By LB Indy Staff
In true Academy-award style, 200 community and cultural leaders came together to celebrate the 15th annual Art Star Awards on April 28. Held on the Festival of Arts grounds, this year’s red-carpet reception and ceremony featured pop-up musical and dance performances and live art demonstrations, all complimented by champagne and h’oeuvres.
Breaking with tradition, the Laguna Beach Art Alliance created a robust, festive program to immerse guests in art amidst a relaxed, social atmosphere.
“Thanks to the inspiration of our chair, Pat Kollenda, we broke away from a traditional seated awards banquet to a livelier cocktail party atmosphere with engaging entertainment by some of our member organizations,” says event co-chair Faye Baglin. “Everyone seemed happy to have ample time for socializing with friends, and of course, none of this would have been possible without the generosity of the volunteer performers.”
“A great team effort resulted in an event better than could be dreamed of,” added co-chair Wayne Baglin. “Even glitches turned out to be improvements in the program. We can’t wait to do it again.”
Artists and performers from LBAA member organizations donated their talents to create a one-of-a-kind event. Accompanied by vocalist Ginger Hatfield, Laguna JaZz kicked off the party and continued to dazzle the crowd throughout the reception with jazz standards such as “Almost Like Being in Love,” “How About You” and “The Lady is a Tramp.”
“It was an incredible honor to have our Laguna JaZz selected to provide the musical entertainment for this special evening which celebrates all facets of art here in Laguna Beach,” says Jay Kramer, Community Engagement Officer of Laguna JaZz & Laguna Community Concert Band. “It was fun to see everyone enjoying the music as we celebrated the magnificent achievements of so many talented Laguna Beach artists. I can’t wait for next year!”
As guests arrived, they were greeted with a beautiful Pageant of the Masters re-creation of “Laguna Beach” by Mike Tauber, which was featured in last year’s show, “Wonderful World.” MacKynzie Miller posed in the living picture, and other sets were available on the grounds, provided by Pageant of the Masters Director Diane Challis Davy. LCAD student artists Abigail Shaw, Kayla Janes and Piankhi Robertson showcased their artwork, and Hugo Rivera painted a portrait on a large canvas. Dancers from the Laguna Dance Festival, Haley Hackethorn and Clark Griffin, performed contemporary dance, and plein air painter Anthony Salvo invited guests to participate in his beachscape painting by adding their own brushstrokes.
Pat Kollenda, president of Laguna Beach Arts Alliance (LBAA), served as emcee of the event, welcoming the guests and speaking about the importance of LBAA and how it has strengthened the arts in Laguna Beach while also poking fun at the ceremony’s experimental format.
“Tonight, we’re taking a risk and trying something new,” said Kollenda. “We’re not sure if it’ll be a success or a flop!” However, judging from the guests’ reaction, it was clearly a hit.
Throughout the evening, keyboardist Roxanna Ward entertained the crowd with impromptu banter with Kollenda, songs and jokes, including a rousing audience sing-a-long rendition of “18 Wheels on a Big Rig.”
And most importantly, the 2023 Art Star winners were announced:
Best Arts Program: Coast Film & Music Festival
Lifetime Achievement: Kathy Jones
Arts Patron of the Year: Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center
Outstanding Arts Collaboration: Art Inscribed (Third Street Writers/The Artists Fund/Festival of Arts/Festival of Arts Foundation)
Artist of the Year: Gerard Stripling
To the delight of the crowd, No Square Theatre capped off the program with their performance of the spoof “LA-BAH-AH” (to the tune of “La Bamba”).
By the night’s end, the arts community had celebrated its stars and the wealth of talent that has resulted in Laguna’s unforgettable, impactful arts legacy.
“We are beyond proud to be recognized by the LBAA for the Best Arts Program of 2022,” Ben Warner, co-founder and executive director of the Coast Film & Music Festival said. “As a young organization, we truly appreciate the path that has been created by so many world-class art programs that shape the colorful art legacy of Laguna Beach. The recognition gives us a great sense of pride and invigoration as we plan our fifth festival this November and create a legacy event for the community for years to come.”