Festival of Arts reopens after pandemic hiatus

Woodworker Randy Bader speaks in front of his gallery with Jim Rock and Cathy Hallinan on July 3, 2021, at the Festival of Arts. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

The Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach welcomed hundreds of patrons on Saturday to enjoy an evening of fine art and live music following a year-long hiatus forced by the pandemic.

About 120 artists juried into the canceled 2020 show were rolled into this year’s season. The Festival Art Show held an invitation-only Artists’ Opening Reception on Saturday. General admission ticket holders were invited in on July 5.

Festival organizers were allowed to open the gates to crowds following the reopening of the state’s economy on June 15 following mass vaccinations. Besides a handful of people wearing masks and face shields, there were few visible signs of the pandemic among the hugs and pouring of wine and beer.

“All of us at the Festival of Arts are thrilled to be playing a role in revitalizing the artistic community as it recovers from the effects of the events of the last several months,” Festival of Arts president David Perry said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “The joy and optimism of all those attending the Artists’ Opening Reception is proving a potent catalyst to the community’s return summer.”

Woodworker Randy Bader, a 41-year Festival of Arts exhibitor, once again showed his wave-inspired furniture but this year’s show brings deeply mixed feelings for him. For the first time in 34 years, Bader attended the show without his wife Mary, who died of ovarian cancer last year.

“I’m getting a lot of hugs,” Bader said. “After being isolated for so long this is part of my process for healing. I think being out here is important for my brain.”

The only new piece Bader made last year is a clock named “Starry Night, Time” that reminds him of Vincent Van Goh’s “Starry Night.” Even though Bader says he’s saved enough to enjoy retirement traveling in his restored VW Bus, he keeps coming back to the festival every year because it’s ingrained in his identity.

“As an artist, if I retire, what am I?” he said.

While locked down during the pandemic, painter Amanda Fish said she found joy in painting vignettes of flower bouquets. The four-year Festival of Arts exhibitor threw herself into this work so well that she was initially worried about displaying too many flower paintings at the festival.

“You’re not feeling that joy of communicating with people and the hugs,” Fish said. “Instead it came out through flowers.”

Although artists are annually concerned about being juried out of the following year’s show, the pandemic and cancellation of last year’s show forced artists to isolate and really focus on their work, Fish said.

“I think everyone wants to excel but I think this year there’s something special,” Fish said.

The 2021 Pageant of the Masters named Made in America is set to premiere to an invite-only audience on July 6. The public is welcome to attend performances nightly at 8:30 p.m. from July 7 through Sept. 3.

Artists and guests speak in front of Bradley Elsberry’s gallery on July 2, 2021, at the Festival of Arts. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Artists and guests view art galleries on July 2, 2021, at the Festival of Arts. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Mayor Bob Whalen chats with Laguna Beach filmmakers Barbara and Greg MacGillivray on July 2, 2021, at the Festival of Arts. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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