Talking About Art

Part 2


By Randy Kraft.

At the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance Art Star awards ceremony, poet Dana Gioia treated the crowd to a compelling keynote speech about supporting the arts. Gioia, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, who has published four award-winning poetry collections, currently serves as the Judge Whitney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC. He will publish his first collection of poems in 10 years in July.

Gioia remains a vocal advocate for the arts throughout the country, living up to Business Week’s title as “The Man Who Saved the NEA.” He agrees that public dialogue is essential to protecting the arts and promoting the arts, and he recognizes, because he holds an MBA from Stanford University as well as a master’s in comparative literature from Harvard, that the business of art, like all businesses, requires a steady supply of working capital.

During March ArtWalk, Laguna Art Museum hosted both a preview performance of Laguna Dance Festival and a presentation by California artist Ed Gomez as part of the museum’s recently launched “Conversations” also on First Thursdays. New Executive Director, Malcolm Warner, agrees that dialogue is as essential as the display and this event is just one of the steps being taken at the museum to spread out beyond its walls into the community as educator and resource.

Gomez himself is a living example of creativity. An irreverent MFA graduate in 2003, he took the first job he could find crating art in museum backrooms and basements. During that time, he trained his focus on exhibition practices, and in 2006 founded the MexiCali Biennial, a bi-national art and music program. He also created the Gallery of Contemporary Art, a traveling self-contained exhibition space located in his suitcase.  I kid you not. Yes, art shows up in all sorts of places.

The current museum exhibit, “Mi Obra” by Victor Hugo Zayas, is another reminder that art comes in many forms. This unique pairing of dramatic paintings with elegant abstract sculptures made of weapons from the Los Angeles gun-return program cries out for discussion, although also makes one speechless in the face of such originality.

Seems to me that every day the arts community has an opportunity to promote the arts and encourage community discourse. Laguna Beach has both infrastructure and intent, if only all the key players will not only celebrate together but also engage more often in discussion with mere mortals. Art stars and arts sponsors in the end rely on arts admirers who deserve a steady dose of nourishment. We need to talk about art as much as we need to make art. That’s the essence of an arts community.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered City Hall for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for

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