Take a sneak peek at everything new and exciting happening at this summer’s art festivals.
By Ashley Probst
The Laguna Beach art scene comes alive every summer with the openings of its three renowned summer festivals. These creative hubs draw in artists and aesthetes from all over the world to both attend these exhibitions and showcase artworks in them.
This year, Laguna Art-A-Fair and Sawdust Art Festival are set to make their summer 2023 debut June 30 and will both run through Sept. 3.
The Festival of Arts returns from July 5 to Sept. 1 with a special 90th anniversary Pageant of the Masters show featuring an “Art Colony: In the Company of Artists” theme; the presentation of “living pictures” (famous artworks re-created with volunteer models, elaborate sets, costumes and makeup) is nightly from July 7 to Sept. 1.
From new artistic talents and musical acts, refreshed stages and event spaces, an array of workshops to explore and much more, there are plenty of exciting happenings at Laguna’s summer art festivals to discover this season.
June 30 – Sept. 3
Laguna Art-A-Fair attracted a record-breaking 227 applications from artists around the world, 37 of whom were accepted into the festival. New exhibitors will showcase their works alongside returning artists for a total of 115 award-winning creatives across various mediums like oil painting, watercolor, photography, mixed media, glass, jewelry and more.
“During the jury process, I was able to see all the submissions from the extraordinary number of new artists and was impressed by the diversity of art,” says Laguna Art-A-Fair President Bob Ross.
This year will introduce a new layout for the artists’ displays, which is intended to improve the flow of guests and allow for pieces to be seen from fresh perspectives.
Live musical acts will include genres like Motown, surf, country, pop, rock and reggae performed on a new stage with reimagined backdrop; plus there’s a new dance floor. The festival will also host free salsa and swing dance lessons throughout the summer.
For a hands-on experience, festivalgoers can choose between 20 different artistic workshops to learn techniques for acrylic paint pouring, basketry, gourd decorating, jewelry making, paper collage, photo editing and more.
“I’ve been in the show [for] 15 years and this year is the first year that I’m signing up for workshops myself,” Ross says.
And, for the first time, festival tickets can be purchased online as well as at the box office.
Local foodies can also rejoice as a pop-up will debut on the festival grounds (at the Seven7Seven wedding and event venue). Laguna Canyon Beer & Wine Garden by chef Roger Barakat features cuisine made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and Mediterranean flair. An expanded wine list has also been curated with well-known wines in addition to offering craft beer and a full bar. Enjoy a drink and some food from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in the Laguna Canyon setting with hillside views, flowers and a cascading waterfall.
Sawdust Art Festival
June 30 – Sept. 3
The 57th annual Sawdust Art Festival will return with 169 local artists, including 10 new exhibitors and a guest artist—the largest collective of creators at any of this summer’s art shows. This diverse range of art forms includes ceramics, jewelry, glass, photography, woodworking, textiles, painting, sculptures and more, all to be displayed on the refreshed festival grounds.
“We’ve been busy behind the scenes preparing the grounds with new features, mural spaces and a front installation,” says Franky Duschane, director of marketing and public relations.
Murals include “Harmonic,” a 50-foot-long art piece by summer exhibitor Tara Luther along the festival’s perimeter, plus a music-inspired backdrop to the Grill Stage by exhibitor Tim Hahne and a selfie wall filled with colorful sea life by new Sawdust artist Lovisa Kjerrgren. “Lovisa’s graphic mural space is sure to encourage photo opportunities, along with an extra playful installation that is located at the entrance to the show,” Duschane says.
Daily offerings include performances by local musicians and other shows on the event’s three entertainment stages as well as complimentary art classes that will be held across three demo booths.
“Patrons can enjoy hands-on experiences in painting, mixed media, sculpture, crafts and ceramics—the pottery wheel is a fan favorite,” Duschane says, noting that classes are first-come, first-serve and included with admission. “… Visitors can also be wowed by the ongoing educational demonstrations provided by the exhibiting artists. One such favorite can be found at the Glass Demo Booth where master Sawdust glass blowers form and blow molten glass in a fascinating artistic display for visitors.”
Be sure to mark your calendars for special events like the Sawdust Fashion Show on Aug. 5 and an Artists’ Benevolence Fund Art Auction on Aug. 13, plus Sip, Talk & Walk, which is a docent-led art tour that takes place every Wednesday at 3 p.m. and includes complimentary wine tastings.
As always, there are plenty of refreshments available at GG’s Mediterranean, Evan’s Gourmet, Tacos Durrell, Espresso on the Go, Fran’s Popcorn, the Sawdust Saloon and Scoops on Tap, a new concession next to the saloon that will offer gourmet beer-infused ice cream, and additional nonalcoholic and vegan varieties.
Laguna Beach residents may want to plan their visit for a Monday or Thursday from 4-8 p.m., as the festival will be offering free entry for locals.
Festival of Arts
July 5 – Sept. 1
Featuring 120 artists, including 17 first-time exhibitors, the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show will showcase mediums like painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography and mixed media.
“If you’re an art aficionado, don’t miss out on the art tours where you can get an up-close look at the diverse works of our artists,” says Sharbie Higuchi, the festival’s marketing and public relations director.
Notably, Pageant of the Masters will be celebrating its 90th anniversary—a milestone that will be honored with a celebration July 22 with special exhibits, live performances and interactive activities.
Other special events include the debut of a soulful Gospel Brunch (it’s BYOB, or bring your own brunch) on July 23 and Aug. 13, and the Runway Fashion Show, which will highlight upcycled couture designs Aug. 20.
Weekly performances include a lineup of musicians, such as those participating in the new Americana series featuring different folk, blues and bluegrass artists every Friday night. Returning music series will include Art, Jazz, Wine and Chocolate on Thursday evenings; Concerts on the Green on Saturday afternoons; and Tremendous Tributes on Sunday nights.
On-site dining options include sit-down restaurant Terra Laguna Beach, which offers a menu of California cuisine, as well as Intermission by Terra, where several grab-and-go options can be ordered at a window. Or bring your own picnic to enjoy at the festival.
Those 21 and over can enjoy libations while creating art during Wine and Painting as well as Pints, Pinots and Prints. Other all-ages workshops include drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics as well as kid-friendly offerings on the weekends.
Young artists in prekindergarten through 12th grade will also be featured in the Festival of Arts Junior Art Exhibit. Additionally, a new program called Emerging Artists will give a platform for college-level art programs in Orange County—including Laguna College of Art & Design—to exhibit their students’ works while also giving them experience at a juried art festival.
“At the Festival of Arts, we’re committed to creating space for emerging artists to learn, grow and develop their careers,” Higuchi says, “as well as build relationships with seasoned artists and art organizations in Orange County.”