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Arts Activist Earns Top Marks from Educators

Nancy Lawrence in a 2006 speech at LCAD. A vintage photo from a ‘60s Color it Orange exhibition.

Nancy Lawrence in a 2006 speech at LCAD. A vintage photo from a ‘60s Color it Orange exhibition.

Last Saturday, Laguna Beach resident Nancy Lawrence pitched in readying this year’s Color it Orange show, filling two galleries at the Laguna College of Art and Design. It’s a sure sign of spring, when Orange County students from K-12 get to show off their best works, selected by their teachers for the art competition founded in 1973.

In a change this year, 500 works by high school students including painting, drawing, ceramics, photography and multi-media will be displayed for a week through March 23. Masterpieces by younger children will get their turn later as part of the countywide “Imagination Celebration.” Here, participating artists will receive certificates of recognition and 14 standouts earn scholarships to a pre-college summer class of their choice at LCAD.

As red-shirted volunteers juggled levels, pencils and hammers, Lawrence, who chairs the exhibition, also calmly lent a hand alongside Tracy Hartman and Avery Endow of LCAD’s office of development and alumni relations. The red-shirts, ranging here from newbies to fourth-time vets, are Fluor Corp. employees who participate in a plethora of community projects, said company spokeswoman Waheeda Yousofzoy.

Lawrence thrives on volunteering. A 40-year resident, she has spent the majority of those years in service to youth, education and the arts, which earned her recognition as an outstanding contributor to education by the Orange County Board of Education on March 13.

Lawrence was honored for her commitment to guiding a project, seeing it through and watching it grow through the years, said Phyllis Berenbeim, a consultant of visual and performing arts for the county Education Department. “By valuing creativity, by celebrating the work of children and honoring their teachers, Color it Orange has been instrumental in strengthening the arts in Orange County,” she said.

Laguna Beach High School instructor Somer Selway has submitted works from her advanced placement and level three ceramics classes and praised Lawrence for her passion and positive guidance during the entire process of coordinating Color it Orange. “Teachers know that for her it’s all about the kids,” she said.

LBHS photography instructor Kerry Pellow too has submitted student work to CiO for 14 years, with students placing on a regular basis. “It has been exciting to see Color it Orange take new forms and change with their addition of scholarships,” she said. “The students and I take it as a compliment to be recognized by outside judges and receive scholarships based on work.”

Pellow revealed photography student Audrey Pillsbury as one of this year’s winners.

Lawrence, a former elementary school teacher, is also a member of the Laguna College of Art and Design’s board and president of its support group, Designing Women.

“I am delighted to have received the award since I’ve spent nearly four decades promoting art as education for the whole brain,” said Lawrence. Her advocacy for education extends to membership in the Laguna branch of the American Association of University Women, where she currently chairs the funds committee. The branch annually awards several scholarships to LBHS girls.

Earlier, Lawrence’s contributions received recognition in 2002 with the American Red Cross’s 10th annual Clara Barton Spectrum Award.

Involvement in the Laguna Beach Garden Club nurtures Lawrence’s own creativity, centered on crafts that she passes on to others. “I am more interested in the process of making something than the finished product which I just as soon give away,” she said.

She celebrates her 50th year married to Harry Lawrence, 80, a retired geological engineer. Her passion for arts rubbed off on daughter Elizabeth, 44, who obtained a degree in architecture from Princeton University, and son Ian, 45, reflects his mother’s activism and father’s scientific bent as captain of a Scripps Institute of Oceanography ship.

Lawrence, 75, summed up her mission saying, “Volunteering keeps me going. It’s a privilege associating with dedicated people of like mind and being able to chose your surroundings.”

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