In the spirit of last year’s Pageant of the Masters that invited the audience to eat, drink and be merry, this year’s attendees at the 79th preview opening of the Festival of Art did just that on Saturday, July 2. They toured the booths of 140 artists, sampled diverse culinary fare from food trucks cooking on the periphery, washed it down with beer and wine and danced off the calories to music spun by DJ Lucky Lou.
The crowd, estimated at evening’s end at roughly 3,500, included Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman, Mayor Pro-tem Jane Egly, newly minted LCAD president Jonathan Burke, Festival president Fred Sattler, Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda and a who’s who of Orange County arts patrons and aficionados.
This year, thanks to a new design by new exhibits director Martin Betz the grounds are easier to navigate despite the crowds. Booths are arranged in a double- triangle pattern around a central open plaza that will feature music and performance throughout the summer. Betz also designated an art center for workshops and demonstrations. The junior art exhibit is more accessible, remaining close to the festival entrance.
Painter Paul Bond designed the 2011 festival poster and special events director Susan Davis cast a broader net in devising an entertainment line-up that includes “Art in Motion: Hip Hop to Tango,” a series of dance performances. “I put together an entertainment package that is full of art experiences including dance and jazz,” she said.
Walter Reiss, a 40-year festival veteran, is exhibiting whimsical ceramics including the non-functional teapots, which he also teaches his students to craft at the Sawdust Festival. “Ladies especially like the teapots,” he said.
First-time exhibitor Ryan Heimbach hopes that his figurative bronze sculptures will find eager buyers and sculptor-arts commissioner Gerard Stripling’s cast bronze (manual) typewriter titled “Fact or Fiction” intrigued passerby still able to remember the machine’s ceaseless clatter.
Multi-media artist Troy Poeschl displays elegant wood sculptures crafted after his studio was destroyed during last December’s canyon floods. “I feel fortunate to be here again,” he said, fatigued but elated by getting a body of work together in time for the opening.
Marlo Bartels, whose acclaimed ceramic tile works grace several Laguna Beach public spaces, exhibits a line of tile works that reflect both his interest in Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi as well as middle-eastern art.
Sattler summed up the spirit of the evening by saying: “After a couple of years of a depressed economy, I see a good spirit among the artists. It’s going to be a good year.”
The art exhibit opened Sunday and continues daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The Pageant of the Masters is presented nightly at 8:30 p.m. from July 7. Both shows close Aug. 31.