A day in Laguna for the artist in you


Laguna Beach -- A beautiful day in Laguna Beach can bring out the artist in you. If you go to galleries occasionally, stop to look at paintings, sculptures and architecture in public places and wish you could paint, you'll love spending a day in Laguna, especially during the the First Thursday Artwalk. 


Our trip was a hit. Laguna Beach features more art than you can see in a day with art shows, galleries, an art museum and a fantastic 'art in public places' program. After spending an afternoon and evening immersed in the local scene, I couldn't contain my enthusiasm about this mecca that’s held a reputation for over 100 years, first as an art colony and now as a thriving art district.


Maria and I began our afternoon with a late lunch at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. We agreed to keep our meal choices under $25/each and assumed we’d be able to buy a bowl of soup or light salad and soft drink. The patio at outdoor Mosaic Bar and Grill had half an hour wait when we arrived. We wandered the resort grounds, found a stairway to a private beach and took our shoes off, exposing our feet to the hot sand. The Pacific Ocean was in a red tide condition caused by red-colored plankton. It cast a dirty-brown tint on water which is normally blue. We noticed three bloated red jellyfish washed ashore on a beach comfortably filled with about 30 people sunbathing in several small coves Laguna Beach is known for. 


As we returned to an ocean-view table and nice meal with a Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich and French Fries or light, mixed greens for under $25, we were delighted by the price, the friendly staff and we were ready to take on the art world. Note: Rooms at this new luxury resort begin at around $500/night. The staff is very pleasant, not pretentious and service is top notch. The views at this Craftsman-style resort include the ocean on one side of the building and mountains facing the other direction.


We returned by car to Laguna Beach and pumped 3 hours worth of quarters (one quarter for 15 minutes) into the parking meter, next to the Laguna Art Museum. This museum opens its doors to the public free on Artwalk nights from 6 to 9 p.m. It would be our final stop but first, we must catch the free trolley in front of the building and head south to  two art fairs, the Sawdust Festival and the Art-A-Fair, both located across the street from the Festival of Arts, home to Pageant of the Masters with its living art theater productions. Each of the venues we visited charges an entry fee. Art-A-Fair includes fine art exhibits and sales plus a small restaurant for dining. Sawdust Festival is held in a huge venue filled with woodchips on the ground, food kiosks, musical entertainment and lots of arts and crafts. Both art fairs are held in concert with the Pageant of the Masters summer season that runs from July to September.


Neither of us bought anything at these sales shows, jaded by the many art fairs California beaches and cities host outdoors on a weekly basis.  We headed next door to Studio Seven, an Artwalk participant. At 6:10 p.m. things were just getting started. There was a rock band playing outdoors, a no-host bar set up and animated artists waiting for guests to arrive.


Among the gems at this series of separately run galleries under one large roof was the work of Kenji, a Japanese artist.  Creating a massive project out of mesh wire sculptures, each piece was a vignette  representing the physical and emotional devastation of war in the nuclear blast at Hiroshima in 1945. Each piece is a separate but integral portion of a larger construction showing wire-made shapes of people maimed, injured or touched in some way. A mother breast-feeding her infant is one piece that hangs on the wall of Kenji’s art space. A man whose metal-frame shapes melt like one liquid pool into another provide the theme for this collaborative work that’s taken three years to build, along with a book describing the anguish of the soul. Kenji’s work provides a timely statement about nuclear threat.


Our evening was filled with quick strolls though a select few galleries. Each place offered crackers, cheese, fruits and most had wine for adults to sip while viewing. Our free shuttle ride up and down the Laguna coast was filled with folks enjoying the art experience. Some galleries were so full of people that you had to wait to go inside. An event 7 years in the making seems only to be growing and becoming increasingly popular.




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