Artful Awareness

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03 ArtEscapes LOCA LPAPA collab Rick Delanty teaches landscapes
A hands-on Art Escapes landscape class | Photo by Loca Arts Education

Loca Arts Education offers creative outreach for community members of all ages.

By Tanya A. Yacina

 

In 1992, dramatic cuts were made to funding for the arts in schools. At the same time, Laguna Beach artists were being asked to donate both their time and their artwork for free due to these cuts. Founders Mada Leach and Anne England officially established Loca Arts Education in 1993 to provide creative instruction in schools while also paying professional artists for their teaching efforts.

“They saw Loca as a sort of bridge between the … needs of the schools and [the needs of] our local artists, who could provide art instruction to students,” says K.C. Mechling, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Those two ideas became our mission, and that is how Loca was born. We became official and received our nonprofit status from the IRS in April of 1993.”

A 30th Birthday Bash for the organization is planned March 26 from 4-7 p.m. at Neighborhood Congregational Church’s Bridge Hall, complete with gourmet food and wine, interactive games for grown-ups including a musical cake walk and a bash-the-pinata activity, plus a “Laguna Gothic” photo booth inspired by Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. Attendees will receive a handmade ceramic party favor to take home. There will also be opportunity drawings, live and silent auctions, a wine pull and music by a jazz trio, with proceeds supporting Loca’s education programs throughout Laguna.

04 ArtEscapes drawing teacher SherylSeltzer_Courtesy of Loca Arts Education
A drawing by Sheryl Seltzer | Photo by Loca Arts Education

Loca provides art education to a wide range of community members, from preschool students to senior citizens, in an effort to foster personal growth. The group’s programs are held at various sites around town, including the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Senior Center, Laguna Beach library, Bluebird Park, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach’s Laguna Canyon branch, Glennwood Housing Foundation’s group home and the Waymakers Youth Shelter. Loca also collaborates with other organizations for some of these sessions, from the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association to Laguna Canyon Foundation and Crystal Cove Conservancy.

Over the last three decades, Loca’s programs have helped demonstrate a positive correlation between art and academic achievement, according to Mechling. “Art helps to build a foundation for creative thinking and awareness of the world. It is critical to expose children to art at an early age,” she notes.

But the programming is not just for children. The group offers special workshops aimed at adults as well, including painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, watercolors, pastels, collaging and mosaic assemblage in addition to crafting things like books, cards, eco-friendly dyed fabrics, paper, beaded jewelry and much more.

 

Creative Curation

With art-centered workshops, thoughtful talks and events, Loca Arts Education presents learning opportunities in a variety of mediums.

 

30 LOCA at Library
A child creating art during a Loca Arts Education program at Laguna Beach Library | Photo by Loca Arts Education

Whimsical Workshops

Loca Arts Education provides important outreach programs throughout Laguna Beach, including art programs for children at all of the Laguna Beach Unified School District campuses and the Laguna Beach library as well as weekly programs at the special needs residence Glennwood House, providing adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience and create art. The nonprofit also partners with the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach to offer artistic activities integrated into the organization’s programming and presents regularly-scheduled art classes at Waymakers Youth Shelter for at-risk youth and teens to decompress mentally and emotionally while expressing themselves. “Art can be a balm for trauma,” says Elizabeth McGhee, education coordinator for Loca. “Teaching at the Youth Shelter is so rewarding since I can share my passion for art and open a new world of inspiration for kids in need.”

 

(Winner Outstanding Collaboration LOCA_LPAPA) Sherry Bullard_Rosemary Swimm_Carla Meberg_photo credit_Jeff Rovner
Sherry Bullard, Rosemary Swimm and Carla Meberg accepting the Art Star Award for Outstanding Arts Collaboration | Photo by Jeff Rovner

Community Collaborations

To offer art education to the community at large, Loca makes it a point to collaborate with different organizations in town—including a partnership with Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, which won Laguna Beach Arts Alliance’s Outstanding Arts Collaboration designation at the annual Art Star Awards in 2022. “We have been teaching art education for 30 years this April … [and] have received several Art Star awards for our collaborations with community partners over the [years],” says K.C. Mechling, executive director of Loca. In addition to programs at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and Laguna Beach Library, Loca offers in-person classes taught by professional artists throughout town that focus on use of material, skill and conceptualism.

 

Casey Parlette zoomed in
Casey Parlette, the featured speaker at the most recent Art Talk | Photo by Loca Arts Education

Scholastic Speakers

Held each month from January through May and again in October, the nonprofit’s Art Talks program provides a space for artists to discuss their careers and what inspires them with both Loca members and the general public. Art-minded people come together to share ideas through discussions, artistic demonstrations and, often, hands-on activities. “It is a delightful way to spend an evening,” Mechling notes. “Loca provides hors d’oeuvres and libations with a fascinating art talk by a remarkable artist.” Past guests have included glassblower John Barber, cinema production designer Nelson Coates and wildlife sculptor Casey Parlette. Find information about upcoming talks or register to attend at locaarts.org.

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