There’s no longer a need to miss the Festival of Arts in the winter season. The Festival has opened a small satellite gallery in a historic building on 1006 Pacific Coast Highway. Occupying a room on the same premises as the newly opened yogurt shop Active Culture, FoA South currently features photographs by Stillman F. Sawyer, a life-member of the Festival of Arts.
This inaugural exhibition of 13 landscape photographs as well as a portrait of the photographer (1927-2007) was curated by Laguna Beach gallerist Peter Blake.
Blake selected stunning, Ansel Adams-like black silver gelatin prints like “Balanced Boulder,” a depiction of two large stones rendered in strong tones of gray. Zen-like with its lack of extraneous visual distractions, the photograph reflects the ambience of the white washed gallery, accessible through a lobby connecting from the food service area.
Blake says that he was impressed by Sawyer’s photographs when he first saw them displayed at city hall, and when FoA expressed an interest in opening a southern satellite in which to show works from its permanent collection (including works held by the Stillman F. Sawyer Foundation,) he offered to curate a show.
“When I found out that the Foundation had funds available to educate the public about photography and Sawyer’s work and the festival’s search for a year round display space, I put two and two together and suggested that the room that the yogurt shop did not need be turned into a gallery,” he said. “This final result shows an open mind on part of all participants, including the city which granted the building historic designation. It’s a productive step, bringing business and the arts closer together at a time when both are struggling.”
The Festival plans to display works from its entire permanent collection (including photographs) all year round. As for “Active Culture,” Jennifer Clapp, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband Johann and sister-in-law Faye, emphasized that they thought up the name before the Festival came on board.
The building, located at the corner of Anita Street and PCH had housed a video rental store but the façade was uninviting and parking a challenge. Meanwhile passerby like Blake and Laguna architect Anders Lasater, became distressed about the building’s deterioration. Now, it’s a whitewashed jewel thanks to the Clapp family investing what Jennifer called a “sizable sum” and restoration design by Lasater. “We knew we had something special because of the age of the building. I wanted to legitimately restore it in its original style. The biggest challenge lay in finding materials that would be authentic and still, in the serving area at least, approved by the health department,” he said.
Connoisseurs might note the vintage tile throughout. Some have been recreated in Mexico, but the originals around the fireplace are, according to ceramic artist Marlo Bartels, fired by CalCo a renowned tile manufacturer whose work can be found throughout town.
“Now both the client and FoA are excited about the future. They have a bit of a captive audience and Peter and I brought a beautiful building out from the shadows by making it user and also street friendly.”
The Festival is also planning on finding a North Laguna location to be used as a storage facility for its growing permanent collection and as a research facility. FoA North will not be open to the public.
FoA South will have its Grand Opening during the First Thursday Art Walk on Dec. 2 from 6-9 p.m. Visitors can sample champagne and yogurt. New Festival of Arts Exhibition Director Martin Betz and Blake will be on hand.
Captions: At FOA South Gallery’s opening, an exhibit of Stillman Sawyer photography, Morgan McKean, left chats with CC Chapman, right, and Tiffani Diorio, center, who helped design the menu for neighboring Active Culture yogurt shop. Photo by Ted Reckas.