. Her mother played piano, her sister played violin, and her father was a musicologist specializing in French music, Debussy in particular. “I actually wanted to start playing cello when I was three and a half years old,” Herlin told WFMT, Chicago’s classical radio station in a 2019 interview. “But I was told I was too small, so I had to wait a year.” Herlin has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist at venues such as the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Musée du Louvre, and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Alice Tully Hall in New York, the Zhuhai and Chongqin Grand Theaters in China, as well as at the Minsk Philharmonic in Belarus.

Live Music Herlin

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Submitted photo

French cellist Juliette Herlin

Möller, who performs on a 1715 Alessandro Gagliano violin, began her public appearances at the age of twelve. Since then, she’s toured throughout the U.S, Europe, and Asia performing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, and the New York String Alumni Orchestra. 

Like Herlin, Möller came from a gifted family of musicians. Her grandfather was legendary cellist Leslie Parnas. “It can be a crushing weight to live under, especially when you are young and don’t have full agency over your own life yet,” Möller told Radio Radio Experience Magazine in a 2020 interview. “In many ways, real or imagined, it seems unclear whether the merit of your achievements belong to ‘the person’ or yourself. On the other hand, fifteen years of experience later, I can say it is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given – to have this family member whose passion for excellence and singular devotion to the craft has inspired and elevated my senses in ways that are truly powerful.”

Live Music Moller

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American violinist Madalyn Parnas Möller

When: Thursday, Sept 8, 7-8 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.) 

Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach

Tickets: $13 (adults); $11 (seniors and students); Free for LAM members. For tickets, click here.

Bijon Watson and the Latin Jazz Syndicate appear at the Woman’s Club

Laguna Beach Live! also proudly presents world-renowned trumpeter Bijon Watson and his Latin Jazz Syndicate, performing at the Woman’s Club on Thursday, Sept 23. A rare opportunity for ringside seats to one of our nation’s most acclaimed jazz musicians, audiences will be treated to a score of original – and never performed – material.

Watson has toured with iconic artists such as Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Justin Timberlake, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga (to name a very few). He plays lead trumpet for the Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, as well as several other jazz and big band syndicates around the U.S. On television, Watson has performed on American Idol, The Tonight Show, Grammy Awards shows, and Dancing with the Stars. 

“We took advantage of ‘the year that shall not be named’ to create all new, original music,” says Watson. “We’ve had some additional collaborations with vocalists and we’re excited to finally get in the studio this fall to record a full-length album.” Watson says most of the music planned for September’s show has never been heard before. “This audience will be the first,” he says. 

Watson brings with him two celebrated guest vocalists – Cuban vocalist Adonis Puentes* and Norrell Thompson. 

“It will be fun to share what everyone did with their extended amount of free time,” Watson says. “I think we made good use of it.”

The Woman’s Club is another ideal venue for fans to experience Watson’s talent close up. Holding fewer than 150 people, the audience will be treated to an intimate and interactive experience with the musicians. The Syndicate will play a single set with no intermission. Ticket holders are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy a drink before the show. 

Live Music Watson

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Submitted photo

World-renowned jazz trumpeter Bijon Watson

When: Thursday, Sept 23, 5:30-7 p.m. (arrive early for cocktails) 

Where: Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach, 286 St. Ann’s Dri, Laguna Beach

Tickets: $32. To purchase tickets, click here.

*Artists’ appearances are subject to travel restrictions.

Laguna Beach Live!, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, not only presents high-quality talent at intimate venues with accessible prices, the group also provides a variety of musical education programs throughout Laguna Beach. This is made possible by partial funding from members, the lodging establishments, City of Laguna Beach, and sponsors.


“Art in Public Places” – Semper Memento (Always Remember) by Jorg Dubin

By DIANNE RUSSELL

This is the 25th article in our weekly series featuring Art in Public Places. Since there are over 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout Laguna, it will take a while to cover them all.

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. 

Since Saturday, September 11, is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC), it was suggested that this would be the perfect time to feature Semper Memento (Always Remember) and honor those who lost their lives.

Installed on tenth anniversary

Semper Memento (Always Remember) by Laguna Beach artist Jorg Dubin was installed in 2011 – on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 – at Monument Point in Heisler Park. The base of Semper Memento is shaped like the Pentagon, the internal planter represents the field in Pennsylvania, and two actual I-beams from the World Trade Center make it all too real. A mirror-polished, stainless steel sphere in the center reflects the world, allowing individuals to see themselves and become part of the memorial.

Although few need to be reminded, on September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn. Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Art in Hill

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Sept 11, 2020. Laguna Beach Fire Department Capt. Andrew Hill at the monument to the 3,000 victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, installed on the 10th anniversary at Monument Point in Heisler Park. Artist Jorg Dubin’s “Semper Memento” (Always Remember) was fitted with a hexagonal metal base holding portions of two beams from the devastated World Trade Center. The beams were acquired due to the efforts of Capt. Hill, the Arts Commission, and art patron Mark Porterfield.

Before the incredible artistry of Dubin’s vision for Semper Memento came to fruition, many people set the wheels in motion including – Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, LBFD Captain Andrew Hill, and art patron Mark Porterfield. 

Poeschl gives credit to all who contributed. “Public Art is never about any one person. This installation took the collaboration of multiple City Departments, the City Council, the Arts Commission, and the community with such wonderful individuals such as Mark.”

The process begins

The New York and New Jersey Port Authority were accepting requests for remnants of the World Trade Center that were being held at an airfield in New York,” says Poeschl. 

Porterfield concurs. “We had to make out an application to get a portion of the World Trade Center in order to turn it into art. I think about 20 cities applied.”

“Fire Captain Andrew Hill then wrote the letter requesting beams (from the WTC) for a public art/memorial,” Poeschl adds. 

However, the process stalled. “Sian and Marketing/PR Director of FOA Sharbie Higuchi were getting frustrated because they weren’t hearing back and couldn’t get anyone to respond,” Porterfield says. “Sian and Fire Captain Andrew Hill got together in April/May because time was getting close. 

“I asked Andy and Sian if they minded if I tried to find out about the process. So, I talked to my boss (at the time) Bill Gross and somehow we got the name and address of the lady from the Port Authority in New Jersey (which along with NY Port Authority owned the WTC).” 

Porterfield then went into Bushard’s Pharmacy and bought five postcards of Laguna and wrote on them, “We would like to create a place of remembrance, reflection and respect” – and sent them to her. Subsequently, “Remembrance, reflection and respect” was engraved on the plaque at the foot of the sculpture.

Art in unloading beams

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Courtesy of Mark Porterfield 

WTC beams being delivered to the Corporate Yard

The response from Poeschl and Hill was, “I don’t know what you did, but we won.” 

“Of course, very little of it could have happened without Mark, who traveled to New York to advocate for Laguna Beach’s application, who funded its transportation, and contributed to its creation,” says Poeschl.

“When they learned about the sculpture, the response from Laguna residents wasn’t all good,” says Porterfield. “Some wondered why we wanted to commemorate such a horrible thing and that no public money should be used for it. So, I decided to fund the transportation and material to create it.”

The pieces shipped at the end of April on a truck from NYC. 

Poeschl notes, “Once the approval was obtained, the Cultural Arts Department made arrangements for the collection of the beams and transportation across the country. The shipping company needed a value – the metal beams were both priceless – and the driver transporting them called each day to update on progress.” 

“It was April 30th, the day President Obama announced they had shot Osama Ben Laden, and NYC shut down, but luckily the pieces were already on a truck in Pennsylvania,” says Porterfield. 

Artist Jorg Dubin selected

Through a call for artists, the Arts Commission selected a design by Laguna Beach artist Jorg Dubin. 

“In developing their proposals, the finalists visited the beams which were stored at the Corporate Yard,” Poeschl says.

Poeschl recalls the restrictions. “One stipulation made by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority in donating the beams was that they could not be altered. The twisted bolts and concrete were to remain.

“The Commission selected the design with the beams supporting one another, the shape of the pentagon and the grassy field referencing Pennsylvania where now stands the Flight 93 National Memorial. The mirrored metal globe reflects each of us with our own image within the work.” 

According to Poeschl, at the time, Mary Ferguson was serving on the Arts Commission, and her cousin in Pittsburgh sent a small bag of soil and grass from that fateful field near Pittsburgh. It was included in the foundation when the sculpture was installed. 

Art in flags

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Photo by Scott Brashier

City personnel commemorate victims during ceremony on Sept 11, 2020

“Jorg Dubin was incredibly sensitive to the brief, and although I never asked him, I am sure he like myself and the Arts Commission felt a huge sense of responsibility of getting it right,” says Poeschl. “It was one of the most important pieces we have undertaken, and Jorg Dubin was exactly the artist who made it happen.”

Ten years after its installation, Dubin offers his perspective, “As the artist and creator, it was important for the memorial to remain a place of quiet remembrance and as such the artist’s hand needed to take a distant second to the importance and gravity of the installation. It is not a ‘Jorg Dubin’ sculpture rather I hope that this memorial will serve as a small reminder for many years going forward that extreme ideologies have no place in a civilized world and serves no purpose other than hateful destruction and a further loss of our collective humanity. It matters not who you are or where you come from or what your beliefs. We are in fact a global community. Our differences are really our strengths. As we gaze at our reflections in the memorial, the individual becomes the many and through that connection we build bonds and embrace our differences and dissolve the fears that lead to this terrible act. We look in the rearview mirror for guidance to the future. Sadly, twenty years later have we heeded those lessons? Seems we have miles to go before we rest.”

Poeschl says, “Since its installation in 2011, each September 11, a service is held at the sculpture, a place to gather, reflect, honor, respect, and stand shoulder to shoulder in acknowledging the bravery and sacrifices made that historic day.”

Heisler Park is located at 375 Cliff Dr.

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.


Learn Still Life Painting with LOCA in October

On Wednesdays, Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27, LOCA will be hosting a four-part workshop, “Learn Still Painting” from 1-4 p.m. at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center. 

Learn Still Lani

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Courtesy of LOCA 

Artist Lani Emanuel to teach four-part workshop 

Lani Emanuel will teach still life painting, as inspired by Edouard Manet’s floral paintings. The first class will cover techniques for creating and preserving the drawing. The second and third classes will focus on painting shapes, values and colors using direct observation. The fourth class will cover detail and finishing. While Manet used oil paint, you will be using acrylic paint on canvas.

Cost is $200 for non-members and $100 for LOCA members.

This class will be held in the Art Room of the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center located at 380 3rd St., Laguna Beach.

The city requires that you wear a mask and are vaccinated. Sign up for the class here.


Laguna Canyon Artist’s Spring Open Studios celebrates Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 5

On Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Laguna Canyon artists (LCA) open their studios to the public. LCA suggests that the public celebrate the Cinco de Mayo edition of the Laguna Canyon Artist’s Spring Open Studios by visiting these talented artists’ workspaces and viewing their unique art.

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Submitted photo

Dynamic Color Abstract by LCA Paul Gardner

The work of these artists, representing a diverse mix of styles and mediums including drawing and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking and ceramics, will be on display.

Attendees can start the Cinco de Mayo holiday festivities by taking a drive to beautiful Laguna Canyon for this rare opportunity to visit these artists in their studios to see how the work is created. 

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Submitted photo

Laguna Canyon Artist’s Studios open for Cinco de Mayo on Sat, May 5

Parking is free; refreshments will be served. Drivers should look for signs at the Laguna Canyon Artists complex.

The studios are located at 3251 & 3275 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Christine and Patrick Sullivan, a creative collaboration of jewelry designers at Art-A-Fair

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

By definition, handmade jewelry is literally just that, made by the “hands” of the artisan or maker. No two jewelry designers could be more “hands on” than Patrick and Christine Sullivan – in this case, four hands might be better than two. 

They have a winning partnership both creatively with their luminous Sullivan Collection as well as in life – they’ve been married 55 years. They have a son who lives in Newport Beach and a daughter and two granddaughters (12 and 13 years old) in Portland, Ore. 

This is the Sullivans’ sixth year exhibiting at Art-A-Fair. They were at the Sawdust Winter Festival for six years, and they also participate in a number of weekend art shows – sometimes two or three a month. For 10 years, they’ve exhibited at the Cayucos Sea Glass Festival in a small town up the coast that Patrick describes as, “going back in time.”

However, they’re especially fond of Art-A-Fair.

“Everyone here is so happy when other artists sell, and the atmosphere is great,” Christine says. “We have fun. I love the feeling here.”

As for sales, Christine says, “They’re up and collectors come back year after year.”

Christine and couple in front

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Patrick and Christine Sullivan in front of Art-A-Fair

The Sullivans’ collaboration produces one-of-a-kind pieces, combining sea glass, stones, and gems with copper, silver, and bronze – or all three. The combination of the alluring sea glass colors – with their unique shapes – and pristine precious metals is, as the old adage says, “a match made in heaven.”

Although they didn’t start out as partners in jewelry design, their lifetime alliance began with a serendipitous meeting right here in town.

“We met at a party on Brooks Street here in Laguna,” says Christine, who grew up in Brea. “We dated for two years and then got married.”

Patrick was an art and psychology major at Cal Western San Diego where he received his BA in Fine Art. Even though he spent the next 25 years successfully running the family business (rubber manufacturing) until the building burned down, he remained active in the arts. In 1994, Patrick co-founded “You Gotta Have Art,” a youth-oriented arts program through the Boys & Girls Club in Brea, where he and Christine lived. 

After leaving the family business, Patrick rekindled his passion for art and started making jewelry. 

Christine and jewelry display

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Part of the Sullivan Collection

Over the years, Christine was in the fashion business as a model at Bullock’s and remained active in arts and fashion through acting (she’s still a member of SAG), fashion groups, and charity events. As an entrepreneur, she had her own catering company and then discovered her fashion sense translated seamlessly to the art of making jewelry.

“We used to do our morning walks on the beach,” says Christine. “Once we started seeing the sea glass, we just had to pick it up. As we gathered more and more, it became an obsession with us. We would sort it out on the table by color, size, good or bad, and knew we had to do something with it so others could enjoy it. We taught ourselves how to wire wrap, and it just seemed to be a perfect match.”

“When I saw the sea glass,” says Patrick, “I realized that if wire was wrapped around it, it could be jewelry.”

However, two people involved in the design process can be tricky. “We do disagree sometimes,” says Patrick, “but we come up with a solution.”

Over the years, Patrick has won numerous awards for his original designs. He was recently featured in Coast Magazine for his focus on using recycled materials by incorporating beach glass and found objects into his work. 

Christine and at booth

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Patrick and Christine greet visitors at their booth – A-24

Christine is also an avid knitter and felter. “I knitted UCLA and USC baby hats for the first few years we exhibited,” she says. 

Enjoying the challenge of a tricky pattern, and the process of designing original pieces of art, she soon began working with a technique called Viking Knotting.

“I create Viking Knot necklaces and bracelets,” she says, demonstrating the intricate weaving of thread-thin sterling wire onto a dowel. It takes an hour to do an inch and a half. “I do it when I’m watching television or sitting at the booth,” she says. Then she pulls the necklace or bracelet through a stretcher to make it narrower and narrower.

“Sometimes it takes the two of us to pull on through,” she says. 

The result is a net of fine metal, delicate and lacy.

The silver wire comes from the Rio Grande Jewelry Supply in Albuquerque, N.M. “It’s a seven-acre plant, all solarized,” says Patrick. “They recycle everything.”

Christine adds, “We send the extra pieces back to them to recycle.”

For those unfamiliar with Viking Knots and the history behind this method, archeologists found examples of this type of chain at various sites in Scandinavia dating from the 7th Century AD, which is the Viking Era. Chains were found in treasure troves in Scandinavia. Made from melted down coins turned into fine wire, these chains were formed using a loop in loop technique.

Christine and closeup necklace

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New design 

Sea glass

Falling in love with sea glass is easy. Sea glass – also called beach glass or mermaid’s tears – starts out its long journey as bottles and glass that get thrown into the ocean, broken, and then tumbled smooth by the waves, sand, and time. It’s Mother Natur’ss way of making something beautiful out of our disposables. Products today are made and disposed of very differently than they were in the past. Years ago, almost everything purchased came in glass bottles or jars. 

“Based on certain chemicals used throughout history, they affect the color of the sea glass and it’s possible to tell how old it is,” Christine explains.

Think of liquor bottles, soda bottles, Nozema jars (and the brilliant blue color), Milk of Magnesia bottles (another vivid blue), and perfume bottles. These same products today are being packaged in plastic bottles and containers. 

In manufacturing, and the shift from glass to plastic, we’re losing sea glass. As time goes on, sea glass is becoming increasingly harder to find, and it is only a matter of time before these lovely gems will simply be a thing of the past, which makes the Sullivan Collection an even more valuable commodity.

Christine and scarves

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Hand-painted silk scarves 

What’s hot and what’s new

“Our biggest seller is copper,” says Patrick, sporting a handsome braided copper bracelet. “We’re coming up with a new line in copper. We’re also making rings for men and women with stacked stones – some gold or silver.” They can be customized in width and size.

Contrary to what one might think, the men’s bracelets are surprisingly masculine as opposed to the women’s bracelets which are slimmer.

“Copper is also said to help with arthritis, a great benefit,” Christine says.

Her newest venture is hand-painting silk scarves and accessories. It’s a process by which she draws patterns, traces, and then paints liquid dyes (or vodka in one case) on the silk. She learned the process from local Sawdust artist Olivia Batchelder.

Teaching at Orange Coast College

For 10 years, both Patrick and Christine have taught jewelry making classes at Orange Coast College (as part of the extension program) as well as private and group classes in their studios.

“I love how the students get excited about it,” says Patrick. “With soldering, there are so many critical points. My favorite part of teaching is the success. The students go, ‘oh wow, I can do this!’ and that’s really the neatest part.”

After visiting with Christine and Patrick, it’s apparent that the Sullivan Collection is truly a shared effort, a melding of inspired ideas from two talented artists who love to share their passion for design.

Stop by their booth, A-24, when you’re at Art-A-Fair.

For more information on The Sullivan Collection, go to www.facebook.com/Sullivan-Collection.

Art-A-Fair is located at 777 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For more on Art-A-Fair, go to www.art-a-fair.com.


Laguna Live! welcomes The Latin Jazz Syndicate on September 23

Laguna Live! is looking forward to welcoming guests to hear the acclaimed Latin Jazz Syndicate on Thursday, Sept 23 at the Woman’s Club. Following the lead of other arts organizations in OC, Laguna Live! is requiring people to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination (or negative test within 48 hours). They are also reducing seating to two-thirds, deleting intermission, and plan on having all the doors open.

Laguna Live! Bijon

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Submitted photo

World-renowned trumpeter Bijon Watson 

Led by world-renowned trumpeter Bijon Watson, The Latin Jazz Syndicate is a group of all-star musicians that have performed and recorded with the likes of Arturo Sandoval, Poncho Sanchez, Jose Rizo’s Jazz on The Latin Side All Stars, and Luis Miguel, to name a few. 

The group pays homage to America’s indigenous music Jazz while maintaining the rhythmic and harmonic authenticity required of a variety of ethnic styles. The Latin Jazz Syndicate’s unique sonic flavors, infusing Afro Cuban, Latin Soul, and World Rhythms, as well as the ensemble’s dedication to performing with unsurpassed passion and energy, combine to create an unforgettable musical experience.

To purchase tickets, visit www.lagunalive.org or call (949) 715-9713. 

Laguna Live! regrets that Adonis Puentes will not be able to perform as he lives in Canada and COVID restrictions are keeping him at home.


Laguna College of Art + Design presents The Art of Nellie Gail Moulton

Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD), a private arts college in Laguna Beach, in collaboration with Moulton Museum, an Orange County-based museum that works to keep the history of the region and its ranching era alive by archiving, restoring and preserving historical artifacts, will present an exhibition of paintings and drawings of Orange County pioneer, artist and philanthropist Nellie Gail Moulton at the LCAD gallery.

Curated by Jennifer Keil and Cindy Keil (Moulton Museum), Bryan Heggie (LCAD Gallery) and Hope Railey (chair of LCAD Fine Arts), The Art of Nellie Gail Moulton will open with a reception on Thursday, Oct. 7 from 6-9 p.m. and run through Sunday, Nov. 21. Two of Moulton’s great grandsons – Jared Mathis, CEO of Moulton Company and president of Moulton Museum and Scott Barnes, CFO of Moulton Company – will be on hand sharing the family history in person at the opening reception.

Laguna College Three Arch Bay

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Courtesy of the Moulton Museum. Image owned by Moulton Museum©

Nellie Gail Moulton’s “Three Arch Bay,” c. 1925, from the Collection of Jared and Kate Mathis

The Art of Nellie Gail Moulton is intended in part to promote the process of art and the power of studying art, and as a learning institution, this is aligned with the gallery’s mission of serving the educational and cultural objectives of LCAD’s students,” said Heggie.

Moulton, who was an avid plein air painter, belongs to a larger movement of female artists who have recently gained significant recognition for their contributions to the arts. She created art throughout her entire life and studied with renowned artists such as William Wendt, Anna Hills, Frank Cuprien and Edgar Payne (whose work will also be showcased within this exhibition). Her work captures the rich beauty of nature, expressing her keen eye for detail and impressive use of color.

“Nellie Gail Moulton’s retrospective exhibition showcases her natural gift and formal training with plein air masters. We are emphasizing her process from sketch to final painting on artist’s board and canvas,” said Jennifer Keil, who, along with Cindy Keil, is also curating the collection for the Moulton Museum’s opening in Spring 2022.

The celebrated matriarch of the Moulton family and the wife of legendary Orange County pioneer Lewis F. Moulton, Nellie Gail was one of the founding members of the Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA, the predecessor to LCAD). She gave the then fledgling LBSA its first significant gift and her legacy continues to sustain LCAD’s operation.

The exhibition will also feature works on loan from Chapman University and Sherman Library and Gardens.

Visitors must adhere to safety protocols in place, mandated by the California Department of Public Health. For more information, visit https://www.lcad.edu/news/coronavirus-information.

The LCAD gallery is located at 374 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach. Visit www.lcad.edu.


Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center presents Incendies film screening on Wednesday

On Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m., the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center will host a film screening of Incendies

Director Denis Villeneuve adapts Wajdi Mouawad’s play concerning a pair of twins who make a life-altering discovery following the death of their mother. Upon learning that their absentee father is still very much alive, and they also have a brother they have never met, the pair travels to the Middle East on a mission to uncover the truth about their mystery-shrouded past.

Laguna Beach Incendies

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Courtesy of LBCAC

A scene from “Incendies”

The film premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 2010 and was released in Quebec on September 17. It met with critical acclaim in Canada and abroad and won numerous awards.

In 2011, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Incendies also won eight Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture. 

To purchase tickets, click here.

The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center is located at 235 Forest Ave.


No Square Theatre presents A Little Night Music

Love under the chandeliers! This is the delightful musical that gave us the popular and haunting “Send in the Clowns.” A Little Night Music is based on the book by Hugh Wheeler and features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This production, opening on May 11, is directed by Joe Lauderdale, with music direction by Diane King Vann, choreography by Ellen Prince, and costume design by Brigitte Harper.

Performances will be May 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., May 13 at 6:30 p.m., May 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and May 20 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 (VIP seating $35) and can be purchased at www.nosquare.org.

A Little Night Music is the witty, delicate, sophisticated, and occasionally heartbreaking story of actress Desirée Armfeldt and the men who love her – a lawyer from her past and a Dragoon from her present. Both men, as well as their jealous wives, agree to join Desirée and her family for a weekend in the country at Desirée’s mother’s estate. With everyone in one place, infinite possibilities of new romances and second chances bring endless surprises under the magical chandeliers floating above.

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The cast in rehearsal for A Little Night Music

The talented, veteran cast includes (in order of appearance): Gary Greene, Alexandria Goforth, Rebecca Butkivich, Eric T. Anderson, Chloe Lovato, Olivia Tewksbury, Karen Rymar, McKay Mangum, Marisol Zamora, Rob Harryman, Ashley Montgomery, Alexis Acevedo, and Chelsea Vann. Audience members will be delighted to see many of their favorite actors from touring companies, area theater shows, and past No Square productions (including Annie, Chicago, Rocky Horror Show, and Lagunatics).

Award-winning director Joe Lauderdale has directed or produced more than 70 productions for both youth and adults.

No Square Theatre is generously sponsored by The Lodging Establishments & City of Laguna Beach, Patrick Quilter, Dorene & Lee Butler Family Foundation, Yvonne & John Browning, The City of Laguna Beach, Stella Charton in Memory of Lloyd Charton, Ann & Charlie Quilter in Honor of Joe Lauderdale, Carolyn & Tom Bent, Festival of Arts Foundation, Laguna Board of Realtors Charitable Assistance Fund, and Patrick Quilter/Quilter Labs.

No Square Theatre is in Historic Legion Hall, 384 Legion Street, two blocks south of the High School. The High School has ample free parking. Seating is extremely limited and the theatre has enjoyed a long run of sold-out events, so tickets must be purchased in advance.


Laguna Playhouse open during facelift

Laguna Playhouse construction

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Renovation continues on Laguna Playhouse with building updates

which include the replacement of the existing textured stucco with a smooth finish, lowering the front screen walls, additions to the metal canopy, landscaping, and new signage and color palette programs. The Playhouse remains open with Driving Miss Daisy, which runs from January 9 - 27, and Forever Motown from Jan 30 - Feb. 2. The groundbreaking took place on Nov 5, and the project will take six months, which puts the completion date in April.


ART4KIDS, INC. receives $2,000 Grant Award from Festival of Arts Foundation

The Festival of Arts Foundation has awarded $2,000 to ART4KIDS, INC. to provide art materials for Laguna Beach children in distress. Since 2001, ART4KIDS, INC. has donated supplies of art materials to various Laguna Beach nonprofits that aid children. 

This year’s grant funds will be used to provide art materials to Waymakers Teen Shelter, Even Start Boys & Girls Club preschool, Laguna Beach Community Clinic, Laguna Art Museum’s children’s program, and Laguna Food Pantry. 

Funded by private donations and grant awards, ART4KIDS, INC., serves social service agencies in Orange County. Since its inception, ART4KIDS, INC. has helped 50,000 children – ill, hospitalized, abused, orphaned, or homeless children facing major life challenges.

ART4KIDS INC painting

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Photo by Pam Schader

A two-year-old chemotherapy patient carefully creates her first painting, using materials supplied by ART4KIDS

The value of the program is supported by research showing visual art to be one of the most effective modalities for processing trauma. 

Founder Pam Schader, M.A., has directed the nonprofit for 18 years. She commented, “ART4KIDS serves children at more than 50 Orange County social service agencies each year. We are striving to meet the demand for donated art materials. The message of ART4KIDS is that art is a life skill available to all at difficult times. Therefore we hope to increase our capacity to include ‘to go’ artpacks for the teen clients at the Waymakers shelter to take with them when they leave. We currently supply one Laguna agency with 45 artpacks per year but they have expressed their need for 250 per week!”

ART4KIDS provides workshops for children at the Braille Institute, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, and special needs classrooms. 

ART4KIDS, Inc. welcomes donors and volunteers to assemble artpacks, work at art booths and workshops, make handmade cards, and identify children in distress.

Learn more at www.art4kidsinc.org.


LBSCA to host Sacha Tebó retrospective event at Forest & Ocean Gallery on Saturday

On Sunday, July 18, Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association (LBSCA) is hosting an art salon retrospective presentation and lecture celebrating the works of artist Sacha Tebó, also known as Sacha Thébaud. Join LBSCA at the Forest & Ocean Gallery from 3-5 p.m. to view the exhibition – Tebó, (1934-2004) – which is on display through the month of July.

The in-memoriam exhibition is hosted by longtime Laguna Beach resident and LBSCA Future Cities Chairman Fabiola Thébaud Kinder (Tebó’s daughter), along with Ludo Leideritz, owner of Forest & Ocean Gallery.

LBSCA Sacho Tebo

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Photos courtesy of the Thébaud family

Artist Sacha Tebó as a young man

Tebó, a prolific encaustic artist, sculptor, architect-engineer, urban planner, furniture designer, and environmentalist, exhibited in Laguna Beach, where he visited his daughter often. He has always been drawn to the sea and coastal life.   He enjoyed watching surfers and pelicans off the coast of Laguna Beach and Dana Point, thereby including them in his art. His last show on mainland U.S. was in Laguna Beach before passing away from pancreatic cancer in 2004.

“This exhibit is dedicated to both my mother and father,” said Kinder. “We are holding it now because May 26 was the 17th anniversary of my father’s passing. The pieces are from our collections. My mother just passed away July 1. She was a gallerist and my Dad’s biggest art fan and muse. I am their oldest child and the retrospective presentation will honor them both.”

LBSCA Tebo's artwork

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Tebós “Laguna’s Pelicans and Body Surfers” in encaustics (beeswax with color pigments) on canvas

This is a paid event; reservations are required and tickets can be purchased online at www.lagunabeachsistercities.com. Cost: Sister City members, $25; Non-members, $35. Admission, which includes light appetizers and beverages, is limited to the first 60 RSVPs.

Forest & Ocean Gallery is located at 480 Ocean Ave, Laguna Beach.

For more information on the gallery, go to www.forestoceangallery.com or call (949) 371-3313.

For more information on the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association, visit www.lagunabeachsistercities.com.


LAM presents program with Matthew Rolston and art and culture journalist Christina Binkley

Laguna Art Museum will present a public interview with acclaimed photographer Matthew Rolston on Thursday, Aug 26 at 6 p.m. in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition, Matthew Rolston, Art People: The Pageant Portraits

Introduced by the museum’s executive director, Julie Perlin Lee, and in conversation with cultural critic and journalist Christina Binkely, Rolston will discuss the genesis of his project, its context in relation to the community, and his own experiences and influences as they pertain to this work. 

Accompanying the exhibition is a lavishly illustrated catalogue that will be available for an artist’s signing to guests at the event. Advance tickets are recommended and can be purchased at www.lagunaartmuseum.org

LAM presents Neptune

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Matthew Rolston, Hittorff, La Fontaine des Mers (Neptune), 2016, from the series “Art People: The Pageant Portraits,” © MPRI / Courtesy Fahey-Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Matthew Russell Rolston is an American artist, photographer, and director known for his signature lighting techniques and detailed approach to art direction and design. Born in Los Angeles, Rolston studied drawing and painting in his hometown at the Chouinard Art Institute and Otis College of Art and Design, as well as in the Bay Area at the San Francisco Art Institute. He also studied illustration, photography, imaging, and film at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where in 2006, he received an Honorary Doctorate. 

In 1998, Rolston endowed the “Matthew Rolston Scholarship for Photography and Film” at Art Center. He remains actively involved in this program as a mentor and lecturer about modern communication techniques, from fashion aesthetics and luxury brand strategies to social impact messaging. 

Rolston’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the National Portrait Gallery (Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.), among others. 

For more information about Matthew Rolston and Art People, visit www.matthewrolstonartpeople.com

Christina Binkley is the Los Angeles-based editor-at-large of Vogue Business and author of the New York Times bestseller Winner Takes All. She is an award-winning journalist who writes and chats about the business of culture. At The Wall Street Journal for 23 years, she covered fashion, gambling, and topics that familiarized her with larger-than-life personalities. Binkley contributes to WSJ Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times’ DesignLA, and Robb Report’s Muse. She appears periodically on venues such as CNN and National Public Radio. 

A graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Binkley was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of 9/11. She was awarded the Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. For the museum’s exhibition catalog of Art People, Binkley contributed an essay entitled Women in Gold

Matthew Rolston, Art People: The Pageant Portraits is an exhibition of Rolston’s larger-than-life, strangely haunting photographs of participants in Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters, known for its elaborate tableau vivant presentations. The exhibition connects two of the most beloved cultural institutions of Laguna Beach, a city founded as an arts colony in the early 20th century, while celebrating the broader history of art and photography that defines the cultural heritage of California. 

In Rolston’s brilliant, richly hued portraits, the artist offers not only a deeply poignant and personal account of the Pageant of the Masters and its participants, but also underscores the uncanny ways in which these works bring out fundamental aspirations of the human spirit and its underlying impulse towards art creation. Art People is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue with essays on various aspects of the project. The exhibition is on view at Laguna Art Museum through September 19, 2021.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.


Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters share gratitude for successful 2021 season

Laguna Beach’s longest-running art festival, the prestigious Festival of Arts Fine Art Show, and the award-winning Pageant of the Masters living picture production, successfully wrapped its 2021 season on September 3rd. The Pageant of the Masters presentation of Made in America: Trailblazing Artists and Their Stories received rave reviews and the Fine Art Show was filled with art enthusiasts every day. 

After a forced hiatus in 2020 due the pandemic, Festival organizers were uncertain how well the art show and Pageant would fare this summer when they made the decision to open its doors this past April. It was a pleasant surprise that more than 150,000 people attended the shows.

Festival of Lincoln Memorial

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Photo by Rick Graves 

Pageant recreation of Lincoln Memorial by Daniel Chester French

“As we emerge from one of the most challenging periods our organization has endured, we are humbled and grateful for the support we’ve received from our volunteers, members, artists, patrons, sponsors, and the community. We could not have done it without them,” said David Perry, Festival of Arts President.

Since opening in early July, attendees have enjoyed and purchased artwork from the 120 artists that exhibited in the 2021 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show. The open-air gallery offered a breathtaking showcase for artwork of all mediums including painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, and more. Despite the shorten operating hours, many Festival exhibiting artists still reported a fruitful summer of art sales. Guests also joined art tours, watched artist demonstrations, enjoyed concerts, and soaked in the creative atmosphere. 

The Pageant’s production of Made in America: Trailblazing Artists and Their Stories amazed and captivated audiences nightly with 90 minutes of “tableaux vivants” and its moving look at American history through a collection of tributes to artists who made their mark in American art. 

Forty-one famous works of art by artists such as Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell, John Nieto, Daniel Chester French, and others were recreated into living, breathing art. This year’s patriotic production was filled with more surprises and special effects than ever before including choreographed dance routines, singing, special lighting effects, a captivating storyline, stellar music and compositions, video projections, and even faux fireworks! The production culminated with photos of Pageant cast volunteers taken by Matthew Rolston in 2017, which was then followed by the Pageant’s traditional finale of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Rolston’s exhibit, Art People: The Pageant Portraits, is currently on display at Laguna Art Museum through September 19.

It took roughly 450 volunteers to present this year’s Pageant. At the season’s end, they donated roughly 60,000 hours of their time in support of the arts as cast members, makeup artists, costume and headdress assistants, runners, and refreshment servers.       

When asked what it meant to Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy to be able to bring back the Pageant after the pandemic forced its cancellation last year she shared, “It means that my Pageant colleagues returned to work – and I’m very grateful about that. The volunteers were happy to return to reconnect with their friends in the cast and Pageant audience attendance has been better than expected so that means Laguna’s Art Festival will continue into the future!”

Preparations and planning are already underway for the 2022 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show and Pageant of the Masters. The theme for next year’s Pageant will be Wonderful World. Tickets to the 2022 Pageant will go on sale to Festival of Arts members starting October 1.

For more information on how to become a member, visit www.foapom.com.

Perry concluded, “This year proved to be a celebration of the resiliency of the arts and community. These past many months have taught us, we’re all in this together; and no show survives without committed and enthusiastic support.”

For more information and to stay up to date on all things Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts Fine Art Show, follow the Festival on social media at @FestivalPageant and visit www.foapom.com.


Laguna Playhouse announces first show season, Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream

Could life be any “dreamier” than to reopen the theater with one of the Playhouse’s biggest hits of all time? Laguna Playhouse is thrilled to welcome you back to see Denny and the Dreamers perform all your favorite songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s in Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream, written and created by Roger Bean, musical direction by Nick Guerrero with direction & choreography by Jonathan Van Dyke.

According to Executive Director Ellen Richard and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham, “We are so thrilled and gloriously happy to be able to finally welcome our subscribers and audiences back to the Playhouse for the first time in 19 months with the joyously irresistible, Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream. Our 100th season was delayed, but we are celebrating this historic milestone all year long with one of our best seasons yet!” 

Laguna Playhouse art

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Submitted photo

Laguna Playhouse re-opens with “Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream”

The show begins previews on Wednesday, Oct 13, and will open to the public on Sunday, Oct 17 at 5:30 p.m. and run through Sunday, Oct 31 at the Laguna Playhouse.

Take a trip to Springfield and meet the Crooning Crabcakes as they prepare to enter the Big Whopper Radio contest and realize their dreams of making it to the big time. The ‹60s hits say it all: “Fools Fall in Love,” “Tears on my Pillow,” “Runaround Sue,” “Earth Angel,” “Stay,” “Unchained Melody,” “Lonely Teardrops,” and “The Glory of Love.” This delightful, award-winning jukebox musical, written and created by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), will leave you laughing, singing, and cheering – let’s hear it for the boys!

Tickets range from $51-$101 and can be purchased online at www.lagunaplayhouse.c