TR Robertson — A yearly tradition has returned to Laguna Beach after a year’s absence due to COVID-19. Art lovers of all ages will be filling a variety of venues enjoying displays of every form of art imaginable and later each evening, those that have tickets, will fill the Irvine Bowl Amphitheatre to watch the amazing Pageant of the Masters “tableaux vivants” (living pictures). The various arts festivals and the Pageant have been running since the 1930’s, only going dark from 1942-45 (WW II) and last year. But the crowds are back, art is alive and well and Laguna Beach will be filled with activities from now until September 3. This year’s Pageant theme is “Made in America: Trailblazing Artists and Their Stories”.
Art exhibitions are now available in three locations on Laguna Canyon Road, as well as in numerous art galleries throughout Laguna Beach. The Festival of Arts is in an expansive venue in front of the Pageant of the Masters Irvine Bowl. This juried (judged) art show has been in existence since 1932. Around 122 artists will be exhibiting their work 7 days a week, opening at 4 pm on weekdays and at 10 am on weekends. Purchase of a ticket to the Pageant is also a season pass to the 2021 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show, 650 Laguna Canyon Road. Pageant tickets start at $30.00. There is also a special promotion Passport to the Arts, cost $29.00, which will include a season pass to the Festival of Arts, the Sawdust Art Festival and the Laguna Art-A-Fair. The Festival of Arts also has an on-property dining opportunity at the Terra Laguna Beach Restaurant. There is a grab-to-go concession stand also available called Intermission by Terra. A Festival of Arts boutique-style gift shop has t-shirts, art books, posters, and other items for sale as well.
Laguna Beach’s beginning, as a location for artists of every medium, goes back to 1903 when artist Norman St. Clair arrived. He is credited with establishing Laguna Beach as an art colony, enticing other artists to move to this beach community. By 1918, the towns first art gallery was opened, today the location of the Laguna Art Museum. The Festival of Arts began in the town in 1932, as a way for artists to display their work. The Pageant of the Masters began in 1933 to promote art in a different manner. Simple in design in its infancy, the Pageant has grown to a magical, large scale performance today. The Sawdust Art Festival and the Laguna Art-A-Fair began in the 1960’s in reaction to some of the restrictions of the Festival of Arts, eventually becoming what is now known as Gallery Row on Laguna Canyon Road.
Since the Festival of Arts was a juried show, artists were selected to participate. Some artists wanted to create another way for artists to display their work. A group called the Laguna Artists and Gallery Owners Association broke away from the Festival of Arts in 1965. By 1969, the group opened a non-judged event in an empty lot on North Coast Highway. They would move to property at 935 Laguna Canyon Road and lease the land from Walter and Dorothy Funk. This early beginning would grow into the Sawdust Art Festival of today. Called the Sawdust Festival in honor of the sawdust spread on the ground to help with the dirt and dust. For this festival, all artists are residents of Laguna Beach. Residency is established by living in Laguna Beach for 18 months. Artists can live outside of Laguna Beach after participating and living in Laguna Beach for 10 years. The unusual, eclectic booths the artists use to display their work are built and designed by the artists. Most booth locations are determined by an annual lottery for this non-juried show. Shamus Koch has had his location for 17 years displaying an array of stylistic ironwork art pieces. Visitors to the Sawdust Festival can wander along the pathways, take in a variety of artistic styles, visit a selection of concession stands, walk up stairs leading to musical performances and peaceful waterfall locations. Cost for entrance is $10 for adults, $7 for Seniors and Military vets and active duty free. Children are discounted as well. The art styles visible for the 160 artists include ceramics, glass (including a glass blowing location), clothing and Textiles, Leather, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Wood, and Mixed Media.
Just down the way from the Sawdust Festival is the Laguna Art-A-Fair, at 777 Laguna Canyon Road. This art exhibition began in 1969, splintering away from both the Festival of Arts and the Sawdust Festival. The art on exhibit here is a juried show, but there is no residency requirement to display the artist’s work. There is a similar cost for entrance. The theme for this year’s show is “The Art Show Like No Otter”, with cute artistic otters on the advertising poster. Ken Jones, displaying his unique 3D wall art and sculptures, used musical instruments to create very unusual works of art for the show.
The Pageant of the Masters performance featured all American artists this year, except for the final living art tableau, which since 1936 is always the recreation of “The Last Supper” by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. The evenings performance began with the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” then living art paintings by two early American artists, Thomas Sully and John Turnbull, with works depicting the establishment of our nation. The audience gave rousing applause for Turnbull’s “Declaration of Independence”. The living art pieces were presented showing the historical development of our nation and the development of various cultural trends. A narrative was presented about each piece of art and the historical significance of what was depicted. Especially impressive was three sculpture pieces by African American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, “Hiawatha’s Marriage”, “Hagar” and “Death of Cleopatra”. Other standouts in Act One were living arts depictions of the marble “Lincoln Memorial” by Daniel Chester French, the mural work of Mary Cassatt’s “Modern Women”, Frederic Remington’s bronze “Comin’ Through the Rye” and the “Duke Ellington Memorial” by Robert Graham. I especially enjoyed the recreation of the Dorothea Lange photograph, “Family on the Road” depicting a family during the Great Depression. All the living art works were accompanied with beautifully designed musical arrangements. The “Rapsody in Blue” number for the “George Gershwin in an Imaginary Concert Hall” oil by David Alfaro Siqueiroa was especially moving. Act Two also had many memorable living art pieces. The three Norman Rockwell depictions were popular with the audience as was Edward Hopper’s oil “Nighthawks”. The acrylic depictions of John Nieto’s extremely colorful American Indian dancers received tremendous audience applause. The final part of the show featured pictures of Pageant performers who took part in the final performance for the evening, “The Last Supper”. Individual, up close portraits of some of the performers in their stage costume and make-up were shot by Matthew Rolston in 2017.
Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy summed up what audiences will see when they attend by saying, “Prepare yourselves for an inspirational adventure, a plotline from start to finish, and a moving look at American History through a collection of tributes to artists who made their mark in American Art”.
The Festivals, the Pageant and the town of Laguna Beach should be destinations for anyone wanting to see a unique cultural event and enjoy an amazing series of artistic experiences.
For more information: www.PageantTickets.com
- Terra Laguna Beach restaurant – 949-494-9650