Art, a Death-Spiral Reality Show

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The purpose of any city (the people’s) arts commission is to engage and expose as many persons as possible to the arts for the least money.

One of those projects that fulfilled this requirement at this year’s Art & Nature series was artist Phillip K. Smith III’s “1/4 Mile Arc,” an arc of chrome pillars placed parallel to Main beach’s shore line. This artwork engaged every segment of society to explore and experience the reflections and interplay with nature. People were drawn to the sparkling pillars to contemplate different perspectives, touch, capture and observe the changing light conditions that the weather provided. Malcolm Warner, the museum’s director and I watched on with bliss, observing this audience interaction, realizing one can only dream of an effect like this with public art.

Considering that the 2016 visitors profile reveals that 89% come for the beach, while visitors for the arts come in dead last with 6%, makes this project be a burst of hope to Laguna’s flat-lined art image. So, how can Laguna allow this massive installation to be only exposed for three days, when it just started to get traction on social media?

On another note, the police received a grant to enforce the ABC/alcohol law and will punish the probably most exemplary visitors, art lovers, by eliminating the sip of wine that is a part of the gallery experience.

Finally, a non-profit organization landed a reading of an award winning San Francisco author, who previously spoke at the UN. Having the event in a community center, the organizer filled out the required papers, but was denied to offer wine for the two-hour event.

Other cities have looked up to Laguna, how it has handled alcohol and the Artwalk to allow art patrons to have the full gallery experience. Don’t galleries have it tough enough these days?

Does the arts commission and City Council really want to get away with Laguna’s last cultural residue by ignoring all signs and continue telling the tale of a flourishing art city.

How much more can art be disrespected?  Where are the arts commissioners, whose job it is to have foresight, oversight and support a creative environment that inspires? Why is the commission oblivious or too incompetent to handle creative issues to get Laguna back on track? It is time to regroup!


Michaell Magrutsche, Laguna Beach

The author is an artist-educator and former Newport Beach arts commissioner.



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  1. “Does the arts commission and City Council really want to get away with Laguna’s last cultural residue by ignoring all signs and continue telling the tale of a flourishing art city?” – self-appointed administrators and politicians cannot visualize an exhibition on blank canvas, they merely sell the painting.

  2. Yes Les, you can’t adapt to a new world by putting your head in the sand and keep telling your colleagues that you are doing a great job. This seems to be a Laguna Beach habit. The world moves on and and it is increasingly harder to catch up, if you are not telling yourself the truth.


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