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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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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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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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.


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:


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.


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.


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 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.


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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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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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.


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.


Coastal Eddy, A Gallery, is five years young and ready to celebrate the milestone 

Coastal Eddy, A Gallery, celebrates five years in Laguna this month. Since May 2013, the gallery has showcased many exciting artists’ ceramic works. Laguna Beach has a rich history in ceramic art and needed a gallery to represent both the past and present in ceramic techniques. 

Starting with local artists, the gallery has grown to 32 artists, including artists from around the country and Canada. From functional ware to abstract sculpture, the ever- changing collection is meant to inspire. 

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Submitted photo

The vibrant storefront of Coastal Eddy

Over the last five years Coastal Eddy has hosted over 30 exhibitions, including several installations, with the idea that “art for art’s sake” is just as important as the sale. If you have creative, edgy art that is evocative, people will connect and find a place for art in their lives. 

Owner Robin Lee Riddell plans a Cinco de Mayo party to celebrate this anniversary and to thank the residents of Laguna Beach for their support. The party is Saturday, May 5 from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Visit the gallery for an evening of art, music, food & fun. 

Coastal Eddy, the only ceramic art gallery in Laguna Beach, is located at 1417 S. Coast Highway, in the HIP district of Laguna. 

For more information or to RSVP, contact (949) 715-4113 or visit www.coastaleddyagallery.com.


Laguna schools to reopen in November

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education voted 4-1 to reopen the city’s middle and high schools on November 23.

Reopening with a modified format coincides with the end of the first trimester, established this year as a means to more safely transition from all-distance learning to a combination of in-person and online classes.

“A group of teachers, staff, and administrators worked for weeks on the trimester plan,” said School Board Member Jan Vickers. 

The plan reduces the chance of spreading the virus by keeping Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School students in cohorts – meaning they will have the same classmates, probably for the entire school year.

The idea is that if a cohort member contracts the virus, the cohort will be quarantined, but the whole school will not be required to shut down.

Laguna schools building

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City middle and high schools will reopen on November 23

Designated as the hybrid model, secondary school students will be in classrooms for two days per week – either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. All secondary students will remain at home for distance learning with their teachers on Friday.

District teachers recommended the November start date, Vickers said.

The teachers felt that the distance learning was going well – they had trained for it in the summer – and opined that being brought back onto the campus at the end of the trimester would be less disruptive for the students, Vickers said.    

Board Clerk Carol Normandin opposed the reopening because testing cannot be mandated for students before going to class. 

She said the district puts Laguna’s aging population at risk by sending the children back to school without testing. 

Elementary school students returned to classrooms earlier this month, cleared by a state waiver.


Festivals, tourism returning to Laguna Beach this summer

By SARA HALL

Summer in Laguna Beach will be closer to the pre-pandemic normal with the announcement of festivals and tourism returning in the city.

After so many shows and events were canceled due to COVID-19, locals were excited to hear Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement last week that the economy is slated to reopen by June 15 if the state stays on track with certain thresholds. 

The Festival of Arts officially announced the reopening of its iconic Pageant of the Masters and Fine Art Show in a statement on Thursday.

“This long-awaited announcement befittingly comes on World Art Day, an international celebration of fine arts and creativity,” the message reads.

Organization officials made the decision during a board meeting on Wednesday (April 14).

“The Festival has been working closely with the Laguna Beach City staff and would like to thank them for all their input and help to aid us in reaching this decision,” Festival of Arts President David Perry said in the prepared statement.

“It has been a very challenging year for everyone – especially the arts community – and we are overjoyed and feel blessed to have arrived at this moment.”

They are thrilled to reconnect with the community with the upcoming performances and art exhibition, Perry said. 

Tickets to the Pageant of the Masters production of Made in America: Trailblazing Artists and Their Stories will go on sale to the general public starting May 3. The art show will open on July 5 and the Pageant on July 7; both will run through September 3.

Festivals tourism

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Photo by Chris Allwine

Pageant of the Masters is returning this summer

In partnership with public health entities and government officials, the board will implement new safety and health protocols, according to festival officials. 

“The health and well-being of the nonprofit’s patrons, artists, volunteers, vendors, and staff remain a top priority for the Festival of Arts,” the statement reads. 

The Festival of Arts is a “vibrant gathering space” for people to come together and appreciate the visual and performing arts, Perry said.

“We are poised to safely reopen our doors and welcome Festival patrons as well as the many participating artists and community volunteers in re-establishing physical and emotional connections, which are a key component of our mission,” Perry said. “We know, from decades of serving the community with face-to-face events, that connectivity is vital to the health and success of the arts.”

Another local festival will also be returning this summer.

The Sawdust Art Festival will “definitely” be opening on July 2, Sawdust Festival Board of Directors President Monica Prado confirmed in an email. They are still figuring out the details and won’t have a plan in place for a couple more weeks, she said.

“We’re overjoyed to be opening this summer,” Prado said. “We’re all busy making art and prepping to open our gate to the public on July 2nd.” 

With art shows and festivals returning to Laguna Beach, so will the visitors.

Americans’ travel readiness has resulted in a lot of trip planning for the spring and summer months, President & CEO of Visit Laguna Beach Ashley Johnson explained in an email.

Research shows that 86 percent of American travelers currently have tentative leisure travel plans and 72.8 percent expect to travel for leisure within the next three months alone, she said. Although many Americans are still in pandemic mode when it comes to booking travel, expect to see shorter booking windows, often less than four weeks out.

“I look forward to being fully reopen, so we can get back to doing business in order to ensure the success of our local economy,” Johnson said. “We understand the importance of travel and though we will be open for business, we will continue to do our part in educating our overnight guests on safe and responsible ways to visit us, ensuring that the health and safety of our community is first and foremost.”


Plein Air artists paint their hearts out at the Great Paint Out hosted by LPAPA at Heisler Park

By DIANNE RUSSELL

At any given time of day or evening, walkers never know what they will come across at Heisler Park; a bearded lizard or a bevy of monks in orange garments (and I didn’t have my phone to document it that time), or a wedding held on rose petal hearts spread across the grass.

Plein air guy with moustache

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Plein air artists enjoy the beautiful day as they paint their hearts out

On Saturday morning, I came across a long line of people with painting gear waiting to sign in for a plein air competition, and of course, I had to investigate. Artists had already set up their easels all along the walkway, so something was obviously in the air.

President of The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) Toni Kellenberg explained that it was the Grand Paint Out, and later provided additional information along with photos of the winning pieces.

Plein air on rock

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Submitted by LPAPA

LPAPA Artist Member Will Thompson perches on the rocks to create his painting

“LPAPA sent out an open call to all artists to come out and paint en plein air with LPAPA Members at Heisler Park from 9 a.m. to noon. The community was treated to exciting demonstrations of plein air painting by more than 70 artists of all levels. The artwork created by a number of LPAPA’s artists at the Grand Paint Out were entered into the Centennial Paint Out Exhibition being held at LPAPA in Residence located at Forest & Ocean Gallery, 480 Ocean Ave, and will be available for viewing and purchase through Sunday, Sept 2, 2018,” Toni explained.

Plein air popular area

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A popular area for painters

LPAPA Artist Member Erich Neubert received the 1st Place Award, LPAPA Signature Artist Member Durre Waseem received 2nd Place, and LPAPA Artist Member Steven Grieco received the 3rd Place Award. 

Kellenberg continued, “Additionally, LPAPA was delighted to be one of Laguna Art Museum’s community partners in commemorating the Centennial Birthday celebrating the official day on which the original Laguna Beach Art Association was founded in 1918.”

Plein air Neubert

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Submitted by LPAPA

LPAPA Artist Member Erich Neubert wins First 1st Place Award for “High Tide”

On Saturday, the museum hosted a free day with art activities, docent-guided tours, community partner programs, and a birthday cake. At the celebration event, LPAPA invited visitors to become part of the legacy of plein air paintings by being photographed putting themselves into the actual paintings. Two of these photos are included in this edition of Stu News. 

Plein air Waseem

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Submitted by LPAPA

LPAPA Signature Artist Member Durre Waseem wins 2nd Place for “On the Bench”

For more information about LPAPA, or to become an artist or supporter member, visit www.LPAPA.org.


Fun for everyone

Sawdust Winter Fantasy

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Fun for marionettes

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Rene’s Marionettes will be back Dec 1 and 2

Fun for poinsettias

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Experience Sawdust’s magical 3-acre art village during the holiday season, transformed into a picture perfect winter wonderland in the heart of Laguna 

Fun for bakers dozen

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This Baker’s Dozen says, “Don’t forget to come back for Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec 8 at 8:30 a.m.”

For tickets, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.


LagunaTunes performs Christmas Letters

LagunaTunes performs Kollenda

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Photo by Scott Brashier

What exactly was Pat Kollenda reading at the LagunaTunes production on Sunday? A long Christmas Letter? Details in the story on our Front Page II


Joseph and his talented technicolor cast wows the audience during matinee performance at LBHS

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Johanna Ellis

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is based on the story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Nowhere in the Book of Genesis does one encounter a Pharaoh/Elvis Presley impersonator, Joseph’s brother Reuben wearing a beret and dancing like a Beatnik, or the brothers wearing leis and rocking to Calypso music.

Joseph and emsemble

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Ensemble cast

Sunday’s performance at Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), while not “biblical” in terms of religious significance, was nevertheless “biblical” on the entertainment scale. Originally created by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, this production was masterfully brought to the stage by LBHS staff members Alexis Karol (Producer), Calena Marie DelPizzo-Howell (Hair and Makeup Design), and Peter Roche (Technical Director). Guest Director and Choreographer Paul Nygro, a professional theater veteran, is thrilled to be back at Artist’s Theatre, and Music Director Tim Nelson, a leading force in OC Theatre for 30 years, welcomes the opportunity to work with Alexis Karol. 

Joseph and prisoner

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Tanner Burton as Joseph and the narrators, (L-R) Claire Tigner, Rylee Bullington, and Zoe Waters 

Lexie LeFevre, a sophomore from Yorba Linda, who attended the performance said, “The play was great! The actors were spot-on when portraying the story, and amazing at bringing the right emotion to the audience!”

In a nutshell, the story unfolds – among his 12 sons, Joseph is most favored by his father who bestows on him a technicolor dream coat, his brothers are jealous, get rid of him (they think), but Joseph is taken to Egypt, becomes a slave, works his way up to running the household, but the Potiphar throws him in jail (mistakenly thinking he’s involved with his wife). 

Joseph and Elvis

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Nick Reardon as the Pharaoh

Soon after, his reputation for deciphering dreams brings him to be right-hand man for the Pharaoh. Meanwhile, Joseph’s family back home is struggling due to the famine, with his brothers regretting what they did to him, and they travel there to beg for supplies. In Egypt, the brothers request food, not realizing who he is. Joseph gives them sacks of food, but puts a golden cup in the one belonging to Benjamin, his youngest brother, whom he has never met. When the brothers attempt to depart, Joseph stops them, accusing them of theft. 

Joseph and calypso

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Noah Novick, (middle) leads brothers in "Benjamin Calypso"

Each brother empties his sack and when the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack, Joseph accuses him of stealing. The other brothers beg Joseph to take them prisoner instead and let Benjamin go free. Ultimately, Joseph sees that his brothers have changed and reveals who he really is. Joseph sends for his father, the pair is reunited, and he wears his coat of many colors again. Granted, that’s a lot of territory to cover.

Bringing this story to life is a company of versatile and talented performers, many of whom interchange parts seamlessly. The company includes more than 50 LBHS student cast and crew members and 12 students from El Morro Elementary, Top of the World Elementary, and Thurston Middle School in the children’s choir. 

Joseph and beatnik

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Luka Salib as Beatnik brother – Reuben

Presented entirely in song, the story’s three narrators guide the audience on the journey. Rylee Bullington, Claire Tigner, and Zoe Waters do an excellent job. All of the players wonderfully populate the Artist Theatre’s stage. Tanner Burton does a fine job of portraying Joseph as the vulnerable dreamer who has lost his way. His final song, “Any Dream Will Do,” is one of his best. 

There are a few numbers that can’t help but be standouts. Nick Reardon as the Pharaoh “wannabe” Elvis, does an admirable impersonation and fully inhabits his character with “Poor, Poor Pharaoh & Song of the King.” Isadora Duskin-Feinberg brings the Potiphar’s wife to life with her seductive dance number. 

Joseph and coat

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Joseph, cast and the amazing technicolor coat

As brother Reuben, Luka Salib gives it his all in the number “Those Canaan Days,” both singing and dancing like a true ‘60s Beatnik. Noah Novick was also memorable for his “Benjamin Calypso” performance. Drew Fink as the Potiphar was great as well.

The impressive cast worked together to bring this legendary story to the stage for a fun and engaging afternoon. Don’t miss the chance to see one of the remaining performances. (Friday, March 22 at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 23 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m.)

For tickets, go to www.lbhs.booktix.com. Tickets are $22 for Premium, $17 for adults, and $12 for students. 

LBHS is located at 625 Park Ave.


Local artists host fourth annual Art Show and Open Studio on June 1

Award-winning sculptor Ron Whitacre and author/artist Kathryn Lang-Slattery will be hosting their fourth annual Art Show, Open Studio, and champagne reception on Saturday, June 1, from 4 to 9 p.m. 

This exhibition will be held at their private residence on the intimate and historical Fredrick M. Lang estate in South Laguna. 

Local artists toast

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Submitted photo

Ron Whitacre and Kathryn Lang-Slattery will host the fourth annual Art Show and Open Studio in their beautiful home on June 1

In Laguna Beach, Ron Whitacre’s best known work is “Harmony,” a large steel sculpture of a man, woman, and child, installed in 1998 over the entrance to the Art-A-Fair. 

Ron Whitacre will be available to discuss his process and his inspirations. His welded steel sculptural works are unusual in their fluidity and movement. 

Classic legends, mythical creatures, and the human figure in motion such as dancers, acrobats, musicians, and contortionists inspire him. In addition, his humorous greeter figures are popular with art collectors. 

Pen and ink drawings and pastel paintings by Kathryn Lang-Slattery will also be on display. 

Sip champagne, nibble chocolate treats, and enjoy the art. RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive address.


Festival of Arts cancels 2020 shows; Council to review Sawdust plan for modified festival

By BARBARA DIAMOND

For the first time since World War II, there will be no summertime Pageant of the Masters or Festival of Arts exhibit in Laguna Beach. 

Festival officials announced the cancellations on Monday, blaming COVID-19. 

Based on state, federal, and local guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, mass gatherings this summer, such as the crowds attracted to the Festival of Arts each year, are not plausible, according to the announcement. 

“We were hopeful and tried our best to open our doors this summer, but sadly our shows have become another victim of COVID-19,” said David Perry, Festival of Arts Board President. “The decision to cancel our shows was not taken lightly. But given these unprecedented times, we believe it is the right thing to do.” 

The statement continued: “The Pageant of the Masters’ highly anticipated performance of Made in America has been postponed to the summer of 2021, with dates and details still to be announced. Artists juried into the 2020 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show will be guaranteed a spot in the 2021 exhibit. The Festival of Arts team is exploring the possibility of a virtual art exhibit that could be available later this summer, as well as other art initiatives. Details will be announced on the Festival’s website (www.foapom.com) and on social media when available.”

Festival of Arts

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Courtesy of Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters

The Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters have been canceled for the first time since World War II

Pageant ticket holders for 2020 will be contacted by email regarding ticket cancellation options. Anyone who donates their tickets back to the organization may not only be eligible for a tax benefit but will also be automatically entered into a drawing for a walk-on role in the 2021 Pageant. 

The drawing is scheduled for September 4, 2020; 10 winners will be selected. More information can be found at www.foapom.com/covid19. 

To support the Festival of Arts, for more information, and to stay up-to-date, visit www.foapom.com/supportnow.

The Sawdust Festival is proposing sweeping modifications to its annual show to allow it to open. The proposals will be reviewed by the City Council at tonight’s meeting. 

“Nine board members, three committees, and our staff worked for two weeks on the proposals in an effort to safely open this summer,” said Sawdust President Monica Prado on Monday. “We are very fortunate that the grounds allow us to be nimble in how we configure the layout of the show.” 

In a letter to Sawdust artists, Prado wrote, “The Governor has established stages for reopening. These modifications are designed to position the Sawdust for approval to open by strategically reducing crowd size and addressing social distancing by widening aisleways and creating more open space.”

The plan stipulates that should restrictions relax in the coming months, modifications will be relaxed.

Festival of Michael

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Michael Minutoli at the 2019 Sawdust Festival

Tentative dates in order of preference: 

--July 18 - August 30 with an option to extend to September 5 

--July 23 - September 5 

--August 1 - September 5

Proposed modifications: 

--50 percent reduction to maximum crowd capacity 

--33 percent reduction in daily operational hours 

--33 percent reduction of concessions 

--33 percent reduction in live stage areas (no public access for audience seating or dancing) 

--25-30 percent reduction in overall exhibitor space (fewer booths, no mini- booths) 

--No interactive art classes (demonstrations only, with social distancing)

 Additional Safeguards:

--Plexiglass barriers at ticket stations, and sales and information booths 

--At this time, the use of plexiglass in individual artists’ booths and the wearing of face coverings is at the artists’ discretion

--Hand sanitizing stations throughout 

--Continual sanitizing of restrooms 

--Creative social distancing signage 

--Adhering to separate entries and exits

Also of note: 

--While there will be no mini-booths, there will be “gallery” locations on the grounds where artists’ creations can be displayed for sale through the sales booth. 

--City staff is not recommending the city oblige the festival’s request for limited trolley service as officials are considering the suspension of the summer service.

In her letter to the artists, Prado said the board understood how severe the proposed changes are and difficult to embrace.   

“In our hearts, we know that the Sawdust is both loved by its artists and beloved by the community,” she wrote. “Therefore, we are pressing into the challenging work of finding a path forward, knowing that many artists rely on income generated directly or indirectly by this show and that what we offer, even in this scaled-back form, is of great value to our community.”

The 2020 Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational is scheduled for October 3-10. 

“We haven’t been told we can’t do it,” said Executive Director Rosemary Swimm. “We have to get the Governor’s permission and city permission. But we are proceeding as if it will happen.

“The word of the year is ‘reimagining.’ We are right up there, and it’s not just for the Invitational. We have moved the show planned for this month to July, which will go forward either as a physical show or virtual.

“We are Zooming ‘webinars’ – talk, classes, and interviews to keep our artists out there and energized.” 

Art-A-Fair has not yet presented a plan to the city but is expected to follow the lead of the Sawdust Festival.


Playhouse façade to be updated

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Playhouse will get a facelift. 

Plans for the updated exterior were approved by the City Council at the August 7 meeting. Approval had been recommended by the Planning Commission. 

“It will be a definite improvement,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson. 

The Laguna Playhouse is believed to the oldest continuing theater operation on the West Coast. It was established in 1920. The Moulton Theater inside the Playhouse opened in 1968 and was named for Nellie Gail Moulton who contributed to the funding for the project. 

It is home to the Laguna Dance Festival, the Youth Theater, and in the past to Laguna Concert Band and “Lagunatics” performances, as well as other theatrical productions. 

Laguna Beach owns the 1.3-acre site, but leases it to the Playhouse, which is an annual recipient of Business Improvement District funding from voluntary hoteliers in Laguna. The theater was awarded $240,000 this year and also has received a matching grant from the City for up to $250,000 for four years for a total of $1 million.

One of the goals for the matching grant was to determine whether or when to undertake a capital improvement plan to renovate the theater. 

The proposed building update includes 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. 

Playhouse facade to

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Playhouse is the oldest continuing theater operation on the West Coast

Council approval of a conditional use permit required the commission recommendation to permit improvements on the canopy to exceed the 18-foot height limit in the Civic Arts District. The canopy, as approved, will stretch 26 feet above the adjacent grade. 

However, the Civic Arts District development standards recognize that art organizations and other art festival-compatible land uses may have special needs in terms of building height, according to the staff report submitted by Community Development Director Greg Pfost.

Five special findings must be made in addition to the standard CUP findings. 

Commissioners did balk at the street tree plan at the July 18 meeting. Commissioners requested substitutions for the proposed four red ironbark eucalypti proposed as complementary to the landscaping in the adjacent office building at 580 Broadway. The commission cited the recent failure of a eucalyptus as reason to be concerned about its suitability for the location.    

“Playhouse executives will have to work with Caltrans on some of the landscaping,” said Johnson.

The project is exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, because there was no proposal to expand the building footprint and no expansion of use. Parking requirements will not be increased and the project, as designed and submitted by architect Mark Abel, does not have a negative effect on biologically sensitive resources.


Opening night of Driving Miss Daisy at the Playhouse driven by a splendid cast and powerful storytelling

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Ed Krieger

The brilliance is in the details, and the opening performance of Driving Miss Daisy at Laguna Playhouse on Sunday certainly proves that adage to be true. Fine-tuned by an incredible cast of Michael Learned (Daisy Werthan), Lance E. Nichols (Hoke Colburn), and David Nevell (Boolie Werthan), each actor superbly grounds and propels the story over a span of 25 years. 

Together, they form a trifecta of remarkable talent.

Michael Learned won a record four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in The Waltons (1973, 1974, 1976) and Nurse (1982).

Lance E. Nichols is a veteran character actor, best remembered for his starring role as dentist Larry Williams in HBO’s critically acclaimed Treme.

David Nevell returns to Laguna Playhouse, having previously appeared in Twelve Angry Men and The Odd Couple

Opening night three

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(L-R) Michael Learned, Lance E. Nichols, and David Nevell star in the Playhouse production of “Driving Miss Daisy” by Alfred Uhry, directed by Michael Bloom

To most, this is not an unfamiliar story. Playwright Alfred Uhry’s groundbreaking Pulitzer-prize winning story chronicles the decades-long relationship between a strong-willed, well-to-do Jewish woman and her black chauffer in the Jim Crow South. Set against the backdrop of changing world events between the late 1940s and the early 1970s, what begins as a hostile pairing blossoms into a life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries between them.

Driving Miss Daisy has absorbed audiences since its off-Broadway opening in 1987, productions meandering their way from three national tours, to an Oscar-nominated film, to London’s West End, and a Broadway opening – finally – in 2010. 

Clearly, covering a wide range of subjects like aging, race, class, and religion, particularly in an iconic play and Academy Award-winning movie, is tricky, but this production handles it with delicacy and heart.

Opening night Daisy

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Michael Learned as Daisy Werthan

As directed by Michael Bloom, who is the former artistic director of Cleveland Playhouse, it is masterfully orchestrated in all respects. 

Learned has perfected the look, voice, accent, and prickly personality of Daisy as well as the hard shell that barely hides her vulnerability. Measuring every scene with subtle yet profound nuances, Daisy’s brittle nature is reflected in the stiffness of Learned’s movements, and the quavering of her mouth and chin in the last scenes, underscoring that she’s no longer in control of even her own body. I challenge anyone over the age of 60 not to tear up during the scene in which Daisy thinks she’s still a teacher and can’t find her papers. That interaction with Hoke is worth the price of admission. 

Nichols approaches Hoke’s character with confidence and calm resolve, and the humorous jockeying with Miss Daisy is a delight to witness, although one of the best scenes is when they have a disagreement over his need to stop the car to go to the bathroom. He is a strong entity on stage and a formidable counter to Learned.

Opening night in car

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Michael Learned and Lance E. Nichols star in “Driving Miss Daisy,” now playing at the Laguna Playhouse through Jan 27

In one moving scene, Miss Daisy finds out from Hoke that her temple has been bombed, and although she doesn’t want to believe it, when Hoke relates the story of his friend’s father being hanged, there’s a moment of quiet revelation that these two characters are more alike than different. 

Nevell’s “Boolie” is less stereotypical than the son in the movie version, and however disturbed the audience might be about his beliefs, we do care about him. Nevell has great command of his character and he’s a pleasure to watch. One of his best scenes is when he’s trying to talk his mother out of going to the Martin Luther King dinner.

Adding to the overall atmosphere is the minimal setting, which never changes. It serves to emphasize the aging of the cast as time passes. And the benches (standing in for the automobile) make audience members feel as if they’re riding in the car with Miss Daisy and Hoke.

Opening night Boolie

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Michael Learned as Daisy Werthan and David Nevell as Boolie Werthan

Each aspect of the production adds to its authenticity. The entire design team should be commended: Scenic Design by James Fouchard; Lighting Design by Martha Carter; Original Sound Design by Aerick Harbert; Sound Design by Kate Weeker; Original Costume and Wig Design by Jackie Rebok; and Production State Manager Karen Schleifer.

Even though Uhry’s play was first performed in 1987, neither the story or the production is dated in any way. (He has the distinguishing honor of being the only American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, and a Tony.) The moment Learned, Nichols, and Nevell take the stage, they fill the theater with their presence and take us back to marvel again at the timeless impact of Driving Miss Daisy

Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Ellen Richard says, “We are thrilled to ring in 2019 with this powerful and still vitally important play.”

As evidenced by the long-standing ovation on Sunday, it’s a “not to be missed” event.

Driving Miss Daisy will run through Sunday, Jan 27 with performances on Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. There will be added performances today, Jan 15, at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan 20, at 5:30p.m., and Thurs, Jan 24, at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $55 - $85 and can be purchased online at www.lagunplayhouse.com or by calling (949) 497-2787.

For complete biographies of the actors and director, go to the Playhouse website listed above.

The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Sawdust opening delayed, some artists cry foul

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Sawdust Festival artists expected to be open for business on Friday. They learned last week that the city had delayed the opening of the pared-down arrangement proposed by festival officials.

City officials are scheduled to review the situation on Wednesday, based on state guidelines and Governor Newsom’s orders related to COVID-19, said Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis on Monday. 

Festival officials learned of the delay in an email on July 9 from Dupuis: 

“In light of recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Orange Country and the Governor’s recent order to close certain sectors, we would like to inform you that we can no longer authorize you to proceed with your planned events to start on July 17.

“We will be evaluating your plan based on the state guidelines on July 27 and will let you know that day if you can proceed with opening on July 31.

“We are very concerned about the number of guests at each location and recommend that you consider reducing the number of guests previously approved in your plan by half.

“I truly appreciate your understanding as we work through these difficult and ever changing times.”

The email was followed by a telephone conversation between Dupuis and Sawdust President Monica Prado in which Prado was informed that the first two weekends the festival lost from its normal beginning on the 4th of July weekend will not be permitted to be tacked onto the normal end of the show in September. 

Sawdust opening outdoor sign

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Sawdust “Outdoor Marketplace” opening postponed

However, Prado was also told that the city is very open to working with the festival on a Fall Marketplace based on the model devised for the 2020 summer show that limited the number of participating artists and the number of people allowed at one time on the grounds. 

“While the delay is unfortunate on many levels, our artists have for the most part received the news with grace, understanding that we have a duty to care for each other, our staff, and our patrons,” said Prado.

However, some artists are claiming the city isn’t playing fair by letting the Promenade on Forest stay open while keeping the festival closed.

“It’s not fair if one is open to all and not the other,” said longtime Sawdust artist Robert Holton.

Artist Karen Petty asked the City Council for an explanation of its policy. 

“Our show was cut down almost 75 percent and was scheduled to open July 17,” Petty wrote. “It is now postponed while the Promenade has become a popular gathering place, utilizing all festival gaieties including our ‘stilt people’,” wrote Petty. 

“For the record I am in total support of the Promenade and have been for many years. My hat is off to you all who pushed this project through. On the level of the business of City Council, the artists are looking for help to guide us and/or appeal to the County/State for advocating equal exhibition space.”


Laguna Art Museum’s reimagined Gala 2020 Virtual Benefit Bash raises $331,000

By DIANNE RUSSELL

On Saturday evening, September 26, Laguna Art Museum’s Gala 2020 Virtual Benefit Bash raised $331,000 – with $300,862 provided by sponsors, benefactors, and patrons of the benefit; as well as $30,940 given during the public online Bash. 

This highlight of Orange County’s gala calendar each fall supports LAM’s exhibitions and far-reaching art education programs. For 2020, the gala was re-imagined as a virtual event to embrace the possibilities of an online art experience and to welcome audiences from around the world.

LAM Executive Director Malcolm Warner and Laguna Beach Arts Alliance’s 2019 Artist of the Year Jason Feddy served as emcees for the benefit portion of the evening – a special program for sponsors, benefactors, and patrons of the event. 

Then after the Bash, Feddy and Mad Dogs and the Englishmen raised the virtual roof with over an hour of the rocking sounds provided by this Joe Cocker tribute band. 

The Gala 2020 committee was led by co-chairs Carla Meberg and Kristin Samuelian; and included members Kathleen Abel, Wendy Aird, Nikki Bostwick, Susan Davis, Jason Feddy, Michelle Fisher, Chuck Fry, Kate Mathis, Chris Quilter, and Deborah Schlesinger. 

Laguna Art Warner and Feddy

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Courtesy of LAM

Malcolm Warner (on left) and Jason Feddy

Entertainment for the virtual “cocktail hour” at 5:30 p.m. was provided by The David Witham Group with classics such as the “Shadow of Your Smile” as scenes of Laguna, nature, and works of art from the museum served as a backdrop. It proved to be a mellow prelude to the main event.

During the next segment, Warner presented Greg and Barbara MacGillivray, Honorary Chairs for Gala 2020, with the museum’s Anna Hills Award (a bronze plaque created by Raymond Persinger) after a tribute to their accomplishments and philanthropy. 

MacGillivray has been producing and directing award-winning films for more than 40 years. Today, he has more than 50 films to his credit, including over 35 IMAX productions. He has shot more 70mm film than anyone in cinema history and is the first documentary filmmaker to reach the $1 billion benchmark in worldwide ticket sales. 

A passionate ocean conservationist, Greg and his wife Barbara founded the One World One Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit public charity dedicated to educating and inspiring the public through giant-screen films and companion programming about the need to take action to protect the world’s ocean. 

Laguna Art MacGillivrays

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Courtesy of LAM

Greg and Barbara MacGillivray 

Barbara has worked for 30 years in Children, Youth Services for the Orange County Health Care Agency as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She has also worked multiple capacities with production and post-production of the films, doing what she loves: making films with messages about conservation and education.

Before accepting the award, MacGillivray said, “Laguna means a lot to Barbara and I. It goes all the way back to when we were deciding where to locate our film company. Laguna Beach, because of its art colony reputation, was our first choice. We love that aspect. We’ve been here for the last 60 odd years. It’s the institutions and art festivals, the beauty of the downtown area, and the wonders of nature – the green belt and blue belt – all moving together in an artistic way to make our city one of the most artful in the world.” 

Barbara recalled when she first met Malcolm eight years ago, “You were talking about the interaction between art and nature and the installations. It was so exciting. We filmed that first one to get it some notoriety, and now it’s going into the eighth year.”

Masters of Ceremonies

Warner and Feddy offered entertaining performances as the Masters of Ceremonies – at one point Warner appeared in a red knee-length lounging robe and Feddy in a Hawaiian shirt and pajama bottoms, and both were barefoot. 

There was also a preview of the museum’s commissioned outdoor aerial installation for Art & Nature 2020, and cameo appearances by artists Lita Albuquerque, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, G. Ray Kerciu, Kristin Leachman, Dan McCleary, Matthew Rolston, Adam Silverman, Phillip K. Smith III, Wayne Thiebaud, and Elizabeth Turk. 

Warner (on the ukulele) and Feddy (on the banjo) sang a spirited Happy Birthday to Wayne Thiebaud, who will celebrate his 100th birthday on November 15.

Laguna Art red robe

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Courtesy of LAM

Quarantine attire? 

Following the Benefit – from 7 - 10 p.m. – the free online Bash community event offered exclusive experiences behind the scenes of the museum with leadership, staff, artists, and volunteers from the museum community. Feddy and Mad Dogs and the Englishman, gave an outstanding one-hour performance just for virtual guests; Warner led viewers inside the museum’s vault to reveal recent acquisitions; caricature artist Nolan Harris drew the founders of the historical Laguna Beach Art Association; artist Raymond Persinger showed the bronze casting process for the Anna Hills Award that was presented to Greg and Barbara MacGillivray; and video messages were given by the immediate past board chair, Advisory Circle members, and docents.

In the online Paddle Raise Room, audiences learned about the history of Laguna Art Museum’s Art & Nature, now in its eighth year; and saw a preview of the outdoor aerial installation for Art & Nature 2020, on view from November 5 to 15.

Art and Nature 2020

LAM commissioned Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics for an outdoor installation titled Sunset Trace that will be suspended from the palm trees near the museum. Shearn said it was inspired by the movements of starlings and schools of fish when they all turn together to change direction in unison, a form of communication that is mystical. It gives a sense of something happening outside our own bubble.” 

Cultural Arts Manager for the City of Laguna Beach Siân Poeschl thanked museum patrons for their support and expressed her excitement about Stearn’s upcoming temporary Arts & Nature installation in Heisler Park. 

Laguna Art mad dogs

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Courtesy of LAM

Jason Feddy and Mad Dogs and the Englishmen

For donations during the event, supporters were entered into one of two opportunity prize drawings. The fabulous prizes were Toy Counter (1970) by Wayne Thiebaud, a signed artist’s proof of a classic 8-color serigraph kindly donated by the artist himself; and a weekend getaway prize package that includes a complimentary vehicle from Aston Martin Newport Beach and a two-night stay with dinner for two at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. The lucky prize winner will be drawn at random during the week of September 28.

Mike Johnson, of Compass Laguna Beach, is the winner of the Wayne Thiebaud Toy Counter print!

Director of Advancement Bernadette Clemens shared, “We are pleased and grateful for this year’s results in such unprecedented, challenging circumstances. Laguna Art Museum supporters came through for this virtual gala – and actually exceeded the number of pre-event donors from last year’s live gala. Even more importantly, we exceeded our budgeted net income from the event, thanks to returning and new museum donors.”

The museum is proud to continue the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by the early California artists who fostered a vibrant arts community. The gallery that the association built in 1929 is part of today’s Laguna Art Museum. 

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr, on the corner of Coast Highway and Cliff Drive. 

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


Laguna Playhouse Gala will feature Davis Gaines, Phantom of the Opera star, on May 12 

The spotlight will shine bright at the Laguna Playhouse’s annual gala on May 12, with special performances by “Phantom of the Opera” star Davis Gaines, a tribute to the Moulton Theatre’s 50th anniversary, and a host of highlights celebrated throughout the much-anticipated, elegant affair.

The nearly sold out 2018 Laguna Playhouse Gala will once again be held at Fashion Island Hotel, Newport Beach, featuring an elegant cocktail reception, fine dining, and live and silent auctions with exotic trips and Lugano Diamonds jewelry.

An intimate VIP experience with Davis Gaines, Los Angeles’ longest running Phantom star, special performances by the talented Playhouse Youth Theatre Conservatory kids and a performance by Davis are some of the evening’s highlights, followed by dancing to the sounds of a nine-piece band.

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Submitted Photo

Special performances that night will include Davis Gaines 

“Honoring the Moulton family on the 50th Anniversary of the Moulton Theatre is such a wonderful time to share the story of Lewis and Nellie Gail Moulton. Nellie Gail Moulton generously contributed to building the Laguna Moulton Playhouse in 1967,” said Event Co-chair and Season Producer Lisa Hale. “The Playhouse opened with its first performances in 1968 and the same structure continues today as The Laguna Playhouse and Moulton Theatre.”

“Nellie Gail loved Laguna and she loved The Playhouse. Our family helping to protect its history and secure its future is the right thing to do,” said great grandson and Playhouse Board Member, Jared Mathis. “This wonderful season at the Playhouse is the result off a huge increase in underwriting. Executive Director Ellen Richard and Artistic Director Anne Wareham said if we can get $250,000 in underwriting we can produce this season,” explained Hale. “I believed in them and the season, so I wrote the check.”

Popular actor Richard Burgi lauds the Moulton family and the Playhouse. He recently performed in back-to-back Laguna Playhouse hits, “The Graduate,” with Golden Globe winner Melanie Griffith, and “12 Angry Men.”

“Any family that puts their heart and resources into the arts I have a lot of admiration and gratitude for,” Burgi said. “I think there’s not enough of that in the world.”

Burgi added, “The resources at the theater, it’s just incredible. They put on incredible shows. I just encourage people to go out and support their local arts.” 

The Gala is the Laguna Playhouse’s biggest fundraising event of the year. “Last year’s Gala, under co-chairs Glenn Gray and Kathryn Burton Gray, grossed more than $600,000. It is a very large part of our annual fundraising number,” said Hale.

For more information on this upcoming event, contact Doug Vogel at (949) 204-5341.


Laguna Craft Guild will hold Art Show this Sunday from 9 a.m. – sundown at Main Beach

This Sunday, January 20 from 9 a.m. – sundown, the Laguna Craft Guild will hold an Art Show at Main Beach featuring local artists. There are always many treasures to be found at the show, you really never know what you’ll find. 

Laguna Craft table

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Submitted photo

Stop by the Main Beach cobblestones on Sunday for local handmade goods

Laguna Craft Guild is a small group of local Laguna Beach artists that sell their handmade goods on the cobblestones at Main Beach one to two times a month. Many of them are also Sawdust Festival artists.

The show is very special and a fun way to spend a Sunday strolling along the boardwalk with friends, family, and pets while gazing at the ocean. The Art Show is kind of like looking for that perfect seashell along the shoreline. 

For more information, visit www.lagunacraftguild.org or follow on Instagram at @lagunacraftguild.


LagunaTots is a hilarious show on what the next generation faces…with a serious edge

By STACIA STABLER

It was my first show at No Square Theatre on Saturday, and from the moment I got there, I felt the excitement all around. Once we entered the theatre, smiling faces greeted us from every corner.

The show kicked off with an exciting entrance and performance, “Main Event,” led by Jonah Goldstein. Once the kids came out with the level of talent and passion that they did, I knew it was going to be a show our whole family would remember. 

LagunaTots Tower

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Lula Buckle shines in “YouTube Star” 

Kids today have serious things to worry about: dress codes, vaccinations, phones, lice, social media…this original musical parody portrays these things they are facing with hilarious results. 

The highlight of the show for me was “Fortnite,” led by Chase Benson and Mason Bruderer, an amusing dance and song written to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart, replaced with lyrics on the youth’s obsession with Fortnite.

LagunaTots Fortnite

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 “Fortnite” was a crowd favorite

“Adopt this Feline,” a skit on Laguna’s cat café Catmosphere, had me in tears from laughter. We had actually just been to the café that morning so it made it all the more relatable.

“Better Man,” a take on the Me Too Movement, set to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” highlighted the show’s second act.

No Square’s Youth Theatre Director Ella Wyatt wrote and directed the show (what a talent!), with additional lyrics by Rufino Cabang and some of the kids in the cast. Music direction for the show is by Susan Thoren. The show is choreographed by Ella with Rylee Bullington, a LagunaTots alumnus and senior at Laguna Beach High School. Rylee is featured in the high school’s current production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

LagunaTots Better Man

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“Better Man” highlighted the second act

The talented cast of LagunaTots includes Katie Baker, Chase Benson, Tatum Brennan, Will Briggs, Mason Bruderer, Lula Buckle, Story Bullington, Quinn Butler, Elisa Camacho, Nicolas Camacho, Harlo Cozzens, Sarina Doshi-O’Neil, Chloe Flaherty, Anna Gabriel, Laird Garcia, Grace Gilchrist, Jonah Goldstein, Lila Goldstein, Kate Hennessy, Hadley Hunt, Piper Hunt, Hannah Kaiser, Lauren Kimball, Lydia Kimball, Marco Lapayese-Calderon, Jude Lifeset, Sienna Mason, Maris Morgan, Douglas Nottage, Chloe O’Kane, Karina Pitz, Nathan Ryan, Kate Storke, Allie Swellen, Lila Tacklind, and Leah Turner.

Shows will continue on Friday, March 22 at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m., and Sunday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Go check it out and prepare to do some serious laughing. 

Tickets are $12 for kids (ages 12 and under) and $25 for adults. All seats are reserved, and this show always sells out. So plan ahead and get your tickets now at www.nosquare.org.

No Square Theatre is located in Historic Legion Hall, 384 Legion St. It is a small venue and all seats are good.


Sawdust Festival sets up for summer

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Sawdust Festival poppies

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Cliff Wassmann’s finished mural for the 2019 Summer Sawdust – 

California poppies with painted lady butterflies, bees and dragonflies 

Sawdust Festival outside

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Opening Day is June 28 and soon there’ll be lines outside

Sawdust Festival sycamores

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Three new sycamore trees were planted along the main aisle of the Sawdust Art Festival, part of the ongoing plan to reestablish a natural shade canopy and restore the original grove with native trees

Sawdust Festival booths

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Sawdust exhibitor’s Andrew Soliz, Carrie Rae Woodburn, Nevada Silva (with his son), and Beau Donnan stand in their booth spaces for the summer 2019 show.

Booth Picking Day was May 7th – each person picks his/her space according to years spent exhibiting in the show. Now they have a little over a month to get the main structures built before inspections and then finishing details and art hung for Opening Day!


Laguna Beach Live! Blues is a Woman hits it out of the park with sensational show at [seven-degrees]

Story and photos by DIANNE RUSSELL

Blues is a Woman, described as “a mix of performance and history, with a cracker-jack all-woman band” blew it out of the water in a sensational musical show on Wednesday evening at [seven-degrees] in the Canyon. 

“Blues are the rhythm of life,” said one of the band members. And true to that statement, there was a lot of rhythm and blues going on for two jampacked hours. 

The show channeled storytelling and music to bring to life the contributions of generations of women to the blues, an art form too often associated with a man and a guitar. The musicians covered singers from Ma Rainey to Bonnie Raitt so authentically that the crowd might as well have been dancing in Congo Square in New Orleans.

Lustily-sung lines like “Don’t you feel it in your blood – don’t you feel it in your hips” reflected the energy in the packed room, a mix of men and women equally mesmerized. The musicians themselves vibrated with electricity, red hair bouncing, dreadlocks shaking, ponytails swinging to the beat.

Laguna Beach band

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(L-R) Pamela Rose, Ruth Davies, Pat Wilder, Kristen Strom, and Daria “Shani” Johnson

Each band member in her own right was a standout and together, they melded into a powerful combination that epitomized the “blues.”

Vocalist/author Pamela Rose has performed for decades both in and out of the country and has six recordings; Tammy Hall, music director/pianist/vocals has acted as music director and accompanied many acclaimed performers; Pat Wilder on guitar and vocals, has spent the past 30 years as guitarist in the Bay Area; Ruth Davies has lent her upright bass stylings to many internationally touring artists; Kristen Strom on saxophone and vocals has performed with many well-known artists; and Daria “Shani” Johnson on drums and vocals is one of the most sought after drummers in the Bay Area.

“Why wasn’t this on the stage at the Playhouse?” an attendee was overheard to say. True that the show deserved an even larger audience, but the intimacy of the venue and the packed crowd suited the show better.

Laguna Beach room

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Packed room for Blues is a Woman

“I’m loving it,” trustee Cindy Prewitt said. “Sold-out shows like this one hopefully get the message across that Laguna Beach Live! isn’t just about jazz – we bring Laguna a wide variety of high-quality musical performances, from a cappella to chamber music at the Art Museum to bluegrass at LCAD. And stay tuned for a truly international concert next year. We’re still working on the venue.”

The crowd left with favorite lyrics buzzing in their ears, from “If I only had my way, the graveyard is where my man would lay” to “If you don’t like my ocean, don’t fish in my sea.”

An awesome evening!

For more information on Laguna Beach Live!, go to www.LagunaBeachLive.org.


Neighborhood Jazz Concert in Bluebird Canyon backyard brings sounds to soothe the soul

By DIANNE RUSSELL

It’s been said that, “Music does more than soothe the soul, it brings balance to the mind, body, and spirit.” With the world so off-kilter, there’s no doubt that we are all currently in need of a little balance. 

So, on Saturday afternoon, Craig and Ellen McKessar invited their upper Bluebird Canyon neighbors to enjoy a jazz concert featuring saxophonist Henry Alexander, but this was a concert with a twist. The venue was the McKessar’s backyard on Regatta Road and the audience members were comfortably situated at home on their own properties. 

Craig says, “With many stuck at home, we decided to invite an amazing musician from Los Angeles to play from our temporary ‘COVID garden’ backyard. Two 1,000-watt speakers carried sound to hundreds of neighbors in our mountainous setting, while we all socially distanced ourselves on our own properties. It turned out better than we envisioned as neighbors texted input and song requests throughout the performance and applauded from all over. We wanted to give back to our community with the sound of music and to support artists who are hit hard by these challenging times.” 

Neighborhood Jazz playing

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Courtesy of the McKessars

Henry Alexander plays for sequestered audience

With the breeze blowing through the trees on the McKessar’s beautiful property, and the delicious sound of the saxophone, it was the perfect venue. 

Henry Alexander grew up in Los Angeles and has been playing music since he was 16 years old and has decades of experience as a performer, a sought after studio session musician, and private instructor. He has played all over the United States: the Coach House, B.B. King’s, the House of Blues, and our own Laguna Beach Concert in the Park. The instruments he prefers to play are the saxophone, clarinet, and flute. Craig became friends with Henry when he was playing at another event.

Craig says, “Neighbors were given my cell number so that they could text song requests and share input prior and during the performance.”

A neighbor above the McKessars called Henry’s flute playing “majestic.” 

To prevent any neighborhood ruffling of feathers, the concert ended at 8 p.m. 

Craig says, “The feedback has been 100 percent positive thus far. There was a posting done by someone we do not know on Nextdoor. There are numerous pictures and video clips of the event. We heard applause as far away as one-fourth of a mile.” 

Neighborhood Jazz backyard

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Courtesy of the McKessars

Backyard venue 

After the concert, the neighbors showered the McKessars with complimentary messages. Craig says that there wasn’t one negative text or comment.

 “What a nice neighborhood gesture! Thank you from Scott and Carol Moore! We’ll be listening! ‘Satin Doll’ is our request, if possible. Thanks again and may you and all your family be safe and healthy!” 

“Thanks for filling the canyon with music!” 

“Hi there, this is your neighbor, Dawn Knepper, I live right above you on Bluebird Canyon. The music was delightful.” 

“We sat out and enjoyed it all the way through. Thank you very much!  Hopefully you can do it again!” 

“Thank you. Your offering is so lovely. Even the goats and coyotes in the Canyon are dancing.” 

 “Craig and Ellen, thank you so much, what a lovely concert. Our whole family has been really enjoying the music. Great idea, please do it again soon. The Stedman family”

“We love it! Sounds perfect throughout the canyon. Thanks for organizing!” 

“Thank you for brightening up our quarantine day!” 

“Hello! Yes it was amazing! My Dad was so happy to hear him play. He plays beautifully! It was a joy and the happiest thing that has happened in many weeks. Thank you so much for that. What can we do to have him back?  Can we donate? Pay? I can’t tell you how much joy it brought to us. It sounded like many people were listening and enjoying too.” 

Karin Klein said, “One of our neighbors in Upper Bluebird hired a jazz saxophonist to serenade the canyon for a couple of hours. I’m not even a jazz fan but it’s making for such a delightful evening. Thank you!”

Craig says, “I just wanted to do something nice, and it turned out so cool. It was better than I ever imagined.”

Thanks to the McKessars and Henry Alexander, for one glorious evening, the hills of Bluebird Canyon were alive with music that was savored by everyone within hearing distance – and a bit of balance was restored during our topsy-turvy times.


Sawdust Festival debuts Outdoor Marketplace

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The Sawdust Art Festival has a 54-year legacy and is recognized across the nation for its unique offerings. This year, due to the pandemic, it has transformed into an Outdoor Marketplace, which opened on Saturday, Sept 19, and will continue on weekends only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Outdoor Marketplace offers a safe and intimate environment within Sawdust’s historical three-acre eucalyptus grove where patrons can shop, and enjoy outdoor dining and live music.

Nearly 100 local artists will rotate through 48 spaces every weekend over the course of the event, providing a rare opportunity for patrons to shop art directly from some of their favorite artists.

Sawdust Festival building

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Sawdust Festival’s Outdoor Marketplace is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Sawdust Art Festival has taken precautions to provide a safe experience for guests with an extensive implementation of safeguards and preventative standards. 

The following measures are in place during operating hours: Masks are required for all staff, artists, and guests. Visual cues will be present throughout the grounds to ensure social distancing is taking place. Continuous sanitization of restrooms, dining areas, and high touch areas will be implemented. Maximum capacity will be limited to 250 guests at one time.

Sawdust Festival pumpkins

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Paintbrush sign post

Visitors will enjoy art demonstrations in various media, including glassblowing. Live music will also be featured on two entertainment stages. 

(Festival classes and ceramics will not be offered during the Outdoor Marketplace.)

The entertainment schedule for next weekend is as follows: Saturday, Sept 26, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Selly at the Grill; Saturday, Sept 26, 12:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m., Kelly Fitzgerald at the Deck; Sunday, Sept 27, 12:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m., Kalama Brothers at the Deck.

Sawdust Festival ceramics

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Michael Brennan’s ceramics

Outdoor dining includes four delicious and satisfying concession options: GG’s Mediterranean Grill, Evan’s Gourmet, Tacos Durell, and the Sawdust Saloon. 

Visit the Sawdust Festival’s FAQ page for important information on tickets. Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids 12 and under (if bringing a child, select a ticket for kids 12 and under). Tickets are required for entry.

Sawdust Festival’s Outdoor Marketplace is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.

The information line is (949) 494-3030.

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see to slideshow below


Lunar Tides, a new Art in Public Places installation by local artists, graces Heisler Park

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Funded by donations from John W. Wolf and the City of Laguna Beach, Heisler Park now has another beautiful creation by local artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr. Lunar Tides occupies the stage floor at the amphitheater.

Other public city-funded Art in Public Places installations at Heisler Park by the Schoenherrs include: Little Treasures, Time Connected, Continuous Rotation, Tidal Pull, and The Divers.

Their projects range from public art, private commissions, to one-of-a-kind artworks.

Explaining their inspiration for Lunar Tides, Naomi says, “We’ve always been interested in nature’s cycles as a theme for our artwork. It’s about how we observe the cycles of nature and our relationship to them.”

They chose the name Lunar Tides because, “The moon affects the tide, and the ocean creatures are affected too. It’s all a part of nature’s cycle,” she says.

Lunar Tides trees

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“Lunar Tides” was funded by donations from John W. Wolf and the City of Laguna Beach

The Schoenherrs have exhibited at both the Sawdust Festival and the Festival of the Arts. FOA visitors may remember their Commuter exhibit, a series of hand-sculpted ceramic artworks with a wonderfully playful outlook on people’s characters and their cars. 

The Commuter series was born after observing the lives in Southern California where the automobile was a necessity and also an extension of people’s personalities. 

Scott and Naomi are both graduates of Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (now Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles. They have been working together for the past 30 years and have created a strong team with a multi-influenced sense of design, combining each other’s ideas and aesthetics.

Naomi, 54, was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and also studied in Amsterdam while still in high school. To broaden her cultural experience further, she came to the U.S. in 1985 to study architecture but switched to fine art and ceramics. “The switch came easily since I’ve always been interested in fine art,” said Naomi, who graduated from Otis in 1989.

Lunar Tides whale

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“Lunar Tides” and “Breaching Whale” by Jon Seeman

Scott, 59, was born in Anaheim and grew up in Corona before moving to Laguna Beach in the 70s. Art became his passion at an early age. He traveled extensively and developed an interest toward other cultures and their arts while reflecting on his own. He graduated from Otis in 1990 and has exhibited his ceramics throughout the United States. 

They have a multimedia art studio, with projects ranging from site-specific public art installations to sculpture and custom artworks for residential as well as commercial applications. After graduating, they started working together on art projects, bringing together each other’s ideas and aesthetics. 

Lunar Tides closeup

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The cycles of nature are reflected in “Lunar Tides”

“We believe strongly in the importance of well-executed artworks that engage and connect with the audience at many levels. Further, we work individually, which we find necessary and essential to keep our ideas fresh and exciting. Our work has been exhibited and collected all over the world. Our studio and home is located in a quaint canyon setting in Laguna Beach. We live with our hens and dog, Milo”

Once the Heisler Park concerts resume at the amphitheater, this will be a wonderful setting for the musicians. In the meantime, stroll by and marvel at the beauty of Lunar Tides.

“We wanted to make it a piece that would complement the environment but not overwhelm it,” says Naomi. “We paid attention to the color and composition so that it would fit in and anchor the coast. We feel it’s a nice addition.”

Lunar Tides joins their other artwork at Heisler Park – as another  magnificent reflection of nature and all its wonder.

A visual dedication will be held on Thursday, Feb 25, at 4:30 p.m. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

For more information, go to www.fullmoonclayco.com and www.schoenherrstudio.com.


Opening night of Lagunatics brings out locals in outlandish costumes who laughed the night away

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This year’s Lagunatics festivities began with an opening night costume party, “Pimp My Premiere.” Attendees wore creative garb, the sillier the better, while enjoying nibbles and libations.

Opening night Bree and friend

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No Square Theatre Founding Artistic Director, Bree Burgess Rosen, and friend

Opening night Buckle

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Laura Buckle and daughter Lula

Opening night goats

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Goats crossing Laguna Canyon Rd

Opening night community garden

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South Laguna Community Gardens

Opening night summer breeze

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Spoof of Summer Breeze

Opening night councilmembers

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Grand Finale – Council Candidates – “Someone just dropped out”

Lagunatics runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October, and closes on Sunday, Oct 28 with a FinalaGala party catered by Pavilions Newport Coast, and beverages provided by Absolution Brewing Company. 

Snacks and beverages are available at all other performances as well.

For ticket prices and more information, go to www.nosquare.org or call (949) 715-0333.

No Square Theatre is located at Legion Hall, 384 Legion St.


Laguna Beach Live! announces entertaining spring concert lineup to benefit kids

Laguna Beach Live! is pleased to present two unique and entertaining concerts coming this April and May to [seven-degrees]. The concerts benefit the award-winning Live! Music & Kids program. 

The program gives students the opportunity to connect to the joy and creativity of music, critical to their academic, social, and emotional growth. 

Laguna Beach Live! presents outreach programs, at no charge, to Laguna Boys & Girls Club and Laguna public schools. 

Laguna Beach guys

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M-PACT will take the stage on April 17

On April 17, M-PACT, hailed as “one of the best pop-jazz vocal groups in the world” by the San Francisco Chronicle, will take the stage. Imagine the smooth soul of Sam Smith, the percussive power of Stomp, the funk and groove of Bruno Mars, the sophisticated harmonies of Take 6, and the brass bite of the Michael Bublé Big Band…all created by the human voice alone.

Laguna Beach girls

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Blues is a Woman plays on May 15

On May 15, Blues is a Woman takes the stage. This ensemble of six talented musicians blurs the boundaries between concert and theater, using storytelling and music to bring to life the colorful history of the bold and singular women who wrote and popularized the blues. The voices of these women are vibrant, challenging, inspirational, and dynamic. 

Concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m. A full bar and buffet menu is available for purchase starting at 5 p.m. when doors open for dinner and social hour. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. VIP tickets are $100 and include preferred seating, Meet & Greet with artists, and a signed CD. 

Reservations can be made at www.lagunabeachlive.org or by phone calling (800) 595-4849. 

[seven-degrees] is located at 891 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Rock on down to Avenue Q as quickly as you can, only six performances left at No Square Theatre

Story and photos by DIANNE RUSSELL

This is not Electric Avenue, Electric Company, or Sesame Street. And just because they look like Muppets, the Avenue Q creatures are not your average kid-rated puppets, not by a long shot. These lovable mouthpieces watch porn on the internet, couple on bar tables, and might be just a little racist. Adorable, but raunchy, like Amy Schumer. 

What comes out of their mouths is unexpected, poignant, and timely – and made for a rollicking good time for the opening night audience, who showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. 

Bree Burgess Rosen, founding artistic director of No Square, introduced the play, which is based on the original concept. Created by Book of Mormon’s Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, this infamously dirty puppet-musical won Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score at the 2004 Tony Awards. Because of the audience’s close proximity to the cast, No Square Theatre is the perfect venue for this production. 

Rock on Kate

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Kate the Monster (Ella) 

After six years on Broadway, the show moved Off Broadway to New York’s New World Stages, where it has played since October 2009, spawning two national tours and a ton of international productions. 

How these No Square puppeteers sing, act, and manipulate the puppets – all at the same time – is an incredible feat. This endeavor is masterfully intertwined, often blurring the lines between the live and inanimate actors. It’s all so believable that it’s easy to forget where the human ends and the puppet begins. And it’s not often that puppets can elicit such a spectrum of emotions. 

Rock on Princeton

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Princeton (Eric)

During the performance, the audience gets to meet an array of characters like Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. With a strong singing voice and stage presence, Eric Anderson brings Princeton to life as he tries to “find his purpose.” No Square attendees will remember Eric from My Ridiculous Valentine.

The puppets include Kate Monster, Princeton, Lucy the Slut, Nicky, Rod, Trekkie Monster, Mrs. Thistletwat, and the Bad Idea Bears.

Ella Wyatt as Kate Monster, a darling kindergarten teacher, possesses a beautiful vulnerability. Ella is also Lucy the Slut – the opposite of Kate in every way. Nicky (Jonathan Haidl) is a kind-hearted slacker, and he has a closeted gay roommate called Rod (Eric). 

Rock on Trekkie monster

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The internet porn watching Trekkie Monster (Jonathan Haidl) 

Mrs. Thistletwat is played by Sarah Loya who also is one of the Bad Idea Bears.

Filling out the puppet cast is an internet “sexpert” called Trekkie Monster and two Bad Idea Bears, who often present Princeton with some very bad ideas. Puppets shouldn’t drink!

McKay Mangum brings his puppeteer expertise to the show as Puppet Master. Rylee Bullington and Lila Goldstein serve multiple roles as puppeteers and dressers.

The human cast of characters also includes Brian, played by Richard Wayne Kilgo II, an out-of-work comedian who is engaged to a therapist called Christmas Eve, played by Gloria Henderson. Eileen Goodwin does a formidable job as Gary Coleman.

Rock on all group

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Talented cast: (L-R) Brian played by Richard Wayne Kilgo II, Gloria Henderson as Christmas Eve, Kate Monster, Ella Wyatt, Lucy the Slut, Princeton, Eric Anderson, Rod, Bad Idea Bears with Sarah Loya, Nicky, Jonathan Haidl, Trekkie Monster, Eileen Goodwin as Gary Coleman, and Lila Goldstein, puppeteer

A couple of the obvious audience pleasing songs are “If You were Gay,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn.” On the poignant side, Ella superbly sings “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.”

The band, comprised of Music Director/Pianist/Conductor Roxanna Ward, Carlos Rivera, Lou Savage on Bass, Mark Sproull on Guitar, David Page on Drums, and Chris Carbjal – Woodwinds, provided adept accompaniment.

Off stage, many others contributed to this wonderful evening of entertainment: Director Joe Lauderdale, Stage Manager/Scenic Artist Marley Oyen, Sound Artist Danny Rios, Set Designer Tim Mueller, and Lighting Designer Benedict Conran, with costumes by Brigitte Harper, Bree, and Company.

Rock on Lucy and Princeton

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Lucy the Slut and Princeton with Christmas Eve in the background

Don’t waste time, rush to Ave Q. It’s described as “The Tony-Award winning musical that’s part flesh, part felt & packed with heart.” The puppets – and their humans – will capture your heart in more ways than one. There’s still time to catch the show on Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m.

For tickets, go to www.nosquare.org.

No Square Theatre is located at 384 Legion St.


Festival season ends, trolley hours cut back, work resumes on Village Entrance

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Regardless of calendars or temperatures, summer is over in Laguna when the three art festivals close. Starting September 3, trolley service is cut back and the next phase of construction on the Village Entrance resumes. 

Weekend Coastal Trolleys will be in operation from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays; from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Festival Season trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Starting today, trolley service is cut back

Neighborhood Trolleys that service Arch Beach Heights, Bluebird Canyon, and Top of the World will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays; from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. 

Routes that service North or South Laguna will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. It was announced there will be no service on Sunday for these routes. 

Real-time location of all the trolleys is available on the Visit Laguna Beach app. The “Trolley/Bus Tracker” function will provide arrival times. 

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley.

Village Entrance

Phase 2A of the Village Entrance begins today. 

The City Employee Lot and the parking area behind City Hall will be closed for this phase of the project.

Festival Season trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Phase 2A of Village Entrance begins 

A portion of newly constructed Lot 11, located at the intersection of Laguna Canyon Rd and Forest Ave, will remain open to the public. Lot 10, located next to Art-A-Fair, and Lot 12, adjacent to City Hall on Forest Ave, will be reserved for city vehicles and employee parking Monday through Friday. 

Lots 10 and 11 will be available for public parking on weekends. 

For more information, visit the Village Entrance website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/villageentrance.

Compiled from city reports.


Jonathan Burke, president of LCAD, announces retirement

Forty years at Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD). Ten years as President and CEO. The “Lucky 13th” President of the College. Five leadership roles on his journey to the top. 

There’s something oddly comforting and natural in celebrating milestone numbers for leaders. But the truth is that the real markers of Jonathan Burke’s success are not tied to rounded numbers or anniversaries. They are tied to the intangibles: the strategic relationships he cultivated along the way, the community-centric culture that he propagated throughout the organization, the academic rigor for which he held everyone accountable, and the leadership that successfully guided the college and its people to achieve the international standing that LCAD has today.

As he formally announces his retirement (effective December 31, 2020), members of the LCAD community reflect on the profound impact his leadership has had on the institution, its people, and the communities it serves.

Jonathan Burke Jonathan

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Jonathan Burke delights in taking visitors on tours of the LCAD campus

Jared Mathis, current Chairman of the LCAD Board of Trustees, speaks of the enthusiastic and undying affection that the Board collectively shares for Burke. “His infectious smile, great warmth, and unassuming brand of leadership will be sorely missed. His spirit is woven into the fabric of the college.

“Under his leadership, LCAD has transformed into a premier art college with global recognition. From breathtaking advancements in LCAD’s facilities and technology to the creation of cutting-edge majors, Jonathan Burke implemented his vision for LCAD with a steady hand. Jonathan’s remarkable reputation in the industry, his love of the arts, and great connection to our Laguna Beach community will be impossible to replace,” Mathis adds.

Burke joined LCAD, then known as Laguna Beach School of Art, as a Fine Arts instructor in 1980. His rapport with the students and his extraordinary artistic talents positioned him for growth and leadership within the organization. He soon took on the responsibilities of Chair of Fine Arts, then Dean of Fine Arts, Interim Dean of Visual Communications, and Co-VP of Academic Affairs, which led him to his role as President and CEO.

During Burke’s tenure as President, the school experienced unprecedented evolution and improvements that positioned LCAD for strategically-minded and responsibly-managed growth that allowed the college to provide the state-of-the-art facilities and extensive services to its staff, faculty, and, most importantly, its students. 

Jonathan Burke door

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Forward-thinking programs were added under Burke’s leadership

The college added East Campus, which houses the Suzanne Chonette Senior Studios and the Administration Building; South Campus, home to campus housing, AR/VR, graphic design, fine arts photography classrooms, and photography and recording studios; the LCAD Gallery in downtown Laguna Beach; and expansion of the Big Bend Campus, home to classrooms and studios for animation, graphic design, and game art.

“Jonathan has been the heart and soul of this institution since its early days and his commitment to excellence and creativity will long endure at LCAD. I am grateful for the many years we worked together and I know that he will be missed,” stated Hélène Garrison, Chief Operating Officer and Provost of LCAD, who has worked alongside Burke for 35 years.

 With Burke at the helm, the school also added the MFA programs in Drawing, Painting, and Game Design, a Post-Baccalaureate program, and new majors including Entertainment Design and Experimental Animation.

A constant voice and advocate for the students, Burke is a driving force behind the development of a capital campaign to build a new student center at the Big Bend Campus, designed to enhance the student experience.

Terry Jones, Mathis’ successor as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, says, “As Jonathan Burke embarks on his well-deserved retirement, he can find solace in knowing that the LCAD community will carry on this legacy in every aspect of the institution. His heart and soul are – and always will be – embedded deep within the DNA of the school.


Laguna Art Museum Executive Director Dr. Malcolm Warner announces his retirement

Dr. Malcolm Warner, executive director of Laguna Art Museum since 2012, has announced his retirement. He will continue to lead the museum through December 2020, following the eighth annual Art & Nature and the opening of the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: Clowns. 

“From the start, I wanted to play up the museum’s commitment to California art, which I felt should be even more emphatic than it already was,” said Warner of his aims. “I thought we should position ourselves as strongly as possible as the place to see the best of all kinds of California art, from the early twentieth-century landscape painting with which the museum was so closely associated to contemporary works. I’m pleased that our exhibitions have ranged so widely, from Anna Hills to Wayne Thiebaud, Granville Redmond to Tony DeLap. During my time we’ve recognized the extraordinary flourishing of landscape painting in Laguna with the founding of the Laguna Beach Art Association while presenting installation and performance pieces by progressive contemporary artists as part of the annual Art & Nature festival. It has been interesting for me, as a relative newcomer to the field, to see commonalities emerge – a reverence for nature, a fascination with light.

“When I arrived, there was no one on the staff devoted full-time to education or development, which was an obvious opportunity for growth. Now these are thriving departments. I have been extremely fortunate throughout in working with a staff who have been as collegial, professional, and dedicated as any I have known in my museum career. The museum building looked very much in need of some TLC when I arrived, and I’m proud to have had the chance, thanks to the City’s support, to renovate the previously all-too-basement-like lower level to the designs of the talented architect Anders Lasater. If I have a regret, it’s not to see the facelift of the exterior that I hoped to see through. May that come about soon!

Laguna Art Warner

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Photo by James Cant

Dr. Malcolm Warner, executive director of LAM, has announced his retirement

“My priority on leaving the museum is to finish the catalogue of the works of John Everett Millais on which I’ve been working for more years than I care to remember at this point. Hopefully, I’ll also be returning to curatorial work with some freelance exhibition projects. Meanwhile I’ll be watching the museum continue to thrive, as I’m sure it will under the leadership of our stellar board of trustees and the new executive director.” 

Before joining Laguna Art Museum, Dr. Warner was Deputy Director at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut; and Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art. He received his PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and his doctoral dissertation was on the British Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. The leading authority on Millais, he has been compiling a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works, a long-term project he intends to complete in retirement.

With Warner’s leadership, the museum has doubled its endowment, doubled its annual budget – from approximately $1.5 million to $3 million – expanded its staff, especially in the areas of education and development, and elevated its status and visibility, presenting critically acclaimed exhibitions and outstanding art education programs for children and adults. The museum’s excellence in exhibitions and education has helped garner between $2 and 3 million per year in contributed income, including over $300,000 in grants from the Getty Foundation, multiple grants in excess of $100,000, a $1 million challenge grant for the endowment, and a $1 million challenge grant over four years from the City of Laguna Beach. The City grant has funded capital improvements, including the renovation of the historic lower-level galleries.

Thanks to generous donations by collectors, foundations, and artists, the museum’s permanent collection has grown by over 250 works of art during Warner’s tenure. They include Wayne Thiebaud’s Jolly Cones (2002), William Wendt’s Laguna Coast (1930), an untitled composition by Helen Lundeberg (1960), Lorser Feitelson’s Bathers (1942), three paintings and 33 drawings and prints by Frederick Hammersley, 42 works on paper by Stanton Macdonald-Wright, and major works by Billy Al Bengston, Alson Clark, Dan Douke, Claire Falkenstein, George Herms, Kenton Nelson, Manuel Neri, Nancy Rubins, and Peter Shelton.

Laguna Art building

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Art Museum

Among the Laguna Art Museum exhibitions Warner curated himself were Artemio Sepúlveda (2020), Dan McCleary: Prints from Oaxaca (2017-2018), and California Printmakers, 1950–2000 (2015). He contributed forewords to numerous exhibition catalogues published by the museum, including Tony Delap: A Retrospective (2018), California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820-1930 (2017), Helen Lundeberg: A Retrospective (2016), and Marcia Hafif, The Inventory: Painting (2015). He also authored the lavishly illustrated commemorative book Laguna Art Museum: A Centennial History, 1918–2018 (2018), part of a successful year-long celebration of the museum’s founding organization, the Laguna Beach Art Association.

With Warner’s appointments of a curator and assistant curators of education, the museum has developed an active program of outreach to teachers and community organizations in Laguna Beach and Santa Ana, with school tours, family art studios, family festivals, and summer camps. The team has initiated successful adult programs, including popular music and dance performances in the galleries, film screenings, and lectures. 

In 2013 Warner launched the most widely-attended initiative in the history of the museum, Art & Nature, an annual program centered on a large-scale, commissioned work of art and public programs on the theme of art’s engagement with the natural world. The annual commission, undertaken by leading California artists including Lita Albuquerque, Laddie John Dill, Phillip K. Smith III, and Elizabeth Turk, has expanded the museum’s reputation while celebrating the identity of Laguna Beach as a city of art, love of nature, and environmental awareness. The Art & Nature keynote lecture has featured such renowned speakers as California historian Kevin Starr and Leonardo da Vinci expert Martin Kemp. 

“Malcolm has been so critical in advancing the mission of the Museum,” said Joe Hanauer, Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees. “Long thought of as solely a place for early California landscape painters, today the Museum is highly acclaimed as a center to enjoy important works of California art and artists from the early California period to contemporary. Similarly all art forms can be seen in the Museum’s exhibitions. While the Museum has launched an international search for its next executive director we look forward to Malcolm’s continuing engagement from time to time as a guest curator and for his valuable counsel.  Most important, we are deeply grateful for the legacy he leaves Laguna Art Museum and wish him and Sara all the best.”

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.

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


Artists Fund at FOA exhibits Board members’ work at City Hall now through May 22

The Artist Fund at Festival of Arts is exhibiting a Board of Directors’ show at City Hall, located at 505 Forest Ave, now through May 22, during regular hours. Exhibiting board members include Geraldine Cropser, Anne England, Roger Folk, Elizabeth McGhee, Rick Graves, and Wendy Wirth.

Founded by Anne England in 2000, the organization provides financial aid to Festival artists suffering hardship due to disaster, medical or unfortunate circumstances. A separate scholarship fund provides grants to artists for professional growth. 

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Submitted Photo

Elizabeth McGhee’s portraits are among The Artists Fund show at City Hall 

The non-profit organization recently received a donation from the Gross Family Charitable Foundation, which will increase funding of both grants for artists. 

“We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for this generosity.” said Shirley Rush, President. Additional board members include Karen Alvarado, Angela Goodwin, Roseanne Nolan, and Hugo Rivera.

To contact The Artists Fund, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call (949) 612-1949 or log onto www.artistsfund-foa.org.


coastal eddy a gallery presents annual holiday party on Dec 9

On Sunday, Dec 9 from 3 - 6 p.m., coastal eddy presents #ThisIsNotNormal…still Holiday Party. The event will feature new art, a raffle drawing, music, food and fun, and will benefit Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation.

coastal eddy window

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coastal eddy is Laguna’s only ceramic art gallery

Laguna Beach has a rich history in ceramic art and needed a gallery to represent both the past and present in ceramic techniques, and coastal eddy does just that. 

Starting with local artists, the gallery has grown to 32 artists over that past 5 years, including artists from around the country and Canada. From functional ware to abstract sculpture, the ever-changing collection is meant to inspire. 

coastal eddy is located at 1417 S Coast Hwy, in the HIP district of Laguna. 

For more information or to RSVP, contact (949) 715-4113 or visit www.coastaleddyagallery.com.


Laguna Playhouse presents The Skivvies including special guest Jason Feddy on Dec 10 & 11

Laguna Playhouse brings back last year’s sensation in an all-new outrageous holiday event, The Skivvies: I Touch My Elf, with two performances only on Monday, Dec 10 and Tuesday, Dec 11 at 7:30 p.m. This year’s guests include: Jason Feddy, Laguna’s resident rock star; Nick Adams from the Falsettos national tour; Nicole Parker from the Wicked national tour; Seamus Dever from Castle; and Kirsten Vangsnes who plays Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds. 

Laguna Playhouse Jason

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Courtesy of Jasonfeddy.com

Laguna’s own rock star Jason Feddy will be a guest star in the show

Broadway’s Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley return to the Laguna Playhouse for two nights of the most outrageous holiday show of the season. This undie-rock, comedy pop, award-winning duo perform stripped down, mashed up versions of holiday favorites and more. Expect to see ukulele, electric cello, and an array of zany instruments as well as many special guest artists performing along with, and some even in their own “Skivvies.” 

Tickets range from $51 - $56 and can be purchased online at www.lagunaplayhouse.com or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling (949) 497-2787 ext. 229. Prices are subject to change.     

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Jazz Wednesdays presented by Laguna Beach Live! features acclaimed guitarist Will Brahm on Feb 27

On Wednesday, Feb 27, acclaimed guitarist Will Brahm and the World Music All-Stars, featuring vocalist Adryon de Leon, will take the stage for another fantastic night of Jazz Wednesdays with Laguna Beach Live! at [seven-degrees]. 

Jazz Wednesdays Will

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Acclaimed guitarist Will Brahm 

Guitarist and composer Will Brahm tours extensively within the United States and has also toured to Asia, Canada, and Europe with his music. He also plays with the critically acclaimed New West Guitar Group and has worked with artists including The Gordon Goodwin Phat Band, Kim Richmond, Jimmy Branly, Otmaro Ruiz, Gretchen Parlato, Sara Gazarek, and Jane Monheit. His new album “Venture Atlas” is to be released in the spring of 2019. 

Jazz Wednesdays Leon

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Guest vocalist Adryon de Leon

Jazz Wednesdays concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m., with doors opening at 5. A full bar and buffet dinner menu are available for purchase starting at 5 p.m. 

Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Seating is assigned. Reservations are accepted until noon on day of concert or until sold out. The last two concerts have been sold out so buying your tickets early is recommended. 

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachlive.orgor call (949) 715-9713.

[seven-degrees] is located at 891 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Arts Alliance Forum: Council candidates vow support for art and artists

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The 22-member Laguna Beach Arts Alliance hosted a virtual City Council Candidates Forum on Saturday.

All five City Council candidates expressed support for the arts and Laguna Beach artists in their opening statements, substantiated by their involvement in arts organizations and events. Filmed from their homes, all had local art in the background. 

Laguna Playhouse hosted the forum. Former Mayor Jane Egly moderated. Alliance members supplied the questions.

Question 1: What is the main reason you decided to run for City Council?

Ruben Flores: He is not happy with the way in which City Council meetings are being run and the lack of civility. “I decided I would like to be a more active player,” he said. 

Larry Nokes: His issues include parking and empty storefronts. He stated he works well with City staff and he thought he could do some good.

George Weiss: “The City Council is making decisions that affect residents in a negative way,” he said. He cited the approval of Urth Caffé in North Laguna.

Mayor Bob Whalen: “We are not out of COVID-19 yet and I have been a steady hand in that,” Whalen said. 

His issues include the implementation of the Wildfire Mitigation and Safety Plan on which he worked, and restorations of the estuary at Aliso Creek and Laguna Canyon Creek.

Arts Alliance Nokes

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Photo by Leslie Cunningham

Larry Nokes 

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow: “We need to solve problems, not just identify them,” he said. 

He stated he has been an effective council member, helping to preserve the Digester, the Temple Hills Trail, the Pepper Tree, and supporting the police department.

Question 2: What Laguna Beach arts organizations are you active in or otherwise support?

Nokes: Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Playhouse, Festival of Arts, and purchasing art.

Weiss: He mentioned LAM, the Festival, “Lagunatics,” and Laguna Beach Live! He would like to see more public/private art organizations. 

Whalen: He supports the Festival of Arts, LOCA, Laguna College of Art and Design, the Playhouse, and LAM. He said he attends Alliance events and supports all the ones to which he is invited.

Dicterow: He is a past member of the Festival of Arts Board of Directors, attends every opening at the Playhouse and First Thursday Art Walks, and subs for No Square Theatre. 

Flores: He is working on LAM’s upcoming auction and on LOCA events. He has worked on LCAD graduations and the campus landscape. He adores music scheduled by Susan Davis at the Festival and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

Question 3: If you become a City Council member, how do you see the council supporting the arts in Laguna Beach, especially in light of the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Weiss: He recommended energizing the private sector to create organizations to support the arts and create collaborative art spaces that allow artists to work.

Arts Alliance Weiss

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George Weiss 

Whalen: He supports more money for the arts, direct artist grants, and work space for artists such as tenting an undeveloped lot the city is buying in South Laguna.

Dicterow: Direct artist grants. More live/work space.

Nokes: For now, find a way to handle the debt obligation for the (city-owned) Festival of Arts Grounds remodel to tide it over during this year of no revenue, due to COVID-19. He said the city should consider expanding next year’s festival season.

Question 4: What new ideas or initiatives related to the arts would you like to see explored or moved forward?

Whalen: More work space on city property. More direct grants from the community or from private sources. Help the Playhouse and festivals get through the COVID-19 hit. Continue to look for outdoor display areas.

Dicterow: Lower boundaries for display, find more live/work space, and expand the Festival season. 

Flores: Put pop-up art on vacant city lots and take over vacant buildings to create excitement in town.

Nokes: Affordable space for artists, use empty stores to display art, public/private cooperation.

Weiss: Support the Cultural Arts Plan. Get more use out of existing art venues. Lower the financial and red tape barriers for the use of the Festival of Arts Grounds.

Question 5: The arts organizations face specific parking issues. What ideas do you have to address the ongoing parking issues that are affecting the arts organizations?

Dicterow: The new structure (approved by the council this month) is a start, but the city needs more parking facilities around town, Dicterow said. 

Arts Alliance Dicterow

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Steve Dicterow 

Flores: Peripheral parking and shuttles to bring folks into town, included in online ticket purchase.

Nokes: He supported the parking structure at the Village Entrance. 

Weiss: He opposed the parking structure at the Village Entrance and is concerned about who will pay for it. He said scattering lots all over town won’t solve the problems. Parking should be outside the city. 

Whalen: He pointed out that the Alliance supported the Village Entrance parking structure, which will be paid for by parking fees, of which 90 percent comes from visitors. He suggested a tram be run from the structure.

Question 6: Do you support the Village Entrance parking structure proposed by the City Council at its September 8th meeting?

Flores and Weiss: No

Whalen, Nokes, and Dicterow: Yes

Question 7: Should the opportunity arise, would you support pursuing the Wells Fargo Bank building at 260 Ocean Ave to become a cultural arts center, surrounded by a parking garage covering the existing Wells Fargo and Laguna Drug parking lots?

Nokes: “I’m in favor of any space that is practical and adds parking,” he said. 

Weiss: It would be okay if it was a public/private development. 

Whalen: Great location. He would support green space around the building, with all parking underground. It would have to be a public/private project, he said.

Dicterow: My dream is a Cultural Arts Center out past the Sawdust Festival. 

Flores: Incredible building and it could make a beautiful statement on seedy Ocean Avenue, he said.

Arts Alliance Whalen

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bob Whalen 

Question 8: Visitors to Laguna are vital to the success of nonprofit arts organizations. How would you balance the needs of the arts and the residents?

Weiss: He passed. 

Whalen: “I don’t see them as mutually exclusive,” he said. “I think there is a concern of residents that visitors have gotten the upper hand, but it is not about the arts, it’s more about the beach.” 

Dicterow: “The arts bring money to town” he said. “Day-trippers are the problem.” 

Flores: Bring locals to see outside art.

Nokes: $95 million (estimated from arts patrons who also dine and shop here) benefits us all. The city should make parking easier and provide mass transportation.

Question 9: What portions(s) of the Cultural Arts Plan do you think should take priority?

Whalen: Work with temporary art installations. Focus on direct support for artists. Partnerships with other organizations are important and the city is seeking an American Disabilities Act grant.

Dicterow: We need to concentrate on artists living here and working here. 

Flores: He recommended smaller and outdoor art venues.

Nokes: “I love display areas in empty structures,” he said. He also supports more affordable space for studios. 

Weiss: The city should concentrate on artist live/work and collaborative spaces and better use of the facilities we have.

Arts Alliance Flores

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Ruben Flores

Question 10: What do you know about the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance? 

Dicterow: I have worked closely with it over the years, he said. “I agree with its objectives.”

He opined that the organization is necessary for the future of arts in town. 

Flores: He said he has worked with different organizations within the Alliance. “I am looking to make it stronger.” 

Nokes: It makes sure art continues to thrive and what it does for children’s art instruction is very impressive. 

Weiss: Hasn’t worked with the Alliance, but supports all 22 members, particularly LOCA.

Whalen: He said that a lot of residents are members and he recommended involvement in city affairs. “I appreciated the Alliance speaking in favor of the [Village Entrance] parking structure,” said Whalen. 

Closing statements, as did opening statements by the candidates, reflected their support for the arts.

In summation: 

Nokes: He said arts in Laguna define where we have been and where we are now. He supports providing venues, keeping the community invigorated, expanding the use of the Festival of Arts Grounds, and musical events.

Weiss: Supports housing for artists, collaborative spaces, and creation of nonprofit/public entities. 

Whalen: He said he has asked the Cultural Arts Manager to look into murals created in England with paints that eat greenhouse gasses. And he will continue to look for state and federal money for the arts. 

Dicterow: “We all love art,” he said. “What we learned today is that we all agree about art.”

Flores: He recommended marketing LCAD with T-shirts in every store in town, more use of the Festival of Arts Grounds, and a return to civility.


Arts supporters get an early call, coffee and snacks provided

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Beach Arts Alliance (LBAA) will host a forum this Saturday, Sept 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Laguna Playhouse. Doors will open at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and doughnuts served on the terrace. Seating is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

 Former Mayor Jane Egly will moderate the forum, which will address arts and cultural issues in Laguna Beach.

“The forum is a great opportunity to get to know the candidates and learn where they stand on arts and cultural issues,” said LBAA Marketing Coordinator Deena Harros. 

 Candidates will be asked to respond to pre-selected questions, including the need for performance space, artist work live and affordable housing, parking needs in the Civic Art District and comments on public art. They will also be questioned on whether the City should require arts supporting elements in the design of artists’ affordable housing, exhibit space, performance space, and meeting space in any major new or remodeling construction in the Art District.

Questions were selected by the Forum Committee: LBAA President Rosemary Swimm, past President Wayne Baglin, Arts Commissioner Pat Kolllenda, Laguna College of Art and Design President Jonathan Burke, Laguna Dance Festival Executive Director Joy Deitberner, Laguna Playhouse Marketing Director Dee Dee Irwin and Harros.

No questions will be taken from the audience. 

Candidates will have the opportunity to give opening and closing statements, limited to one minute. If time allows, five questions will be posed, with a one-minute limit on responses.


Sawdust Art Festival embraces holiday spirit with 28th Annual Winter Fantasy starting this Saturday

Sawdust Art & Craft Festival is pleased to announce the official start of its 28th annual Winter Fantasy this Saturday, Nov 17 with a community tree lighting ceremony featuring local students from Top of the World Elementary Honor Choir and over a dozen trees decorated by local organizations. 

Sawdust Art outside

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Walking in a Sawdust winter wonderland

For five weekends, through Sunday, Dec 16, event-goers of all ages can experience a festive wonderland aglow with thousands of lights and decorations, featuring 182 artists and makers, live holiday performances, glassblowing demos, festival classes, and satisfying offerings from various eateries, cafes and saloon.

Breakfast with Santa

An extra special occasion this year will be Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec 8 with the Laguna Beach Firefighters Association. All proceeds of the pancake breakfast will go towards Spark of Love, and Sawdust Art Festival will also be a drop-off location for the Spark of Love toy drive throughout the festival season. 

To further encourage the giving spirit, attendees will receive free admission on Sundays with the donation of an unwrapped toy.

Sawdust Art santa

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Say hi to Santa at a special pancake breakfast and toy drive 

Community Tree Night

Another highlight of the season is the Community Tree Night on Saturday, Dec 1 at 5 p.m., an evening honoring the 12 local organizations participating in Winter Fantasy’s annual community tree program. 

There will also be an enchanting Towne Square featuring daily photo opportunities with Santa at his cottage, in addition to a host of other magical moments with puppeteers, a balloon diva, falling snow, and the beloved gingerbread playhouse.

Lastly, there will be three stages of holiday music and entertainment, with food and refreshments from Deb’s Deli, Espresso on the Go, Fran’s Popcorn, Sawdust Saloon, Evan’s Gourmet Bistro, Tacos Durrell, and GG’s Mediterranean Express.

Presale tickets are available and the cost is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (65+), and $4 for children (6– 12). Admission is free for children five years and younger. Season passes are $12. 

For more information, as well as a comprehensive list of events and special features at this year’s Winter Fantasy, visit www.sawdustartfestival.org/festivals/winter-fantasy.


No Square Theatre’s Annie is one of the best shows you will see in Laguna all year

No Square Annie 1

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It’s a Hard Knock Life: No Square Theatre’s Annie production receives five stars and a standing ovation from Stu News Laguna

No Square Annie 2

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I Don’t Need Anything But You: Rob Harryman (Oliver Warbucks) and Tessa Espinola (Annie) shine in this heartwarming tale of father-daughter love, hope, and redemption

No Square Annie 3

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Easy Street: Laura Buckle (Lily St. Regis), Karen Rymar (Miss Hannigan), and Tyler Below (Rooster) executed their parts to perfection

No Square Annie 4

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Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow makes a cameo appearance as Judge Brandeis

For tickets to Annie, go to www.nosquare.org


7-year-old FOA Youth Art ceramist wins multiple national honors

The Festival of Arts is thrilled to announce that Fitz Gfeller, a 7-year-old ceramics student from the Festival of Arts Youth Art Classes, received multiple national honors and recognition for his piece titled “Master Fish.” 

The Orange County student was selected from hundreds of entries nationwide and received Honorable Mention from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), the ICAN Elementary Award, and a Bailey Pottery cash award.

“The Festival of Arts youth classes are a summer favorite for my children because of the amazing instructors,” commented Erika Gfeller, Fritz’s mother. “Fritz really connected with Marty because Marty encourages the kids to push limits, be creative, and to not be limited by what something ‘should’ look like. As the youngest of my four children, this experience has really made Fritz feel special and we thank Marty and the Festival of Arts team for that.”

Gfeller’s imaginative “Master Fish” mask is a ceramics piece he made in the Festival’s Youth Art Classes last summer (2018) with instructor Marty Barth. The class was Gfeller’s third ceramics class and he shared that his mask was inspired by “fish big and little and all colors of the rainbow.”

7 year old winner

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7-year-old FOA Youth Art ceramist Fitz Gfeller wins top national honors

Gfeller’s piece was awarded the NCECA Honorable Mention award and the 2019 ICAN Elementary School Award (given out to only one student out of over 500 entries). His mask stood out among the hundreds of art pieces submitted across the nation, and was also honored with a cash award from Bailey Pottery. “Master Fish” will be on display for the public to enjoy in the Junior Art Exhibit at the Festival grounds this summer.

In addition to the young artist’s enrollment in the youth art classes, the Gfeller family are regular attendees to the Festival of Arts and the different art programs offered each summer. Erika Gfeller recalled her son’s first Festival of Arts hands-on art experience when he was three years old, making prints at the Art Center 

“As a family, we love how art can grow us,” stated Gfeller. “The visual manifestation of imagination is the best part of the children’s art classes at Festival of Arts. We get to see what our kids dream about.”

Erika Gfeller adds, “Fritz will absolutely be returning to the Festival of Arts this summer, along with his three siblings. We are considering the new unlimited program (Art Explorers), because he is just so excited to make art.”

The Festival of Arts is now accepting reservations for Youth Art Classes, available July 8 - August 17, Monday through Friday from 1 - 3 p.m., open to children ages 5-12. In addition to ceramics, classes are available in painting, printmaking, assemblage, and more. Each youth art class is $20 per student. Ceramic classes are $30. Space is limited and reservations are required.

New this year is the Festival of Arts Art Explorers program. Purchase online for unlimited youth art classes all summer long. Other perks of the Art Explorers program include special VIP entrance passes, a kid’s art apron, gift shop discounts and more.

To sign up for Youth Art Classes or Art Explorers at the Festival of Arts, visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org or call (949) 464-4234. 

The Festival of Arts Fine Arts Show will take place July 5 through August 31, at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.


LagunaTunes brings the Beatles to LBHS Artists’ Theatre – along with a yellow submarine 

By DIANNE RUSSELL

On Sunday afternoon, LagunaTunes Community Chorus, under the direction of Bob Gunn, took the audience on a joyous and sentimental journey down memory lane – and “Penny Lane” along with 21 other tunes – recreating the music of the Fab Five. The chorus sang with heart and a considerable amount of talent, and it was impossible not to want to sing along.

LagunaTunes brings submarine

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Photo by Scott Brashier 

This yellow submarine was only a small part of the glorious show. For the full melodic story, tune in to Barbara Diamond’s Column on Friday.


Rock for the Cause to benefit Friendship Shelter features local duo Ruby Haunt on Feb 12

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Rock for the Cause, which benefits Friendship Shelter, is always a great evening of fun, wonderful food, and amazing live music. This year’s event will be held at Mozambique on Wednesday, Feb 12 from 6 - 10 p.m., and tickets are now on sale.

Each ticket will include entry into the event, two hosted drinks, and appetizers. Additionally, Mozambique is generously donating 20 percent of all food and beverage sales back to Friendship Shelter. 

Rock for the Cause is a festive and raucous event to aid Friendship Shelter’s work ending homelessness in south Orange County. Stu News Laguna owner Shaena Stabler and local architect Marshall Ininns are co-hosting the event. The two are on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit together and have been co-hosting the event for almost a decade.

“I think this is the eighth year I have co-hosted with Marshall,” says Stabler. “Marshall asked Stu if we might want to get involved together. Stu told me ‘we’re doing it,’ and thus began my journey with Friendship Shelter. Stu had no idea of my first-hand experience with homelessness at the time.”

Asked what her connection to homelessness is, Stabler says, “I experienced homelessness – as a young child and in my early 20s. It’s something that impacted me personally. But it doesn’t define me anymore – I have a home, a community, and a very good life – in a way, it feels like an echo for me now.”

Rock for the Cause Shaena and Marshall

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Photo by Lisa Farber

(L-R) Marshall Ininns and Shaena Stabler at past Rock for the Cause event; together they have hosted almost a decade of events to benefit Friendship Shelter

Featured at the event will be Frank Turner Simes, who is a Grammy-nominated and platinum-record awarded musician, guitarist, songwriter, composer, and record producer. Simes is the musical director for Roger Daltrey, and has recorded and performed with Mick Jagger, Don Henley, and Stevie Nicks. As The Who and Roger Daltrey’s musical director and multi-instrumentalist, he has brought fresh elements to the sounds and arrangements for the world tours of Tommy, Quadrophenia, and The Who Hits 50!, as well as the 2012 Olympics performance. 

At this year’s Rock for the Cause, there will be an added musical bonus. Ruby Haunt – made up of two Laguna born and raised musicians, Wyatt Ininns and Victor Pakpour, will be performing in their hometown for the first time. They have joined the show to kick off the event before Frank Simes’ band.

Stabler is especially excited that Ruby Haunt is performing this year. “I have been listening to Ruby Haunt for five years; I was first exposed to them through Marshall (Wyatt’s father). I was immediately hooked to their music, they are so talented. Honestly, they could be future Grammy winners. I am just so excited to see where their path takes them and can’t wait to listen to them live on February 12th at Rock for the Cause.”

Marshall Ininns says, “I am very  proud of my son and his fast growing music career. I am even more proud of him for his willingness to give his time and talent to help resolve homelessness in southern Orange County.”

Rock for color duo

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Wyatt Ininns (on left) and Victor Pakpour

Ruby Haunt is an American musical project conceived by childhood friends Ininns and Pakpour sometime in 2015. The duo wrote their first three EPs while in school via opposite ends of the west coast (Los Angeles and Portland), exchanging musical ideas over email. During this time, they received support from Nowness, Henrik Purienne, Vogue Italia, and various taste-making YouTube channels for their unique songwriting and self-produced music videos.

They now have produced five albums: Sugar, 2016; Nevada, 2017; Blue Hour, 2018, Bully, 2019, and Middle of Nowhere, 2019.

The duo became close friends in middle school and found they were inspired by the same music. Ininns sings and writes lyrics, and Pakpour composes the songs and produces. 

Evidently, the match is working, as they have received rave reviews.

Their music has been depicted as alternative/indie, which by definition, means it doesn’t fit into any particular genre.

A review introducing Ruby Haunt on Musicallyproper.com in August of 2016 says, “Currently based in L.A., this duo is making some of the best minimal pop I’ve heard in a long time. Ruby Haunt takes after more of an aesthetic than a genre.”

Aesthetic is the perfect word. I agree, no matter the song – whether pop, a ballad, or one with a nostalgic melody – it’s all gorgeous and artful.

In a review in Honey Punch Magazine, Emma Watts says, “What I love so much about music is that the simplest of sounds put into an interesting pattern can affect your emotions and what you’re visualizing in your head. With these songs you can feel on top of the world, out of this world, or the smallest thing in the world.”

After listening to their song “Honey,” I would describe their sound as silky and smooth as honey. It’s liquid, and lush, and haunting at times. 

Rock for playing

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Ruby Haunt performing

A 2019 review of the their album Middle of Nowhere on janglepophub.home says, “This Los Angeles based two piece, consisting of Wyatt Ininns and Victor Pakpour, certainly know how to develop the aural soundscapes within their songs with ‘Cobwebs,’ ‘Answering Machine’ and the impeccable ‘Breather displaying a somewhat unnerving ability to attach a musical picture to an initial isolated jangle-gaze riff and then creating subtle and multiple layers of sound upon this foundation of beauty.”

I have no idea what a jangle-gaze riff is, but it sounds as if it’s a good thing.

Asked about their appearance at Rock for the Cause, Ininns says, We have always admired what the Friendship Shelter does, and we are super excited to be able to take part in such a great event. Victor and I both grew up in Laguna but this will be our first time playing a concert in town. We are thrilled to be able to join this year and get to play alongside some amazing musicians for a good cause.”

Pakpour agrees, “We are really humbled to be included in the cause. My band member Wyatt and I have lived in Laguna our whole lives and have seen first-hand the impact that homelessness has had on those individuals. We are happy to support this fundraiser and are excited to be playing for members of our hometown trying to make a difference.” 

Giving back 

Stabler says of her time homeless, “With that experience comes a responsibility to give back. I’ve definitely had angels along the way, people who have mentored me and lifted me up. I feel it’s my responsibility to ‘pay it forward’ and help others too.

“With Friendship Shelter, I am able to give back and support a nonprofit that is doing the work to end homelessness – which means literally getting people off the streets and into housing because then they are no longer ‘homeless’. From there, the services and ‘path up’ can happen. It all starts with housing – get a roof over your head, and then anything is possible. Without housing, without the stability of knowing that you have a place to rest your body and mind for the night, it’s almost impossible to do be the best version of yourself that you were meant to be.”

So come out and join the fun, enjoy the food and fantastic musical entertainment – and celebrate Ruby Haunt’s first time playing in Laguna – all for a good cause.

Tickets start at $75 and are available on Friendship Shelter’s website at www.friendshipshelter.org/events.

For more information on Friendship Shelter’s programs and services, visit www.friendshipshelter.org

Mozambique is located at 1740 South Coast Hwy.


President of Laguna College of Art and Design Jonathan Burke says goodbye

Dear LCAD Community, 

I will be stepping down after ten years as President of Laguna College of Art and Design, effective December 31, 2020. I’ve pondered this decision and feel this is the right time. I leave with great love and devotion for our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Board of Trustees. 

Forty years ago, I came to LCAD as a faculty member with a dream to establish the finest of art colleges. The history of this college is a success story and I’m so pleased to have participated in making that vision a reality. As I reflect on our accomplishments, I am grateful for what we have achieved while I have been president, and I’m confident the college will continue to be a creative and inspiring place to learn, create, and grow as an artist and global citizen.

President of closeup

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Jonathan Burke

Through collective efforts, we developed a road map for the future that enhances the student experience. In the final six months of my presidency, there is much to be done to continue supporting our students. To that end I will continue to focus on the planning phase for a new Student Center. The spirit of this project is to create a supportive learning environment for all students, and will offer services to any student who has unique learning challenges. I thank everyone involved and have been touched by your efforts. 

As I think about my future, I am eager to return to my first passion: spending valuable time in the studio drawing and painting, as well as a desire to return to the wonderful community of representational artists. More than ever, I firmly believe in the value of an art and design college. LCAD continues to provide the best conditions for a creative person to transform and communicate their passion to be an artist into a relevant and fulfilling life and career. 

I will sincerely miss all of you. I trust that LCAD will continue to make the world a more beautiful and meaningful place for all of us.


Film Night at LAM: Dr. Strangelove will be shown on Thursday, May 17 at 7 p.m. – free admission

Artist Jorg Dubin will introduce a personal favorite at Film Night at Laguna Art Museum on Thursday, May 17 at 7 p.m.: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

More commonly known as Dr. Strangelove, the film is a 1964 political satire/black comedy that satirizes the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. 

In it, an insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, and is loosely based on Peter George’s thriller novel Red Alert.

Advance tickets are recommended. Reserve tickets online at www.lagunaartmuseum.org or call (949) 494.8971 x203.


Don’t miss exciting new LAM exhibit, Self-Help Graphics

Laguna Art Museum announces the opening of Self-Help Graphics, 1983-1991, an exhibition of prints from the large Self-Help Graphics collection purchased by the museum in 1992 with the help of Charlie Miller, René and Norma Molina, and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, on exhibit through May 27.

Self-Help Graphics is an East Los Angeles printmaking workshop and arts center that emerged from the Chicano movement of the 1960s. It was founded by Sister Karen Boccalero, who was inspired by the committed social and political commentary she saw in the silkscreen prints made by her fellow nun, the celebrated Sister Corita Kent. In 1982, Boccalero launched the Screenprint Atelier program, which provided Chicano and Latino artists of the Los Angeles region with studio facilities, materials, and the technical guidance of a master printer. The result was an extraordinary and exuberant flowering of the silkscreen print.

Check out LAM

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Ricardo Gonsalves, “Don Juan’s Got the Blues,” 1988, silkscreen (18 colors) is on display at Laguna Art Museum

Self-Help Graphics, 1983-1991 includes 16 works by Glenna Boltuch Avila, Alfredo de Batuc, Yreina Cervántez, Sam Coronado, Alex Donis, Ricardo Gonsalves, José Lozano, Delilah Montoya, Malaquías Montoya, Raoul de La Sota, Gilbert “Magu” Luján, Miguel Angel Reyes, Frank Romero, Eloy Torrez, and Patssi Valdez. The exhibit is on view through May 27.

In conjunction with the exhibition, on May 23, the museum will host Victor Hugo Viesca, Cal State LA professor and co-producer of the Self-Help Graphics oral history project, for a talk titled “Creating Our Own World Where We Belong: The Cultural Value of Self Help Graphics & Art.”

Admission is free for members and students 17 and younger, $15 for adults, and $5 for students 18 plus and seniors 60 plus. 

For more information, call (949) 494-8971 or visit www.lagunaartmuseum.org.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.


53rd Annual Summer Sawdust Art Festival kicks off festivities with the expected and unexpected

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Just inside the gates of the Sawdust Festival, gold stars and a space ship greet visitors. It makes perfect sense, as the Sawdust, by all rights, is its own universe. One anticipates entering another world – the sights and sounds are exclusive to this particular space – and that’s the wonder of it.

53rd Annual mad hatter

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Mad Hatter – Robert Holton – welcome to the world of the Sawdust Art Festival 

Walking under the gold stars was the perfect introduction to the 53rd Annual Summer Sawdust Art Festival. “Expect the unexpected” is the theme this year, and who imagines looking up and seeing stars among the trees when it’s still light. But then who expects to see – the Mad Hatter, a fairy princess, a dragon, puppets, and a clothes designer doing a whirling dervish? Those are only a few of the delights among the 192 artists and makers (9 are guest artists) represented.

One always expects the work of the Sawdust artists to be unique, but this year seems particularly innovative. It’s a wonderful blend of seasoned and new exhibitors.

53rd Annual puppet

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Artists Natasha and Sandra Weir – mom and daughter dressed to match their booth themes

Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets downtown, said, “A little mist couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the Preview night at Sawdust. Everyone kicked it up a notch this year, with themed booths and even an Avenue of the Stars and a spaceship to welcome all. With the new artists complimenting the seasoned veterans, fabulous décor, and a huge dragon watching over the festival, this year is out of this world! As I exited I overheard several people clutching purchases exclaim, “this is the best ‘Dust in years! Wow!”

53rd Annual artists

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Artists Katlin, Emily, Reem, Makaila, and Ora

Jane Slowsky is celebrating her 50th year exhibiting. She said of preview night, “Yes, I really enjoyed the evening. 50 years and planning more as I am now 91 working on 100. I was on the board when we created the Sawdust Festival and am one of the original exhibiters for our first year. My daughter Patty Slowsky has been my partner all these years as she made macramé keychains, that was the time we could sell our children’s artwork, and she has stayed with me all these years. We share our booth space with Patty’s husband, John Enfield, he does wood. Patty and John have combined their skills a few times. Patty and I try to make our glass fun and exciting and a new idea for glass each year.”

53rd Annual Slowsky

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Janet Koelle writing up a sale for Jane Slowsky, who is celebrating her 50th year in the Sawdust

Once local band Party Foul began to play, it was difficult not to gravitate toward the deck. The Sawdust continually hosts great musicians, and they were a terrific choice to usher in the summer season. 

The Sawdust Festival brochure explains, “During the process of making art, unexpected things will happen, and that is what makes it unique and beautiful. This year is about tapping into the creative power of art, which changes how we view the world.”

53rd Annual Evans

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Alex Evans, Father of dragons

After experiencing the 53rd Summer Sawdust, you can’t help but see the world a little differently. 

The Sawdust opens today, Friday, June 28, and runs through Sunday, September 1. It is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.

Upcoming special events for the next week include Live Art Demos, every Monday at 5 p.m., Tropical Tuesdays beginning on July 2, Mardi Gras Day on July 6, and docent-led tours of the grounds every Wednesday at 3 and 5 p.m.

The Sawdust Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For more information on events, workshops, and music, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see slideshow below


Open casting call for Pageant of the Masters Made in America draws a crowd of hopefuls

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

As a kid, if you ever played the game “freeze,” you remember what it’s like to stay completely still – no twitching, no blinking, no scratching – it’s challenging to say the least. As most everyone knows, because the Pageant of the Masters’ cast re-creates famous artworks and sculptures known as “tableaux vivants,” or living pictures, the cast members must remain perfectly still for 90 seconds. 

No theater experience is necessary to attend the casting call. The only requirement is the ability to stand still and have fun, and the cast must have a lot of fun, since many return year after year.

According to Marketing Coordinator for Festival of the Arts Meghan Perez, over the past weekend, there were about 900 people who attended the three-day casting call for this year’s Pageant, Made in America. “We are expecting more sign-ups over the next couple weeks with people coming in for appointments. We’re encouraging anyone who was interested and couldn’t make it over the weekend to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a time to get measured.”

Open casting Bainbridge

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First time at casting call – (L-R) Katy Bainbridge, age 9, Gaby Bainbridge, age 11, and mom Michelle Bainbridge

Granted, it’s not a small commitment – seven days on and seven days off (Monday - Sunday) from July 8 - September 3 for at least two and a half to three hours a night. (Those not chosen go onto a summer substitute list of around 200.) Plus there are rehearsals every other Thursday beginning earlier in the year.

Of the approximately 1,000+ men, women, and children who sign up during a three-day casting call, 150 will be picked for the A team and 150 for the B team. Two cast members of similar (if not identical) height and body type are chosen for each part, a necessity since the cast has alternating weeks off. Ages range from 5 years to 85 years of age. As the sets are developed (two to three at a time), selection of cast members continues throughout the months of January to June. 

Construction Foreman David Talbot, who has been with the Pageant for 10 years, says, “We have eight sets built already. We’re ahead of the game.”

Standing still is only a part of what each potential cast member goes through during Pageant of the Masters. Quite a bit happens well before that first step on the set in July. 

Open casting Butch

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Technical Director Richard “Butch” Hall

Once the prospective cast members climb the stairs and enter the backstage area, paperwork is handed over to The Pageant’s Technical Director Richard “Butch” Hall, who directs them to the next step. Throughout the process, each will be measured 35 times (at different stations all manned by volunteers). They will also be photographed and meet the behind-the-scenes Pageant staff.

Pageant volunteers are also needed for the wardrobe, make-up, and headdress departments, as well as cast area coordinators and refreshment servers, among other positions. About 300 people are expected to be included in the pageant cast (two groups split into 150 volunteers each) and an additional 200 will help behind the scenes.

Brittany Clark Charnley, who started as a youngster in the Pageant, and was on the program cover in 1996, continued to be a cast member for quite a few years. She says, “I love the show, every art form is indescribable.” Her niece tried out this year.

Brittany’s mother Michelle Clark, who has been in the Pageant since 1995, said, “I am the only one who can say that I went to a bar with Jesus.” (Referring to the volunteer who played Jesus in The Last Supper.)

Open casting Michelle

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Michelle Clark, a longtime volunteer in the Pageant 

“It takes over 500 volunteers, both onstage and behind-the-scenes, to put on the Pageant. We wouldn’t have a show without our volunteers! They have so much fun backstage and many volunteers return year after year to participate,” says Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy.

Trying out for the makeup department for the second year in a row, Monica Thompson and Chris Lins agreed, “It’s just great to be part of it, we had so much fun last year.” This year, they’re also hoping to be substitutes for the cast.

As she was recording measurements, Bettye Murphy shared that she has been a volunteer for 46 years. That’s got to be some kind of a record!

Judy Flanders, who has been with the costume department for 28 years, met her husband Bob while he was volunteering at the Pageant in 2010, and now they volunteer together. 

Judy says of the casting call, “As always, we have a wonderful time saying hello to old friends and meeting potential ‘teammates.’ The atmosphere is always so upbeat and fun…to me, it’s one of my favorite places on earth! Also, as always with the Pageant of the Masters, everything ran like a well-oiled clock.”

Open casting measuring

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Chris Simich, in his fourth year, measures Benjamin Webster. Simich creates all the headpieces.

In this summer’s production of Made in America, audiences will meet the artists – revolutionaries, innovators, dreamers – who not only made this country their home, but let their creativity be inspired by the freedoms upon which this nation was founded.

The show will include acknowledged masters of American art: N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell, Daniel Chester French, Luis Jimenez, and John Nieto.

Anita Mangels, FOA board member and pageant volunteer for 30 years, says, “Bizarre Bazaar is ‘our side show.’ The proceeds of sales from pieces from the Pageant are sold and go to the Student Volunteer Recognition Fund. The money goes to help kids who have volunteered in the Pageant and are now moving on to higher education. The funds are used for books and such.” 

Open casting bazaar

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Bizarre Bazaar sells donated items from past Pageants to aid the Student Volunteer Recognition Fund

“This is a fun thing, something outside of normal, and gives the kids a head start. The donated props and materials are very eclectic and in keeping with the Pageant vibe. As part of the casting call, volunteers really look forward to seeing something from a scene they might have been in last year. It’s an opportunity for pieces from the Pageant to go on and have a new life. They have sentimental value to a lot of people.” 

The ultimate goal for those attending the casting call is a phone message stating, “We think you’re perfect for Pageant of the Masters, do you have the desire to make a commitment?” 

The Pageant’s extended family of volunteers continues to grow, as does the excitement and enthusiasm for each new production. 

It’s going to be a spectacular show, so don’t miss it.

The Pageant of the Masters production Made in America will be presented nightly from July 8 - September 3. Advance tickets are now on sale starting at $20 per person. 

To stay up to date on all things Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, visit www.foapom.com.


Sawdust Art Festival set to open Outdoor Marketplace on September 19

The Sawdust Art Festival has been approved to open its Outdoor Marketplace on Saturday, Sept 19. The Outdoor Marketplace will offer a safe and intimate environment within the Sawdust Art Festival’s historical three-acre eucalyptus grove where patrons can shop art, and enjoy outdoor dining and live music.

“We’re thrilled to announce the opening of our Outdoor Marketplace. Local artists can begin to rebound from the economic impact of the pandemic, and it’s a wonderful way for friends and neighbors to safely shop and socialize on our beautiful grounds,” stated Monica Prado, president of the Sawdust Board of Directors.

Nearly 100 Sawdust artists will rotate through 48 spaces every weekend over the course of the event, providing a unique opportunity for patrons to shop art directly from some of their favorite artists. 

Sawdust Art sign

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Sawdust Art Festival’s Outdoor Marketplace will open on Saturday, Sept 19

“I want to commend the Sawdust Board of Directors for their creativity in developing a plan that will allow a great Laguna tradition to continue this fall,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “Our community was founded by artists and the marketplace will provide an opportunity for many local artists to sell their art to support themselves and their families.”

The Sawdust Art Festival has also taken every precaution to provide a safe experience for guests with an extensive implementation of safeguards and preventative measures. 

Shohreh Dupuis, assistant city manager of Laguna Beach, added, “I’m so pleased that we were able to work collaboratively with the Sawdust to develop a plan that can safely bring the artists back to the Sawdust grounds.” 

Sawdust Art Festival Presents an Outdoor Marketplace will be open on Saturdays and Sundays only beginning September 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. Advance ticket sales will be announced online soon. 

Sawdust Art Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.

For information, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.


LAM’s 8th Annual Art & Nature Festival brings dazzling airborne installation to Heisler Park

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The Laguna Art Museum’s (LAM) Art & Nature Festival has been described as a multidisciplinary exploration of art’s many and various engagements with the natural world. With the installation of Sunset Trace at Heisler Park, this journey continues – in a breathtaking way.

The theme of Art & Nature specifically speaks to the identity of Laguna Beach, which for over a hundred years has fostered art, the love of nature, and environmental awareness. 

Over the eight-year course of Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature events, there have been a wide variety of installations – in 2013, Nocturnal Drawing with solar lanterns; in 2016, the Quarter Mile Arc composed of 10-foot mirrored poles; and then in 2018, the Shoreline Project featuring 1,000 luminous umbrellas. Last year was the only time in the festival’s history that the installation was inside instead of outside.

LAM's 8th closeup

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Artist Patrick Shearn

However, this year, the installation has gone back outside, and without a doubt, it’s something remarkable to behold. Anchored inconspicuously, the artwork sways and undulates as if floating in midair, offering a peaceful and mesmerizing experience to all who encounter it.

LAM Executive Director Malcolm Warner says, “This will be the most spectacular Art & Nature happening ever, and I can’t tell you how excited we are to unveil it. It’s been a pleasure to work with the city on the project, and above all with our artist, Patrick Shearn, and his team. What a marvelous combination of creativity and professionalism!”

In collaboration with the City of Laguna Beach, the museum commissioned a site-specific, multicolored, kinetic installation (a “Skynet”) off Main Beach over Main Beach Park. Entitled Sunset Trace, it seamlessly weaves through the palm trees along the shoreline, traversing sections of the walkways and cliffs between the gazebo and Main Beach in a stunning, windborne display. Sunset Trace will be on view from November 5 through November 15, 2020.

LAM's 8th long view

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“Sunset Trace” traverses walkways and cliffs between the gazebo and Main Beach

Shearn says, “I first saw the Laguna Cliffs at sunset and was struck by myriad of colors between the sky, sea, and lush foliage. The next day, I walked the same path in the cool fog of dawn and imagined some of the brilliant colors of the night before lingering behind, flowing like watercolor paint between the palms in the mist. It is an exciting challenge to create something to complement the natural coastline, already so dynamic and inherently beautiful, but I think we have risen to the call. I am thrilled to have been invited by the Laguna Art Museum to create Sunset Trace. I truly hope all the people have a chance to walk the path in different light with various wind to experience this artwork to its fullest impact.”

LAM's 8th wavy

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Moves with the breeze

Inspired by the graceful murmuration of birds flocking together, or schools of fish coalescing and moving simultaneously, Shearn’s signature Skynets are a constant reminder of nature moving around us. Suspended using transparent monofilament netting and rigged inconspicuously, the waving forms appear to levitate in midair, finessed by the wind patterns of each site, revealing unseen natural elements in unusual, dramatic ways.

An L.A.-based artist, Shearn specializes in larger-than-life, immersive public art installations. The artist’s signature Skynets earned him international renown after the debut of Liquid Shard enamored the City of Los Angeles. Shearn’s expertise in animatronics, robotics, and visual effects – gleaned from a 30-year tenure in the film industry as a creature maker and visual effects supervisor – has lent traction to a prolific career as creative director for his studio Poetic Kinetics.

LAM's 8th gazebo

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“Sunset Trace” will be up until November 15

Under Shearn’s guiding vision, Poetic Kinetics has designed, fabricated, and implemented a wide range of projects that encourage audience participation –from interactive projection mapping and pyrotechnics to enormous mobile sculptures. Notably, Poetic Kinetics’ projects both engage the immediate public through interactivity and reach viral notoriety on social media.

Shearn has brought Skynet installations to various locations in the U.S. and abroad where viewers are invariably compelled to slow down and take time to follow the rolling movement of the artworks, which appear to hang in thin air.

“I am so excited that the Laguna Beach Arts Commission was invited by the Laguna Art Museum to bring a Poetic Kinetics project to the Laguna Beach,” said Adam Schwerner, chair of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission. “This will be yet another project brought to Laguna Beach that reinforces our town’s long and illustrious history as an arts city. And, given health and safety protocols, is perfect for the moment.”

LAM's 8th blue

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Close up view of “Sunset Trace” 

LB Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl expresses her admiration for the installation. “Patrick Shearn and his talented team at Poetic Kinetics have transformed our relationship to the stunning coastline, for just a brief moment. It exemplifies and frames how important the natural environment of our city is. It is also an opportunity for the community to celebrate who we are and where we are,  and what better way to do that, than through the Arts. The installation continuously moves, it rustles in the wind, you can walk beneath it and beside it, creating a sense of flight or shoal of fish as they swim together. The experience is a feeling of being part of a bigger community, so needed as we continue to keep our distance during the pandemic. I hope the collaboration between the museum and city continues, as it brings out the best in us for all the community to enjoy.” 

So take a walk along the pathway and sit in one of the benches under Sunset Trace and prepare to be captivated. This unique and ever-changing viewing experience should not be missed.

On Saturday, Nov 7, at 7 p.m., Shearn will discuss his work including Sunset Trace in an Artist’s Lecture virtual event. To register, click here.

Additional Art & Nature 2020 events include a keynote lecture by artist, designer, and thinker Dan Goods on Friday, Nov 6 at 7 p.m. To register, click here.

On Sunday, Nov 8, LAM offers a virtual Art & Nature Family Festival with art, nature, and science activities for all ages. To view activities, click here.


Lagunatics opens this Friday at No Square Theatre

The latest edition of Lagunatics, a locals favorite send-up of everything loved (and not) about our beloved city, opens this Friday, Oct 5 at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night in October.

Lagunatics opens Oct sign

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Submitted photo

This year’s parody of all the goofy stuff that happens in Laguna, directed by founding Artistic Director Bree Burgess Rosen, opens on Friday

This year’s targets include goats, the City Council, undergrounding the power lines, Prop P, pocket parks, the Village Entrance, LBPD, Accessory Dwelling Units, public art, tree trimming, Laguna Art Museum, parking fees, Gay Pride, and the return of the echinoderms. 

Festivities begin with an opening night costume party, “Pimp My Premiere.” Attendees are encouraged to enjoy great hors d’oeuvres and beverages in creative garb, the sillier the better. 

The show’s run closes on Sunday, Oct 28 with a FinalaGala party catered by Pavilions Newport Coast, and beverages provided by Absolution Brewing Company. Snacks and beverages are available at all other performances as well.

Tickets are $60 for the Pimp My Premiere and party, $35 and $40 for Sunday performances, $45 and $55 for Fridays and Saturdays, and $100 and $110 (VIP) for the final night FinalaGala.

For additional information on events, auditions, classes, and to purchase tickets, visit www.nosquare.org.


Laguna Playhouse to present “Beauty and the Beast: A Christmas Rose,” starting Dec 5

Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham and Executive Director Ellen Richard present “Beauty and The Beast: A Christmas Rose,” with performances from Wednesday, Dec 5 through Dec 30 at Laguna Playhouse. 

The production is written by Kris Lythgoe, directed by Sheldon Epps, choreographed by Mandy Moore, with musical direction by Keith Harrison and musical supervisor Michael Orland.

It will star Ashley Argota, Thomas Hobson, Heath Calvert, Andrew Jackson, Riley Costello, David Engel, and more.

Laguna Playhouse Rose Ashley Argota

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Ashley Argota to star in Laguna Playhouse production of “Beauty and the Beast: A Christmas Rose” starting on December 5 with other key actors

For information or tickets, visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com or call 497-2787 ext. 229. Tickets range from $41 - $76.

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.


2018 FOA/POM season is a big success reporting $10.6 million in revenue

At the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters annual membership meeting on November 14, members were updated on recent achievements and given a glimpse of the future. The event, held at the Festival’s Forum Theater, featured reports on the past fiscal year’s activities, an overview of the Pageant’s 85th anniversary, recognition of longtime volunteers and staff, and a preview of the 2019 Pageant of the Masters.

Festival President David Perry began the meeting reporting the 2018 season an enormous success for both the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show and Pageant of the Masters. After his opening remarks, Perry presented an upbeat and entertaining video that captured the 2018 season and the Pageant’s 85th Anniversary. It featured the fine art show, the junior art exhibit, art education programs, special events, Pageant of the Masters, and the recent Pageant of the Monsters.

Perry then introduced City Council member Bob Whalen to remark on the season in the absence of Kelly Boyd, Laguna Beach mayor and ex-officio member of the Festival Board.

Julie Kirchen, an eight-year Pageant of the Masters volunteer and the Wellness Strategy and Integration Manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, presented the Festival of Arts and Perry with a $5,000 check from the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund to support community outreach art education programs.

FOA Festival Board

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Festival of Arts board members report a successful year

The 2017-2018 year was a fiscal as well as an artistic success, according to Treasurer Fred Sattler, who presented the unaudited annual financial report. Sattler reported unaudited revenues of roughly $10.6 million, and expenses $9.8 million, resulting in a net income of about $802,000. 2018 unaudited Festival of Arts net assets were reported at $26.3 million with liabilities at $8.2 million, resulting in net assets at $18 million.

Board member Pat Kollenda proudly announced that the Festival of Arts awarded $87,400 in scholarships to college students in 2018. There were 17 freshmen awards in the amount of $29,800. There were two scholarships in Dance, six in Music, one in Theater, seven in Visual Arts and one in Writing. The freshmen average high school GPA was 3.56. There were a total of 31 freshman applicants that applied in 33 areas. In addition, there were also scholarships awarded to 31 returning scholarship recipients.

Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy presented a slideshow of artwork to be presented in the 2019 Pageant of the Masters, The Time Machine, including works of art by Norman Rockwell, Paul Manship, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Johannes Vermeer, Georges Seurat, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Perry recognized and congratulated employees Reagan Foy, Costume Director, for her 10 years of service; Michelle Reindl, Accounting Assistant, for her 15 years of service; Sharbie Higuchi, Director of Marketing, Public Relations and Merchandising, for her 20 years of service; and Caryn Werfelmann, Director of Guest Services, for her 25 years of service. He thanked them for hard work and commitment to the Festival of Arts.

There was no election for the Board of Directors this year as the three incumbents ran unopposed. Tom Lamb, Pat Kollenda, and Anita Mangels will each serve new three-year terms on the board. Elected board officers for the 2018-2019 season are David Perry, president; Scott Moore, vice president; Fred Sattler treasurer; and Pat Kollenda, secretary.

The Festival of Arts is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road. For more information, visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org.


LBHS Drama and Park Avenue Players present Little Shop of Horrors in concert

On Friday, May 24 at 4 p.m., Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 at 2:30 p.m., LBHS Drama and Park Avenue Players present Little Shop of Horrors in concert. A deviously delicious Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical, Little Shop Of Horrors has devoured the hearts of theatregoers for over 30 years. 

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin) are the creative geniuses behind what has become one of the most popular shows in the world.

LBHS Drama cartoon

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Feed the need for musical hilarity with this delicious sci-fi smash about a man-eating plant

The meek floral assistant, Seymour Krelborn, stumbles across a new breed of plant, which he names “Audrey II” – after his co-worker crush. This foul-mouthed, R&B-singing carnivore promises unending fame and fortune to the down and out Krelborn as long as he keeps feeding it blood. Over time, though, Seymour discovers Audrey II’s out of this world origins and intent towards global domination. 

One of the longest-running Off-Broadway shows, Little Shop Of Horrors, the charmingly tongue in cheek comedy, has been produced worldwide to incredible success.

This LBHS Drama presentation is performed in concert style with live on-stage musicians at Thurston Middle School’s Black Box Theater.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults.

To purchase tickets, visit www.lbhs.booktix.com

Thurston Middle School’s Black Box Theater is located at 2100 Park Ave.


Laguna Beach Chamber Singers presents Spring Concert on Sunday at Laguna Presbyterian

Laguna Beach Chamber Singers is ready to wow audiences once again with a Spring Concert this Sunday, June 2 at 4 p.m. at the Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church.

LBCS will be presenting one of the most eclectic concerts that they have offered, featuring the totemic, challenging yet intoxicating Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (I, II, III).

Laguna Beach choir

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Courtesy of lbchambersingers.org

The talented Laguna Beach Chamber Singers will perform their Spring Concert on Sunday 

This is of particular interest to pianists of all ages, as the Stravinsky is not usually performed as 1-piano/4 hands with chorus – it’s a first, certainly in the SoCal area. They take on Verdi, and the choruses they will be singing are wonderfully representative of his genius. 

The Bernstein Broadway tunes are both familiar and not so familiar, with a piece specially arranged for the Chamber Singers, and will be a fun way to end this wide-ranging concert. The singers are planning a special intermission event so that concertgoers can emphatically say “the intermission’s great!”

For more information on the LBCS, visit www.lbchambersingers.org

The Laguna Presbyterian Church is located at 415 Forest Ave.


Artists get ready to welcome the public for 53rd Sawdust Summer Festival season 

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

For nine weeks during the summer, Sawdust Art Festival draws more than 200,000 visitors. Guests are invited to shop along sawdust-covered paths in a hand-built village of fine art and eclectic craftsmanship. Summer artists are Laguna Beach residents. Sawdust also offers a robust year-round art program onsite, Sawdust Art Classes, featuring a comprehensive array of art and studio workshops taught by working Sawdust artists.

Preview night is Tuesday, June 25; Opening day is June 28.

Artists get Patsee

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Looking for a little shade, photographer Patsee Ober builds her booth around a pomegranate tree

In the mid 1960s, personal freedom of expression broke out and with it, a vibrant arts and crafts movement. In Laguna Beach, that creative energy brought together an influx of young artists and craftspeople, as well as talented local artists who had been juried out of the only summer art festival in town. Fueled by a passionate desire for artistic independence and wanting something fresh and exciting, the Sawdust Festival was born.

Artists get David

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A warm welcome from artist David Nelson

In 1965, the very first show was held in a vacant lot across the street from present-day Laguna Beach Public Library, but it wasn’t until ‘67 at another locale on Coast Highway that sawdust was used along the grounds to help keep dust down. It was then the press coined them the Sawdust Festival.

Artists get Star

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Tree booths are popular; Star Shields builds his booth around the pepper tree again this year

When the show reformed the following summer at what would be its permanent home, 935 Laguna Canyon Rd, the founding artists erected the first official Sawdust Festival sign.

The Sawdust Art Festival is open daily Friday, June 28 – Sunday, September 1, 2019.

Summer Festival Hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

(Festival will close early at 6 p.m. on July 4th.)

Tickets to the 53rd Annual Sawdust Art Festival are available for purchase before arrival. Allow two to five hours for online ticket sales to process. If planning to attend the same day, purchase tickets at the box office.

For tickets, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.


Laguna artist Jorg Dubin installs sculpture in front of his studio to support Black Lives Matter

By DIANNE RUSSELL

No one would call Laguna artist Jorg Dubin conservative in his approach to art – he was kicked out of the Festival of Arts and the Sawdust Festival for life. His work is provocative and, at times, disturbing – and he readily admits that it’s not for everyone – but there’s no denying it evokes strong emotions. 

“Since the beginning of my career, creatively, my work has been socially, politically, and environmentally focused, particularly during the last three-and-a-half years in terms of my painting. It’s meant to be thought-provoking,” he says. 

Since Dubin – a painter, sculptor, ceramist, and production designer – arrived in Laguna in 1976, his work has consistently documented what was happening at that particular time in history. (Dubin taught at LCAD and is on Laguna’s Planning Commission.)

Dubin created Semper Memento, the 9/11 memorial dedicated in 2011 at Monument Point in Heisler Park that includes two beams from the fallen World Trade Center towers. Not much controversy there.

However, last week, Dubin installed a sculpture in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in front of his studio on Laguna Canyon Road. “It was self-funded. I really believe in the cause. The owner of the studio gave her blessing.”

Laguna artist with sculpture

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Dubin with BLM sculpture on Laguna Canyon Road

Dubin is passionate and outspoken about the BLM cause and finds it impossible to be silent. “The main reason behind the statue is that I’m outraged at the country’s systemic racism, as well as its environmental disregard, and socio-economic disparity. I feel like we’re collapsing as a country instead of progressing.

“What’s happening now with the protesting and police and federal government’s response is what was happening during the 60s civil rights movement. Six decades later seems nothing has changed.”

Although not everyone appreciates his art, the feedback for the BLM sculpture has been favorable.

“The piece has gotten a lot of support,” says Dubin.

Dubin feels that art should evoke thought and move people to action particularly in a place that was founded by artists and progressive thinkers.

“I don’t understand what people are afraid of. Public art should be thought-provoking. I’m angry because of what’s going on in the country, and cities like Laguna Beach should be at the forefront of the conversation. We’re a privileged community and as such we can’t ignore social, racial, and economic issues.

Laguna artist at door

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Dubin at the door of his studio

“When I moved here, Laguna was a hotbed of art. It was a time when there were a lot of edgy artists, writers, actors, and people into social issues, and it’s changed from the progressive nature it was founded on. Now we don’t want to offend anyone. We’re too worried about our branding. Does Laguna want to be an art colony or a beach resort with cute shops? 

“Still to this day, parents of African and Hispanic American kids have to teach their kids how to behave when they are in public for fear every day that when they leave the house they may not return. ‘You have to be on guard, beware of police, and if you’re stopped by a cop,’ well, we have all seen how those encounters can end.

“We live in a place that’s safe and privileged and because of that, we should be even more engaged in what is happening in our country. It affects all of us. We need to understand what’s going on and take the time to understand that the systemic problems are deeply rooted in our history. Why is our government responding in such a militant way? Most of the people protesting are peaceful.”

Laguna artist orange stand

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Photo by Scott Brashier

“The Orange Stand” – a depiction of the widespread protesting throughout the country and police and federal government’s response

In an attempt to bring these issues to the forefront here in town, earlier this year, Dubin submitted two concepts for temporary public installations through the Arts Commission Fostering Creativity Grant Program. They were seeking brave and creative works in the fields of art, performance, or music. 

“Since it was to be a temporary two to three-month installation, they were looking for submissions with content and edge. They knew what I had been working on, and they knew it would be in that vein,” says Dubin. 

“Both concepts were reality, content-based, and compelling. The first piece depicted the silhouettes of two cops in riot gear – one cop in full swing with a billy club – in between was a protester on his knees, hands raised high in the air. 

“However, the response from the Arts Commission was that it was too controversial, and I understood, I had known there was a 50/50 chance the Arts Commission would approve the concept.”

Asked to resubmit, the second concept was more unifying. There were five silhouettes of kneeling protesters, and the colors graduated from black, to brown, to white, with the title UNITY.

That concept was also rejected by the Arts Commission.

Laguna artist fist

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Photo by Jorg Dubin

Dubin’s hope is that by the time the sculpture disintegrates over time, racism and social injustice will be a thing of the past

It’s apparent Dubin is impassioned about the cause, and he doesn’t mince words.

“I wouldn’t normally apply for such programs but instead leave the grants for other local artists, however it was important for me to get the message out in public view. We should be invested in this. As a community, we need to comment on what is going on around us. Local artists need to say something about the times we live in.

“I don’t understand the provincial reaction to my work. Seems to me that if art is not ‘cute and colorful’ then there is no place for it here in the art colony.”

Dubin believes the sculpture, which is made of fabricated metal sheets, has a message beyond the obvious. 

“It is a temporary piece. I made it knowing that if it stayed outside, it would rust through and disintegrate over time. Perhaps by then the country may have progressed enough that these kinds of statements may not be necessary. That the message of Dr. King and John Lewis would be fully realized and systemic racism and social injustice would be a thing of the past forever.”


Virtually inspired 22nd Annual Plein Air Painting Invitational continues through October 11

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) and the Laguna Beach community continue celebrating our plein air legacy. LPAPA is determined to not only survive the pandemic, but to find creative ways to sustain itself and help its artists so that they can care for themselves and their families. LPAPA believes that in these challenging times we all need to stand together to support one another. The nonprofit says, “Together we will get through this. Together we will keep LPAPA Strong!”

Despite all the challenges of this year due to the pandemic, LPAPA is convinced that “the show must go!” The organization is determined not to let its artists or its collectors down. And so, LPAPA is making history by presenting its first virtually inspired invitational, now through October 11.

Virtually inspired Demers

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Submitted photo

Don Demers, “Light in the Cove”

LPAPA invites everyone to “join them” (virtually) in Laguna Beach and enjoy art exhibitions, sales, and auctions, watch their nationally recognized artists at work, hear “Plein Talks,” and participate in special activities. LPAPA will bring all the excitement directly to viewers right in the comfort of their own home. 

LPAPA says, “We continue the tradition that was started in 1999 with the first Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational. This year we will virtually present our 22nd Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational, enabling all to enjoy the many events so loved by all but in a safe and socially distanced environment.”

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

Virtually inspired Obermeyer

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Michael Obermeyer, “Lazy, Hazy Sunday”

As LPAPA honors these milestones in history, the organization has planned a Plein Awesome celebration for the 2020 Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational. This year LPAPA has invited 25 of the top plein air artists from across the United States to join together virtually. The participating artists will be painting from a collection of photos taken exclusively for this year’s event from around Laguna Beach and surrounding communities capturing the breath-taking ocean vistas, historic neighborhoods, rolling hillsides, and lush gardens of Laguna’s beautiful region. 

Event details can be found by clicking here. 

Sunday October 4: Quick Draw Competition at Treasure Island. For an event recap, click here.

Saturday October 10: 22nd Annual Collectors Virtual Galan & Art Show Sale/Auction. Advance ticket purchase is needed for online access – click here.

This year, LAPA will be bringing the Gala to you! Plan to spend an enchanting evening from the comfort of your home with 25 of the nation’s top award-winning artists and fellow art lovers. LPAPA’s 22nd Annual Laguna Plein Air Collectors Gala will be a virtually inspired experience hosted online along with a Gourmet Reception Gift delivered for you and your guest to enjoy during the Gala. 

Virtually inspired Marshall

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Submitted photo

Daniel Marshall, “Singular Satisfaction”

Sunday October 11: Invitational Art Show & Online Sale/Auction 

Advance ticket needed for virtual access – click here.

Plan to join for some just plein awesome fun with a full day access to the Laguna Invitational Art Show & Virtual Events that will include access to the Invitational Art Auction, Plein Talks with the Award Winners, and more! One registration will give full access to the day’s programing for Sunday’s Virtual Experience. 

Participating Artists: Joe Anna Arnett, Cindy Baron, Carl Bretzke, Saim Caglayan, Bill Davidson, Rick J Delanty, Don Demers, Jed Dorsey, Bill Farnsworth, Mark Fehlman, Kathleen Hudson, Debra Huse, Calvin Liang, Daniel Marshall, David Marty, Jim McVicker, Terry Miura, Michael Obermeyer, Jason Sacran, Anthony Salvo, Aaron Schuerr, Jeff Sewell, Michael Situ, Barbara Tapp, and Michele Usibelli.

For additional information about the 22nd Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational or the LPAPA nonprofit art organization, contact Rosemary Swimm, LPAPA’s executive director, by phone at (949) 376-3635, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by visiting www.lpapa.org/laguna-plein-air-invitational.


Festival of Arts, the premier showcase for the arts, runs from July 5 – September 1

Laguna Beach Festival of Arts will let creativity run wild this summer with the prestigious Fine Arts Show on Thursday, July 5 – Saturday, September 1 and Pageant of the Masters’ “Under the Sun” Saturday, July 7 – Saturday, September 1. 

Celebrating its 86th year, the Festival of Arts’ prestigious juried Fine Arts Show showcases original artworks from 140 of Orange County’s finest artists and offers interactive art workshops, demos, special events, live music, wine and chocolate pairings, guided art tours, and more. 

In conjunction with the Fine Arts Show, the Pageant of the Masters world-famous theatrical celebration of art recreated in tableaux vivants – “living pictures”– will awe audiences nightly with spectacular stage illusions choreographed to original, live orchestra performance and engaging narration.

Festival of Arts Fine Art Show runs from July 5 – September 1, weekdays noon – 11:30 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. There will be early closing on August 25 at 1:30 p.m. 

Pageant of the Masters runs from July 7 – Septemger 1, with performances nightly at 8:30 p.m.

Festival of Arts Painting

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Franz A. Bischoff’s painting, Catching Fish at the Beach, at the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show

Festival of Arts Fine Art Show tickets are available online at www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org. General Admission tickets are $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends; Student tickets are $7 on weekdays and $11 on weekends; tickets for Children 6-12 are $5 daily; admission is free for Children 5 and under, Military, and Laguna Beach Residents.

For Pageant of the Masters ticket information and to purchase tickets, visit www.pageantickets.com. Tickets start at $15 per person. Pageant of the Masters ticket grants access to the Fine Arts Show.

Festival of Arts is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.


Laguna Art Museum presents One Night/One Painting

Author and critic Peter Clothier invites participants to spend a full hour in front of a single work of art at Laguna Art Museum on Thursday, Feb 28 at 6 p.m. Participants are encouraged to practice meditation and contemplation during the hour.

Laguna Art green

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Courtesy of lagunaartmuseum.org

Join Laguna Art Museum for a night of contemplating art

Clothier is an internationally-known writer, speaker, and creative consultant who specializes in writing about contemporary art and artists, including the popular “Slow Looking: The Art of Looking at Art.” He has given talks for TEDx Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, and many other venues.

Advance reservations are recommended.

For more information, visit www.lagunartmuseum.org or call (949) 494-8971 x203

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.


LCAD Bi-Annual Art Market Sale 

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna College of Art + Design’s (LCAD) hosted its Bi-Annual Art Market Sale last weekend. Julian Velarde, Assistant Dean of Students at LCAD, says of the sale, “This [year]…forty talented students showcased paintings, prints, jewelry, pins, stickers, t-shirts, totes and other handmade unique creations…the event was a great success and the atmosphere was festive throughout. A special thank you to 4G Ventures for the generous use of their venue.”

LCAD Bi Annual shopping

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LCAD students Rachel Villanueva (left) and Angeline Chen

LCAD Bi Annual Mo

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Mo Honarkar (on right) greets shoppers at 4G Ventures showroom

LCAD Bi Annual chatting

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Festive atmosphere 

LCAD Bi annual table

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One-of-a-kind merchandise


Laguna Beach Live! Bluegrass and BBQ 

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach Miskey

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The Miskey Mountain Boys perform live to a sell-out crowd at LCAD on Saturday for Bluegrass and BBQ presented by Laguna Beach Live!

Laguna Beach at tables

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LB Live! partnered with three local companies to deliver a great hometown experience: Laguna Beach Beer Company and Purple Corduroy offered libations to the happy crowd, while Gnarly Q served up smoked meats and veggies.

Laguna Beach trio

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Cindy Prewitt (middle) of Laguna Beach Live! is joined by two Laguna Beach Live! volunteers


Fete de la Musique 

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Fete de parade

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Boardwalk parade – Elvis (David Gorgie) on left

Fete de Chutney

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Love Chutney at Areo 

Fete de Mike

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Mike DeBellis, jazz saxophonist at Pepper Tree Lane 

Fete de Tamara

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Sandro and Tamara, multilingual vocalists at LCAD Gallery parking cave

Fete de Blacktongue

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Blacktongue Bells, a real crowd-pleaser at the Water District…But the music never stops, so tune in on Friday to get the rest of the melodic missive from Barbara Diamond


Laguna Dance Festival artists dazzled at The Promenade last night

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Dance Wilkerson

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Lenai Wilkerson – Every Thursday through September 3 from 7 - 8:30 p.m., Laguna Dance Festival presents “Dancing Solo Together,” a series of free live dance solos at The Promenade at Forest with professional dance artists from across the country performing for shoppers, diners, and pedestrians

Laguna Dance Flynt and Stern

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Ardyn Flynt (in background) and Amaria Stern – Each performance is unique, highlighting solo dancers and their creative work. The four performers last evening were all from USC’s Kaufman School of Dance.

Laguna Dance Walton

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Rachel Walton – The dance presentations are intended to enhance the artistic experience embedded in the Laguna Beach lifestyle by offering dynamic and thought-provoking dance performances, while practicing social distancing and promoting the health and safety of all guests on The Promenade on Forest


Halloween at the Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace bound to be a spooktacular event

Calling all Gremlins and Goblins, the Sawdust Art Festival Outdoor Marketplace will host a family-friendly Halloween event on Saturday, Oct 31. Patrons of all ages are encouraged to dress up and join in on the spooktacular festivities. Children will receive individually wrapped goodie bags upon entry, and the beloved Balloon Diva will be onsite to entertain youth with themed balloon artistry. 

The Sawdust Art Festival Outdoor Marketplace will run every weekend through December 20, 2020. Patrons can support their local artists this holiday season by shopping for handmade gifts from an array of media including jewelry, ceramics, glass, textiles, and more. 

Halloween at pumpkins

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Submitted photo

Don’t miss the Halloween festivities this weekend at the Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace

Guests can also expect entertainment during their visit with live music scheduled all day on two stages, and outdoor dining provided by three restaurants and a saloon. 

The Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace offers a safe and enjoyable experience within its three-acre eucalyptus grove for the public to enjoy a day of the arts. Masks are required for entry and stringent safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of all guests, artists, and staff. 

The Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 per adult and free for children ages 12 and under. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.sawdustartfestival.org or call (949) 494-3030. 

The Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Laguna Live! continues Summer Jazz 2021 series Wednesday with Adam Bravo

Laguna Live! is delighted to present a weekly series of acclaimed jazz musicians on Wednesday evenings through June 23rd. The concerts will be live-streamed and available on Facebook at 6 p.m. on the dates indicated for each artist below.   

The series continues this coming Wednesday, May 19 with the Adam Bravo Quintet. Keyboardist, producer, musical director, and composer/arranger Adam Bravo is a dynamic presence on the Los Angeles music scene. His credits include BTS, The Pussycat Dolls, JJ Lin, Nicole Scherzinger, Nik West, Deborah Cox, Eden Espinosa, Raquel Rodriguez, Gavin Turek, Louis Cole, Amber Navran, Pia Toscano, Rumer Willis, For the Record Live!, and Tim Gill. 

Laguna Live Adam Bravo

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Adam Bravo Quintet hits the stage virtually this Wednesday 

Bravo’s film and television credits include Mank, Dear White People, Black Monday, and Motown Magic. Adam is also an educator who holds faculty positions at Saddleback College and AMDA.

The series continues on May 26 with John Noreyko’s TUBOP, June 2 with the Jason Fabus Quintet, June 9 with Peggy Duguesnel & Friends, June 16 with the Kevin Hicks Quintet, and June 23 with the Brian Clancy Quintet. 

These virtual concerts are brought to you, at no cost, thanks to the Music Performance Trust Fund and American Federation of Musicians Local 7. For more information, to RSVP, or to see concerts in the series that you may have missed, visit www.lagunabeachlive.org.


Shana Morrison performs her special brand of music at The Cliff this Friday, May 11 from 7 – 10 p.m.

Shana Morrison will perform her special brand of music at The Cliff this Friday night, May 11, from 7 - 10 p.m.

Shana Morrison with her band

From the release of her 1996 debut CD Caledonia, to the recent recording of “Rough God Goes Riding” on father Van Morrison’s “Duets: Re-working The Catalogue,”Shana makes music on her own terms. 

In the process of recording five original CDs, touring with her band, and being a featured guest artist touring with her father Van spanning over 25 years, Shana has developed a unique and wide-ranging vocal style, bending the blues and R&B to make for a powerful performance that proves family talent runs deep.  

Starting out as a pop/rock artist in the ‘90s, she has always incorporated American roots music into her live shows.

Shana will be joined by a stellar group featuring Bob Hawkins on guitar, Dave Batti on bass, John Hoke on drums, and Andy Hill on “everything else”.

The Cliff is located at 577 S Coast Hwy.


Peter Blake Gallery celebrates 25 years of fine art with exhibit and reception on June 30

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

To commemorate its 25th anniversary, Peter Blake Gallery presents an exhibit aptly named “Twenty Five Years,” which incorporates both historic and recent West Coast Abstraction. Blake invites the community to join the opening celebration at a reception on Sunday, June 30 from noon to 2 p.m.

To date Peter Blake Gallery is the longest-running gallery exhibiting West Coast Minimalism and has become internationally known as a gallery that has carved a niche. The Gallery honors this longevity with a presentation of works by Lita Albuquerque, Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Ron Cooper, Mary Corse, Tony Delap, Laddie John Dill, Joe Goode, James Hayward, Scot Heywood, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken, John M. Miller, Marcia Hafif, Ron Nagle, Helen Pashgian, Hadi Tabatabai, and De Wain Valentine. 

Over half of the pieces in the exhibit are on loan from major collections and Blake says, “This gives visitors the opportunity to view works they might never have had the opportunity to see.” At the close of the exhibit in August, they will go back to their owners. 

Peter Blake sign

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Peter Blake Gallery relocated to the current location in 2008

When entering the gallery, it’s immediately apparent that it is an extraordinary space – three to be exact. It has a serene and almost sacred feeling, as if stepping through the door of a church. This peaceful aura wasn’t created by happenstance.

Blake says, “Some contemporary fine art is politically driven, everything has a strong message. These works are peaceful and quiet, they reflect and absorb light like the ocean and sand.”

A shift to minimalism

In 2008 when Blake moved his gallery from North Laguna to Ocean Ave – it was a beauty supply store and before that The Diane Nelson Gallery – he shifted exclusively into minimalism. He gutted the interior and divided it into three areas, the first with natural light, the second with natural and controlled light, the third contains totally controlled light. “The pieces capture the traveling of light. Sometimes the shadows are as beautiful as the work itself,” he says.

The snow-blink white walls are hung with a scattering of works, some have their own “nooks and crannies” as he describes them. Blake has the opinion that less is more, and the austere quality only adds to the mystique of the space. 

Peter Blake Alexander

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Work by Peter Alexander 1-10-14

Blake explains, “West Coast Minimalism originated in the 1960s and 1970s. Artists visiting the California Coast weren’t interested in brushes to capture the white light of the beaches and ocean. They were using resin and metal with auto paint.”

Blake brings together the sub-categories of West Coast Minimalism – Light and Space, Finish Fetish, Cool School, and Hard-Edge – in the installation, and it appears as a wonderfully cohesive whole.

Each work of art is strategically placed. Blake says, “The installation is done over time. As works come in, they are placed in composition with the other pieces, so they form a collage. Each new show presents a challenge.” 

Milestones

Milestones often bring reflections on the past, and as Blake observes the occasion of the Gallery’s 25th anniversary, he contemplates his history in Laguna, his 55th birthday on Thursday, his first six months as a Council member, and his recent purchase of the building that houses the Gallery, the first property he has owned in Laguna.

As exquisite as the Gallery is, Blake says, “A brick and mortar location isn’t necessary, most of my business is done online and at art fairs, but I love Laguna and being part of the community and its rich artistic history.”

Peter Blake interior

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Blake recently purchased the building that houses the Gallery

He and his wife Stephanie Bachiero travel all over the world for the art fairs – London, Paris, Sydney. 

The Gallery has been accepted into this year’s edition of Salon Art + Design New York, and this fall, they will be highlighting Brazilian Design and California Minimalism in their booth at the fair. They have also applied the Antoine Philippon & Jacqueline Lecoq solo presentation to Design Miami. 

Art fairs

Some of the recent fairs they’ve attended are: Seattle Art Fair 2017, Peter Alexander Solo Presentation at Expo Chicago 2018, and Fred Eversley Solo Presentation at the Armory Show 2018.

“I’m very proud to represent Laguna Beach at these art fairs,” Blake says.

When he came here in the 1980s, he said, “I’d never lived in a small town.” But he was smitten once he drove past the house on top of the ridge at the south end of Crystal Cove. He was born in Long Island, NY, lived in Dallas and Washington, D.C., and when he arrived here, worked as a waiter at Romeo Cucina. 

Peter Blake Valentine and Miller

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On left, De Wain Valentine, “Concave Circle Rose,” 1968; on right, John Miller, “Untitled,” 1995

With the new Gallery location came a different artistic direction, which he felt intuitively he should focus on, but it wasn’t without its downsides. The move took place just as the recession hit in September of 2008.

“It was a huge transition,” he says. “But as an art dealer, I couldn’t realize my full potential, so I made a dramatic shift. It took a while to get the Gallery off the ground. I worked at Romeo Cucina for five years until it became profitable. Now a lot of my business is buying and selling and remarketing of works we sold in the 1990s.”

Highs and lows

Blake and his wife, artist Stephanie Bachiero, have entered another artistic realm, incorporating design into collectible pieces. They have recently shown at Palm Springs Modernism Show Spring Edition 2019, KEM Weber Walt Disney Studio Designs at Design Miami 2018, and The Tendency of the Moment | International Deign: The Bauhaus Through Modern, Peter Blake Gallery 2017.

He has also survived through three recessions. “People stop buying art,” he says.

Even though there have been lows, Blake says the best part of being an art dealer is “doing exactly what you love to do, knowing you won’t get rich, but it’s rewarding.”

Peter Blake Lita

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Lita Albuquerque, “Untitled,” 2019, 24K gold leaf on resin, pigment on panel

“We do most of our business online and at fairs, so we could live anywhere in the world, but we choose to live in Laguna because we love this place. By purchasing this building, I’m saying I’m going to be here for the rest of my life.”

Excerpted from an essay written for the anniversary by prominent collector/Gallery friend Gisela Colon, she says, “Peter Blake falls into this category of the classic quintessential old-fashioned gallerist. He is one of them, not because he has been in the art world for twenty-five years – though this in and of itself is a feat of endurance and undeterred presence – but most importantly because he has the eye. By any tangible metric, Peter possesses the intangible asset of seeing the aesthetic of the future.”

Peter Blake Gallery is located at 435 Ocean Ave.

For more information, go to www.peterblakegallery.com or call (949) 376-9994.


Timeless wonder of Festival of Arts electrifies large crowd at Preview Party

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On Wednesday evening, the buzz in the air was palpable as the crowd mingled among artist booths during Preview Night at the Festival of Arts (FOA). No matter how many times one goes to the Festival of Arts, the anticipation never wanes. Each year is different and the raw excitement of seeing the unique and innovative creations of longtime exhibitors and new propels visitors among the maze of booths. 

The Festival’s prestigious juried art show includes a wide variety of media such as paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, handcrafted wood and furniture, ceramics, glass and more – all by 140 of Orange County’s finest artists. 

The timeless costumes

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Lisa M. Berman and artist Kathe Madrigal with time travelers Stacey and Benjamin 

Of course, the Pageant of the Masters theme of The Time Traveler echoed throughout the grounds. Attendees were asked to dress up in their favorite time period and many did, to the delight of all. Steampunk costumes were a favorite and added a wonderful whimsy to the night. 

Part of the overall party atmosphere was the fun of spotting friends and then enjoying the beautiful weather, food, libations, and music that played throughout the evening.

First-time exhibitor Lisa Kijak describes her pieces: “My textile work explores texture and its ability to illustrate the passage of time. I use layers of fabric and stitch to recreate the peeling paint and chipped surfaces of neon signs left in disrepair.”

The timeless Lisa

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First-time exhibitor Lisa Kijak and her textile works

After her first night at FOA, she said, “The experience of exhibiting at Festival of Arts for the first time has been magical and exciting. This is a community of supportive, brilliant, fine artists, who have welcomed me as a newcomer with open arms. I am truly honored to be the only fiber artist exhibiting this year. I can’t wait for the rest of the summer and look forward to sharing my work with the festival attendees.”

Jeweler Lance Heck has been exhibiting for 34 consecutive years and was juried in when he was just 18 years old. (He admits he misses the lawn and surrounding booths of the old FOA grounds, but is getting used to the new arrangement.) “While working mostly in 18k gold, platinum and fine gemstones, my pieces are contemporary in design with craftsmanship that is ‘old world.’”

The timeless Lance

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Jeweler Lance Heck has been exhibiting for 34 consecutive years

Accolades for the event came from first-time and return visitors as well.

Kristine Thalman, president of Laguna Beach Seniors says, “This is the most all-encompassing event in Laguna! Beautiful art, good friends old and new, expressive and fun dress, fantastic music, uninhibited dancing, and all in an extraordinary setting. I never take this for granted! We are truly blessed!”

The booth of photographer Jeff Rovner, who has been exhibiting since 2017, drew quite a bit of attention. This year he’s exhibiting a portfolio of six photographs that merge his passion for photography with his work experience in the field of artificial intelligence. Each photograph of a vintage toy represents an application of artificial intelligence. The lucite pane protecting each photograph is laser-etched with an excerpt of a machine learning computer code for that application. The etched letters cast a shadow on the photograph behind them.

The timeless Jeff

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Jeff Rovner (on right) and booth visitor

Bree Poort, who works in mixed media, is a first-time exhibitor and one of the youngest to ever exhibit at the Festival. “I never thought I’d be one of these artists. It’s so cool.” In a description of her work, she says, “My artwork is deeply inspired by the ocean and the power and peace she brings. Using resin and acrylics, my work is like flying over the ocean and getting the bird’s eye view perspective.”

Rachelle Weir’s figurative sculptures are “introspective and expressive.” She says of her work, “I take inspiration from vintage materials that are rich, tactile and authentic, most of which come from treasure hunts in dusty barns, wood piles, and flea markets.” She uses many diverse materials and construction techniques in her work and is especially drawn to woodcarving and the use of found elements in her sculptures. 

The timeless Glori

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No Laguna event is complete without Glori Fickling – with Harry Huggins at the booth of Rachelle Weir and her figurative sculptures

After attending on Wednesday, Joan Gladstone, artist and trustee of Laguna College of Art and Design, said, “I feel very fortunate to live in a town that values art and artists and offers exceptional venues like the Festival of Arts. I was impressed by the wonderful new works by longtime Festival artists as well as intriguing artwork by many new exhibitors. There were so many friends to talk to at the preview party, and so much to see, that I’m going to return very soon to take it all in.”

That seemed to be the general consensus – it requires more than one visit to take in all the incredible works of art. Time to go back.

Festival of Arts is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.

It runs from July 5 - August 31, 2019.

Festival hours are Monday through Friday from noon to 11:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. There is early closing on August 24 at 1 p.m.

For more information, go to www.foapom.com.

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see slideshow below


LAM’s Seventh Annual Art & Nature Festival celebrates nature-inspired art this weekend

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Executive Director of Laguna Art Museum (LAM) Malcolm Warner describes the Seventh Annual Art & Nature Festival as “a celebration of art inspired by nature,” and the four featured artists –Thomas Hunt, Laurie Brown, Mildred Bryant Brooks, and Yorgo Alexopoulos – each represent that theme in vastly different ways.

The festival is a multidisciplinary exploration of art’s many and various engagements with the natural world, and this journey continues all weekend through Sunday, Nov 10. For the first time in the event’s history, the commissioned work of art – this year by Yorgo Alexopoulos – will be inside the museum rather than outside and will be on view after Art & Nature weekend through January 5, 2020.

On Wednesday, members of the media had the unique opportunity to preview the artists’ works and view the multimedia installation by Alexopoulos –with the added treat of an explanation of the work provided by the artist himself.

LAM's Seventh Mildred

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Malcolm Warner explains “The Last Tree” etching by Mildred Bryant Brooks 

The works of Hunt, Brown, and Brooks have been on exhibit at LAM since October 13, and each artist has a unique approach to the issue of landscape and environment.

A preservationist, Mildred Bryant Brooks is known for her landscape etchings, many of which depict trees – such as her piece The Last Tree. 44 of her etchings from the 1930s and 1940s are on display.

Warner says, “She often portrayed nature under threat and the danger of it being undermined by development, as represented by the oil derricks in her work Black Mirror.”

Thomas Hunt is best known for his colorful coastal scenes. His exhibit Thomas Hunt: California Modernist features 50 paintings characterized by his distinctive style, which involves broad brushwork and the bold effect of light and reflection. Hunt was an active member of the LB Art Association. 

LAM's Seventh Thomas

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Thomas Hunt is known for his colorful coastal scenes

Displayed in the museum’s beautifully renovated basement, photographer Laurie Brown’s work depicts mankind’s relationship to the landscape in less comfortable ways, “dwelling in the zones that form a no-man’s land between the man-made and the natural.” Periphery #11, Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, 1995 shows the patterns left by bulldozers on the hillside during the development of Newport Coast. 

LAM's Seventh Laurie

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Photographer Laurie Brown depicts man-made impact on the natural world

As the riveting centerpiece of the event, Art & Nature presents 360° Azimuth, a specially commissioned work by Alexopoulos for the festival. The site-specific installation is on view inside the museum through January 5, 2020. 

A mesmerizing experience, Alexopoulos’s large-scale installation features a two channel video projection with sound and invites the viewer to be part of it. As described, “the landscape symbols become metaphoric ‘characters’ in an animistic meta-narrative where reality and constructs of our collective subconscious seem to co-exist. Using landscape symbolism as a point of departure, he combines Euclidean geometric shapes with a multiplicity of moving images, whether filmed, photographed, painted, or drawn, that unite representation and abstraction into a common aesthetic.”

An American-born artist of Greek descent, Alexopoulos graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. He creates paintings, time-based media artworks, and installations. He often synchronizes multiple monitors or projections in a dynamic ensemble to create an ever-changing immersive spectacle. 

LAM's Seventh Yorgo

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Yorgo Alexopoulos in front of “360° Azimuth”

Alexopoulos says, “Throughout history, nature has been constantly interwoven in religion and other cultural aspects, and I’m sensitive to how humans interact with landscape. Thirty thousand years ago, humans personified landscape/nature, and the sun and other elements became gods. They’re all different methods of landscape as symbol.” 

Inspired by various types of landscapes, he says, “It’s not the content or where it was filmed, but how landscape is being presented. Everything was shot at same angle using motorized dollies.” 

The photographs are from all over the world and drawn from his collection of 25 years of photography. He adds, “But there is CGI [computer-generated imagery] in the installation.”

Addressing the question of the various landscapes – deserts, oceans, mountains, and streams – in his installation, Alexopoulos says, “The body of work is like a narrative with the landscapes as different chapters. It has open-ended meaning. This is very liberating and experimental, something new and fresh, and I’m part of the pioneer process.”

His work is captivating and shouldn’t be missed. 

Activities throughout the weekend

 Throughout the weekend, there are many other activities for visitors to experience. There will be a keynote lecture by Professor Alan Braddock; a film screening; a panel discussion; and a free family festival exploring art and the natural world. 

Friday, Nov 8: 

6 - 9 p.m. – Keynote Lecture: On November 8, Alan Braddock, Ph.D. will give the keynote lecture, From Nature to Ecology: The Emergency of Ecocritical Art History

Saturday, Nov 9: 

11:30 a.m. – Film: LAM screens A Boy’s Dream, a documentary about the artist Theo Jansens, who creates large-scale “beach animals” that move independently, powered by the wind.

12:30 - 2:30 p.m. – Book Signing: Elizabeth Turk signs copies of the recently-published book documenting Shoreline Project, the 2018 Art & Nature commissioned work. 

2:30 - 4 p.m.Art in a Time of Climate Change: Professor Victoria Vesna leads a conversation with Linda Weintraub, the author of To Life!: Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet.

4 - 5 p.m. – Educators discuss how the idea of art inspired by environmental consciousness can be applied in the classroom.

6 p.m. Reception, 7 p.m. Lecture: In Person: Yorgo Alexopoulos: Yorgo Alexopoulos discusses his work, including this year’s Art & Nature commissioned piece.

Sunday, Nov 10 – Family Festival: LAM offers a day of free admission on November 10, plus family yoga with Bala Shala, hands-on art and science activities with partner organizations, and a family-friendly concert by Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders.

10 - 11 a.m. Family Yoga

11 a.m. - 2 p.m. – Hands-on Art & Nature: Art, nature, and science activities by Laguna Ocean Foundation, Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, LB Laureate Lojo Simon, Ocean Institute, Pacific Mammal Center, Newport Bay Conservancy, Center for Art Education and Sustainability, and the Art Division. 

2 - 3 p.m. – Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr, on the corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and Cliff Dr.

Admission: General admission: $7, Students (18+) and Seniors (60+): $5, visitors aged 17 and under: free, museum members: free.

For more information, click here.


Local artist installs sculpture COVID Crisis to promote hope during pandemic

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

In South Laguna, there’s an art installation that is both eye-catching and thought provoking. Laguna Beach glass and multimedia artist Leslie Davis recently installed a new glass and steel sculpture, COVID Crisis, as a symbol of much-needed optimism in these trying times.

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

The orange color on the COVID-19 virus symbolizes its constant mutations.

Local artist cropped