THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL CELEBRATES 85 YEARS OF MEMORIES
For Festival of Arts’ Board President Fred Sattler to recall his first memory of the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach isn’t difficult.
“Summer of 1965,” Sattler says wistfully. His then fiancé, now wife, was a Laguna Beach resident at the time.
“She took me to the Festival,” Sattler recalls, “and I’ve always remembered it.”
Taking place each summer over an eight-week period, the Festival of Arts presents a professionally juried art exhibition of 140 artists from all mediums–paintings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, glass, furniture and jewelry–amid the backdrop of the Laguna Beach coastline. The exceptionally vetted show consistently turns out the highest quality of work and was recently counted as one of the Top Five Art Festivals in the Nation by USA Today readers and listed as the Best Place to Buy Original Art by the Orange County Register.
So, when Sattler and his wife returned to Laguna Beach for good 20 years ago, he took advantage of the opportunity to run for the board of the festival. Today, he is the board president of one California’s most renowned outdoor summer festivals.
HISTORY OF FESTIVAL OF ARTS
The arts have been an integral part of Laguna Beach for more than 100 years, distinguishing it from other beach towns in Southern California. From visual arts to theater, opera and ballet, the town was an early adapter of the culture that would later bring it worldwide renown. The Festival of Arts has played an integral role in reinforcing that art colony identity.
The first Festival of Arts was launched in 1932 in downtown Laguna, presented by local artist John H. Hinchman. The Festival was incorporated in 1934 and local businessman, George A. Portus, would be elected the first Festival Board President. For the next seven years, the festival would take place at various locations in Laguna Beach until 1941, when the Irvine Bowl Recreation Park (now called Irvine Bowl Park) was dedicated as the permanent home of the Festival of Arts and the Pageant of the Masters, created in 1933 to showcase re-creations of classical and contemporary works of art with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces (see sidebar for information on this year’s Pageant).
This year’s festival marks the 85th Anniversary of the celebrated visual and performing arts festival.
The board spends the entire year planning for the festival that includes weekly events run alongside the extensive art show.
“It’s actually much more complicated then I originally gave credit,” Sattler admits, “There is a lot to this festival.”
2017 FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JULY 7 THROUGH AUGUST 31
To suggest the festival is multifaceted is an understatement. Daily art workshops for children, teens and adults are available for a moderate materials fee. The “Art and Story Time” series for children five and under features a book reading and a hands-on art project. “Art Talks and Tea” is a lecture series featuring a Festival artist each Wednesday leading a discussion on different topics, and “Wine and Painting Nights” are scheduled for Saturdays, from July 8 through August 19. On Thursdays, “Art, Jazz, Wine & Chocolate “ nights will feature chocolate, wine pairings and live jazz accompanying your art-viewing experience, and on Saturdays, “Concerts on the Green” will feature such artists as the Eric Marienthal All Stars and Greg Adams and East Bay Soul. On Fridays, the Festival introduces a music series new to this year’s schedule of events called “Step into the Spotlight Music Series,” which showcases an impressive lineup of back-up singers or background vocalists.
Besides weekly events, special one-day-only happenings are scheduled as well, like “Family Art Day” on Sunday, July 16, and the “Festival Runway Fashion Show” on Saturday, August 12.
This year the festival will also debut a much anticipated renovation in a newly redone facility that looks quite different from the one Sattler first encountered in the mid-1960s.
“This isn’t like we touched up the paint,” Sattler says of the festival grounds’ complete renovation. “We leveled the ground.”
The grounds improvement project was originally approved by the Laguna Beach City Council in July, 2015, but, weather conditions prevented the project from proceeding. A construction crew worked diligently to complete the overhaul of the facility in time for this year’s festival. This July, the Festival of Arts will introduce a completely remodeled $10 million facility. This is the first remodel of the grounds since 1964 (a year before Sattler’s first visit). The new layout meets accessibility standards and features updated restrooms and wider pathways.
“It has been brought up to ADA compliance so that people can walk the grounds comfortably,” Sattler says. “And, there is a new place for art education and for seating.”
Other changes include brand new tensile roof pavilions to protect artwork from weather elements, and the green lawn has been relocated closer to the entry. The gift shop has moved and expanded, and the junior art exhibit enjoys a new home near the entrance.
“It’s really a completely new and renovated space that must be seen and experienced,” Sattler says. “Words don’t do it justice.”
To commemorate it’s 85th year, the Festival will host a birthday bash on August 13, complete with birthday cake and free admission to the art show for the entire day. The festival also has plans to honor elements of Laguna Beach’s earliest festivals with a new series titled, “A Salute to the Arts,” on Sunday afternoons. In the way the original festivals highlighted art in its many forms, the series will spotlight a different art element from theater and literature to dance each week.
The festival has a long history and many memories to celebrate, but for Sattler, there is one thing that remains most memorable.
“Watching the enjoyment that people get from it, “ he says, “from the patrons that come back year after year to our staff…it’s great to be able to showcase the arts.”
Visit FestivalofArts.org for the Festival schedule and ticket prices, if applicable.