Festivals Sustain Flood-Hit Artists

By Daniella Walsh | LB Indy

The town’s two big art festivals are sending welcome financial relief to Laguna Canyon artists ravaged by the December floods and mudslides.

Eighteen artists with flood-soaked homes and studios have applied to the Sawdust Festival’s Artist Benevolence Fund for $1,000 lifelines.

The Festival of Arts disbursed another 17 grants to 12 artists, but festival board president Fred Sattler was unsure of the total number of applicants so far.

Every artist can apply for two $500 grants, he said, adding that about $25,000 was available for flood victims. “The money is earmarked for mud and debris removal but not to provide living expenses,” he added. “It’s an injection of cash for immediate relief,” he said.

So far, the Sawdust Festival has processed nine applications, said artist administrator Sue Thompson, who added that anonymous donations have flooded in also to help some artists who lost their entire studios and livelihood. “Money has come in from all over; not every donor was from Laguna,” she said.

Wood-sculptor Troy Poeschl, whose canyon studio was ravaged, said both festivals have been quick in trying to assist artists getting their lives back. “I have a better understanding now how deeply disasters can affect people,” he said.

Glass blower Gavin Heath, who received help from both funds, joined Poeschl and artist Maggie Spencer in expressing gratitude to the community, declining to specify the amount of aid they have received.

Sculptor Louis Longhi, who lost his studio, home, and tools along with works in progress, received $1,000 from the Sawdust and $500 from the Festival of Arts. “We were able to get my house gutted, my studio cleaned out and the debris taken away. The Festival’s check came in two days and the Benevolence Fund check in eight; they really saved our butts,” he said. “The most difficult part is that our income has just stopped. It will take a long time to restore some of my tools and get back to work,” he added.

Sattler urged those still considering whether to apply to seek help quickly as the board may put a cap on available funds, making it more cumbersome for applicants.

The Festival of Arts can be reached at 949 494-1145.

Thompson said potential donors should make checks to the Sawdust’s charitable trust, and send them to 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 92651.

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