A guided experience delves into the history of Festival of Arts while weaving in background and little-known facts about exhibiting artists and their work.
By Sharon Stello
Walking around Festival of Arts to peruse the captivating paintings, sculptures and jewelry can be a relaxing and inspiring experience, mixed with live music and food options to round out the day. But for those who want to dive deeper, the artists are often available to chat at their booths and the festival even offers a free, docent-led tour.
Exhibits Director Christine Georgantas oversees the tour program, which was started in the late 1980s by artists Monica Dunham and Pat Sparkuhl, who now curates the festival’s off-site exhibits. Nineteen volunteer docents, who have been trained to give the tours, lead groups departing from the information booth at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and both noon and 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday during the festival season, which ends Sept. 2 this year.
There’s no minimum number of people required for the tours to take place. “We’re happy to do a tour for one person,” Georgantas says. “We don’t have a maximum. A busy day would be about 10, but that’s not common.” The tours are typically customized to match the interests of participants and average about 45 minutes to an hour.
“Our volunteer docents are a wonderful, dedicated group of art lovers with a wealth of knowledge,” Georgantas says. “They are happy to talk with any patron about artwork and I highly encourage people to visit and take a tour.”
Laguna Beach Magazine: Why should a festivalgoer sign up to take one of these free, docent-led tours?
Christine Georgantas: The docents are an incredible, passionate group of volunteers who will show you the artwork of our talented artists. We can cater the tour to a medium or talk about a specific artist, if the patron requests it. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the festival and our artists.
What do the tours entail?
CG: We start by talking with the group to see if there is anything particular that they want to see. If not, the docents will talk about the history of the Festival of Arts and take the patrons to meet two to three artists. … Every tour is different. The artists you meet change for every tour.
Who can become a docent and what type of training do they undergo before offering tours?
CG: We interview potential docents. We primarily look for volunteers who are passionate about the festival [and] the arts, and love talking with people. We will train on festival history and have docents shadow other docents to make sure that they’re comfortable before asking them to run their own tour.
Could you share a couple of interesting details that someone might learn on a tour?
CG: Ninety years ago, the festival [was] started in 1932 … by about two dozen artists to bring people to Laguna Beach and hopefully get them to buy some art. Artists hung their works on trees and buildings throughout the town. The next year, they added living pictures—[the] future Pageant of the Masters—to draw more people. Today, we have 120 Orange County artists—that no longer have to hang their work on trees. We’ve come a long way. You’ll find many more tidbits on the tours, especially about individual artists.
Is there anything new this year or any artists that you think locals and visitors should definitely check out this summer?
CG: I can’t pick just one—or even several. I think visitors should check out all of them. We have a new app. If guests download our app, they can sort the artists by medium and visit [those who create pieces in] their favorite mediums. The artists love to talk to patrons about their creative process and answer their questions. I encourage visitors not to be shy and ask away. We also have a newly reopened Art Center where patrons can try printmaking—free—and ceramics—[for a] fee.