Celebrating Creativity

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Stage_ALaMode-credit Pageant of the Masters | Photo by Festival of Arts
Pageant of the Masters | Photo by Festival of Arts

Laguna’s festivals gear up for another fun-filled summer of art, music and more.

By Julia Clerk


Laguna Beach is known far and wide for its eclectic arts scene, a legacy of producing and promoting art that stretches back to the early 20th century when Norman St. Clair’s paintings were the talk of the 1904 Annual Spring Exhibition in San Francisco.

Capturing the essence of the Southern California coastal city, St. Clair’s watercolor landscapes attracted other artists to Laguna Beach. So many, in fact, that by 1918 they were inspired to start the Laguna Beach
Art Association.

The city has never looked back and, each summer, the Laguna Beach arts scene ramps up again with a variety of creative events that attract visitors and locals alike.


A Global Affair

After years of wandering from venue to venue, the Laguna Art-A-Fair found a permanent home in 1988 in the heat of the action on Laguna Canyon Road. Staged in a whimsical garden setting, this year’s event is scheduled for June 28 to Sept. 1.

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The Laguna Art-A-Fair entrance | Photo by Laguna Art-A-Fair

“This summer’s art show has me absolutely energized,” says Art-A-Fair President Robert “Bob” Ross. “We have a phenomenal lineup. Not only will we see 80 of our favorite returning artists showcasing their work, but over 30 new artists will be joining us as well. This influx of fresh talent brings a wave of exciting new energy and perspectives, making it a show unlike any we’ve seen before.”

What sets Art-A-Fair apart from similar events is a lack of residency restrictions on creative participants, according to Kim Brandon-Watson, the festival’s vice president of publicity and marketing. This year’s artists were chosen from a field of 253 applicants from eight countries and 16 states, many discovered through social media channels. “All our new artists are very diverse in their mediums,” she says. “We don’t just have a lot of painters. We have [exhibitors who work in everything] from fiber art to sculpture to glass and woodwork—just a great variety.”

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Laguna Art-A-Fair showcases more than 110 artists. | Photo by Laguna Art-A-Fair

Beyond exhibiting artists’ work, Art-A-Fair will also host 21 different four-hour workshops spread across various dates that the general public can sign up for online at art-a-fair.com/workshops. And musicians will perform genres from folk to jazz, reggae, R&B and disco as well as cover bands and lessons from professional dancers to tap into your own creative spirit.

When it comes to food, on-site restaurant Seven7Seven will be serving a casual menu of salads, shared plates and burgers as well as mixed drinks, beer and wine to take a break and refuel before enjoying more of the festival fun. For more information, visit art-a-fair.com.


OC’s Best and Brightest

Featuring the work of 120 award-winning Orange County artists, the Festival of Arts fine art show takes place in a beautiful outdoor setting and is one of the nation’s longest-running juried art shows. Started over 90 years ago, the festival always features a wide variety of works from paintings and sculpture to glassware, ceramics, photography and multimedia.

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Exhibits, like the juried show at Festival of Arts, are part of all the summer festivals. | Photo by Festival of Arts

“This year’s show was juried by some of the most recognized names in the West Coast’s art community,” says Sharbie Higuchi, marketing and public relations director, who lists Kim Irvine, Jesse Colin Jackson, Bradford J. Salamon, John Spiak and Victor Hugo Zayas among the prestigious panel members. “Our jurors evaluate submitted artwork based on criteria including creativity and originality, excellence of craftsmanship, excellence in the use of design elements, and professional presentation.”

Live music at Festival of Arts | Photo by Darnell Wade

Twenty-one new artists will be showing and selling their creations this year, as well as more than 90 talented artists returning to the show. In addition to the artworks on display, the event features art tours, classes and workshops, wine and chocolate pairings, and a variety of live music.

Meanwhile, the art show kicks off a new partnership with the City of Hope Orange County: A series of Saturday night concerts, which are part of City of Hope’s “Music of Hope” tour, will feature a piano wrapped in blue and uplifting music that salutes cancer patients and their families and friends.

An artist demonstration by Echo Baker at Festival of Arts | Photo by Festival of Arts

Attendees are invited to bring their own picnic, grab food from the Intermission by Terra window or dine at the sit-down restaurant, Terra Laguna Beach. The Terra Wine Bar also offers alcoholic beverages for purchase including California wines and a rotating selection of beer from local brewing companies. For more information, visit foapom.com.


Bringing Art to Life

Since it was first staged in 1933, Pageant of the Masters has grown into one of Laguna’s best-known events. This year’s theme, “À La Mode: The Art of Fashion,” will feature “living pictures” with cast members wearing elaborate costumes to re-create artwork from the era of King Tut to the Middle Ages and modern times, explains pageant Director Diane Challis Davy. “We’re pulling out all the stops this year for a dazzling display of sartorial elegance,” she says.

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Pageant of the Masters, with the theme “À La Mode: The Art of Fashion,” will re-create pieces such as “Too Early” by James Tissot and a butterfly brooch by Gaston Lafitte (pictured) | Photo by Festival of Arts

Featuring an all-volunteer and largely locally sourced cast, the 2024 pageant will open with a runway fashion show reflecting fashion found in works of art as well as a homage to the world-famous Met Gala. “The returning volunteers are especially excited about all the fancy dress[es] this year,” Challis Davy says.

There’s also a tribute to Edith Head, the Hollywood costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards. “One of her best collaborations was with director Alfred Hitchcock,” Challis Davy says. “We’re going to have fun with Edith’s costume sketches and vignettes from ‘Vertigo,’ ‘The Birds’ and ‘To Catch a Thief.’ Hitchcock was the master of suspense and our tribute will have many surprises.”

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Makeup and costumes adjusted backstage | Photo by Ron Azevedo

Pageant of the Masters runs nightly from July 6 to Aug. 30 in the Irvine Bowl inside of Festival of Arts. For more information, visit foapom.com.


Sawdust Goes Sustainable

The annual Sawdust Art Festival also has deep roots in the community. It’s been around since the mid-1960s, when the first two shows were held in various spots including the Peacock lot near Coast Highway before moving in 1968 to the current 3-acre eucalyptus grove in Laguna Canyon.

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Sawdust Art Festival stalls | Photo by Sawdust Art Festival

“The Sawdust Festival is deeply embedded in the history of Laguna Beach and spans generations of local families that have either been artists at the show or employees for summer jobs,” says Sawdust President Andrew Soliz. His advice for first-time visitors? “Take your time and have an open mind,” he says.

In a bid to be more sustainable this year and lower participation costs, the artists’ booths won’t be torn down at the end of the event so they can be used again next summer. Around 180 Laguna Beach artists working in ceramics, jewelry, glass, photography, painting and other mediums will take the spotlight at this year’s show.

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A glassblowing demonstration | Photo by Sawdust Art Festival

There will also be art demonstrations, complimentary art classes as well as three stages of live music, plus outdoor dining and drinking options. Beloved local favorite Taco Loco, which closed its South Coast Highway eatery last year, will open a food booth at Sawdust this summer including many menu items that were offered at the old location.

Roaming balloon artists, magicians and acoustic guitarists will add to the festive atmosphere. Special themes include Beatles Day on Aug. 24 and Country Western Day on Aug. 3. A Sip, Talk & Walk wine tasting and docent-led tour is at 3 p.m. Wednesdays while a fashion show is set Aug. 4 from noon to 2 p.m.

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Art classes at the festival | Photo by Sawdust Art Festival

Most of the art classes operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you get there the better. Sawdust opens at 11 a.m. daily for the duration. The festival runs from June 28 to Sept. 1. For more information, visit sawdustartfestival.org.

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