Festival of Arts Celebrates the ‘Genius’ of Creating

A scene from summer’s “Only Make Believe” production. Photo by Ted Reckas

As Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts readies its 80th anniversary, the town’s leading arts organization has another cause for celebration: its second consecutive year in the black.

“In spite of a difficult economy, the festival took in $9 million in revenue last year, an 18 percent increase compared to the previous year, even as expenses declined,” treasurer Anita Mangels said at last week’s annual meeting.


We can attribute our fiscal success to the quality of our shows such as the ‘Pageant of the Masters’ and the entertainment we offered throughout the summer and to prudent fiscal management. But, the real secret to our success are our dedicated volunteers, she said.

Net assets also rose to $11.5 million compared to $10.6 million last year, she said.

Newly re-elected officers, from left, secretary Pat Kollenda, president Fred Sattler, treasurer Anita Mangels and vice president Tom Lamb.

Board president Fred Sattler praised last year’s Pageant saying that out of 56 performances, there were only 424 empty seats all season. “That’s a 99.97 percent sold-out show,” he said.  Diane (Dee) Challis Davy is celebrating her 31st season with the pageant, 17 as its director.

Challis Davy and scriptwriter Dan Duling also announced next summer’s Pageant  theme, “The Genius.” Abandoning the whimsy of this year’s “Only Make Believe,” they opted for more gravitas by selecting works by painters Velasquez, Vermeer, Rubens, Van Gogh and Monet among others, sculptors Michelangelo and Berninini and for the first time honor scientists and composers, Copernicus and Galileo, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin among them.

Rejoining the Festival of Arts board for new three-year terms, Steve Dicterow, Bob Moffett and Wayne Baglin

Board members Wayne Baglin, Steve Dicterow and Bob Moffett were re-appointed for another three-year term. No election was required since there were only three members under consideration.

From left, pageant volunteers honored with Life Member awards Mandy Writer, Charles Remley, Kathy Hood, Doug Hood, Elaine Fliesher, Sharon Ames and Kasey Elizabeth Perry

Last year, 140 artists exhibited in grounds newly redesigned by Martin Betz. The most notable improvement was an easier to navigate booth layout and the addition of tables, allowing an increasing number of visitors to picnic in comfort. “Nearly 226,000 visitors attended last year’s festival and pageant; that’s nearly 4000 people a day,” he said.

The Irvine Bowl stage house has been retrofitted for earthquakes and received a new roof, and new trees were planted to improve the visual ambience for the audience and cut glare for nearby residents.



And, after ending last year’s show with Salvador Dali’s “Last Supper,” the show will end once again with the traditional Leonardo DaVinci version.

Board member and scholarship committee chair Pat Kollenda reported that the committee awarded more than $82,400 to Laguna Beach High School grads and returning scholarship recipients.

Volunteers who have served more than 15 years received life membership awards. Recipients were Sharon Ames, Doug Hood, Kasey E. Perry, Elaine Fliesher, Kathy Hood, Charles Remley and Mandy Writer.

Donations augmented the Festival’s art collection and archives, most notably a trove of 55 boxes of photographs and materials from the Rick Lang archives containing historical references from 1970 to 2011. Lang estimated that the boxes contain roughly 750,000 images along with souvenir programs, newspaper articles, postcards and posters.


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