Blot Out Art on the City Seal



The galleries and wine were not causing problems; others were.

Anyone who believes that a sip of wine is the cause to warrant an undercover crackdown has never worked in a gallery during Art Walk. If it was so, especially Laguna would not stand for a 15 year tradition with the possibility of harm by art patrons. As most problems in this city, it all boils down to our government not having a clear vision of what Laguna is and where it wants to go.

City leaders seem blind to context, ignoring to build cohesiveness and common goals. All we do is fix problems without foresight, which creates these convoluted  annoyances. This lack of thinking versus reacting hurts everyone.

We reason this crackdown to regulate alcohol and obstructions to public sidewalks when our sidewalks are dilapidated and often do not even exist. We use resources to bust art galleries, while pedestrians and cyclists continue to be killed and injured on our streets. We make it harder on galleries to do business, alienating investors, creating more empty storefronts.

This city has the word “art” in its city seal, even though art is the last reason visitors come to this town.

If the arts commission did its job, the gallery alcohol crackdown would have been the perfect example of what could have been avoided. An arts commission’s function is to champion the arts and to be the interface between citizens/artists and the city. Our commission means well, but sees as its priority to be the authority on decorating the city. Art is much more than decoration. This commission’s unawareness and reluctance of being actively involved allowed galleries to not be considered in the city’s arts master plan and it was unable to prevent the fiasco of this latest ABC raid.

Laguna’s true relationship with the arts is a city that is not interested in the arts, but rather enjoys being associated with it. Laguna needs to wake up and decide if it wants to support or keep hindering the arts. Till then, let’s be honest, and take the name art off Laguna’s city seal.

Michaell Magrutsche, Laguna Beach

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


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  1. There is a long standing tradition of the Teamster Union playing a legitimate hand in the control and distribution of alcoholic beverages.

    Just as there are watchdogs to insure legitimacy in Artistic expression the same protections are here against fraud and forgery of private license. Business license holders should communicate with their business managers, on the importance of legitimacy and ethics in business transactions.

    Just as restaurants and food markets have health inspections that are unannounced, we can not expect preferential treatment of other business that are under control of local jurisdictions.

    If gallery and saloon managers have had a 15 year tradition in providing alcoholic beverage service unlicensed, they should at least take assumption in the responsibility of providing libations from a private residence.


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