Alliance Celebrates 10 Years of Art Stars

Sculptor Louis Longi receives his own award from Jonathan Burke.
Sculptor Louis Longi receives his own award from Jonathan Burke.

The Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts celebrated the 10th anniversary of the annual Art Star Awards by acknowledging and rewarding the best and brightest on the Laguna Beach art scene with elegant statuettes created by sculptor Louis Longi this past Sunday, April 3.

It also renamed itself as the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance.

As in years before, the best and brightest included individual and corporate arts patrons, local arts organizations and their leaders and local artists and performers.

Though many have coveted the statuettes known as Louies, an homage to the film industry’s Oscars, Longi had not received an award of his own until Sunday. Laguna College of Art and Design President Jonathan Burke presented him with an elegant glass bowl crafted by John Barber.

Widow Paulette Auster accepts a posthumous award for her husband, Ken Auster.
Widow Paulette Auster accepts a posthumous award for her husband, Ken Auster.

The evening included a posthumous lifetime achievement award to Ken Auster and a biographical video about the gifted plein air painter, teacher and waterman produced by the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association. Accompanied by a recorded Israël Kamakawiwo’ole rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the tribute left few dry eyes.  

Alliance chair Faye Baglin presented the dance video “IV” by choreographer Delyér Anderson, the 2015 winner of the $5,000 Seven-Degrees of Inspiration Grant.

Artist Russell Pierce
Artist Russell Pierce

This year’s winner, Russell Pierce, plans to execute “Change Agents,” 50 multi-media portraits. Seven-Degrees hosts Dora Wexell Orgill and Mark Orgill introduced the local artist. “I can’t believe I am an Art Star, and I can’t believe I committed myself to 50 portraits; I can’t wait to start.”

Other winners:

Best arts program went to the Malpaso Dance Company, a production by Laguna Dance Festival. Founder Jodie Gates accepted the award.

Malcolm Warner, executive director of the Laguna Art Museum, won as best arts leader. He thanked co-nominees Pat Sparkuhl and Robert Whalen, the latter for helping push through a sizable city grant to rehabilitate what Warner called a “decrepit building.”

Olivia Bachelder was chosen as artist of the year. “I was dazed and delighted. It felt grand to be acknowledged,” she said. Known for her colorful printed silk creations, Bachelder recruited an international group of fabric artists for last summer’s “Wrap Festival” at the Sawdust Festival.

The Intergenerational Literacy Enhancement Project was recognized as the outstanding arts collaboration. Laguna Outreach for Community Arts operates the project in conjunction with other organizations.

Patrons of the year, Suzanne and James Mellor
Patrons of the year, Suzanne and James Mellor

Montage Laguna Beach became corporate arts patron of the year, and Suzanne and Jim Mellor were honored as individual arts patrons. Ms. Mellor is a member of the city’s Arts Commission, while Mr. Mellor is the chairman of LCAD’s board. “Where ever we have lived, we have put our energies into supporting the arts,” Ms. Mellor said.


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