California Summer of Art
A few weekends ago, I was visiting a friend in Irvine, CA and she suggested that we spend the day at Laguna beach. I expected that to be a lazy day on the beach under the California sun, but instead, I found myself exploring the vibrant Laguna Beach art scene. I do not live in California anymore but I did live in Southern California for a number of years and felt ashamed that I never knew of this treasure in my backyard.
Just off of Hwy 1, every summer there are three amazing art festivals next to each other on Laguna canyon road - Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, Art-a-fair, and Sawdust Festival. Between these three venues, you can easily spend a day if not days. Like a true local, my friend was smart enough to start our art festival tour by getting tickets to the Pageant of the Masters ( more on that later). This was useful because with these tickets we could enter Art- a -fair for free and get discounts on Sawdust Festival tickets, anytime during the festival season. All the festivals typically run from end of June/ early July to last weekend of August/early September, and even though I visited the festivals towards the tail end of summer, I can't wait to go back next year.
Anyway switching the focus back to the festivals themselves.
Art-a-fair brings together 125 jury-selected local and national artists. At each of the exhibits, you will often be able to meet the artists themselves and they are always happy to talk to the patrons about their art and the creative process. The fair not only brings together different artists but also a variety of mediums that the artists use to express themselves. The artist exhibitors used everything from oil paints, watercolors, photography, woodwork, acrylic, glass, etc to express themselves through their art.
While I was there I was also able to witness some artists at work, creating their next masterpiece at the exhibit. For example, I met this artist by the name of Susan Scharpf , who is a quilt and textile artist and it was such a fun experience to not just see some unique quilts, wall hangings and table runners that were for sale but also see her work on her next piece.
Another artist that really caught my fancy was an artist named Susan Marosz. She uses different glass processes, some of them highly technical, to create stunning pieces of artwork.
There is live music every day Thursday- Sunday, and depending on what time of the day you are there, you might be in for a treat. Our trip to Art-a-fair was short, not because there was enough to see but because we were trying to do three art festivals in one day.
Sawdust art festival
After spending around an hour or so at art-a-fair, my friend and I walked over to the Sawdust festival next door. The festival aptly gets its name from the sawdust-covered pathways of this art village, celebrating local artists of Laguna Beach. Sawdust Festival has an art-themed county fair meet holiday market feel. There are artists set up in kiosks selling some really unique artwork and then there are art classes and demonstrations which are free for everyone at the festival. I took a Chinese brush painting class and saw a blow glass artist's demonstration. Here is a picture of my original artwork from the painting class, I guess not too bad for my first time.
There were obviously many artists at the festival that were amazing and I can't even begin to list them but there was one artist whose creative photography combined with her love of cupcakes ( I am assuming she loves cupcakes) just made my day. Ulrike Scheuchl, originally from Austria, is the author of three books, all dedicated to using cupcake as the main subject for her photo, recreating everyday scenes from our daily lives, like hiking, biking, etc.
Sawdust festival helps a lot of local artists make a living, but most importantly it enables them to continue doing what they love.
Festival of Art and Pageant of the Masters
Next, we made our way to the festival of arts, but did not really have to time to explore the festival. The star attraction there was the Pageant of the Masters, and it was definitely the highlight of the day. Pageant of the Masters is a living art show where well-known works of art are recreated by placing real people in costumes inside an art frame or a sculpture. Their tagline is "Where art comes to life" and which is literally what they do. The show is extremely high-quality production and I am amazed that it is not more popular. It was a 90-minute show and I spent the first 45 min in awe just denying that there can be real people inside the painting I am seeing on the stage. I highly recommend checking out the video below to see how the magic happens.
The pageant was started in 1933 by local artists as a way to revive the local art scene as well as to lift everyone's spirits through the Great Depression. Over the years, the production value as only improved and all the actors who participate in the pageant are volunteers. There are paid staff which includes artists, sculptors, musicians etc, who work on this project the whole year-round, but it takes more than 500 volunteers putting in around 60,000 hours of volunteer time to bring this show to us 56 nights over the summer.
If you have read all the way to this point, then hopefully I have inspired you to make southern California a part of your 2020 summer vacation plans. There is art all around us and it is just waiting to be discovered and appreciated.