Galleries Shift With the Winds

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Artist Julio Labra at Rawsalt’s inaugural opening, an expansion of the Salt Fine Art gallery. Photo by Suzanne Walsh.
Artist Julio Labra at Rawsalt’s inaugural opening, an expansion of the Salt Fine Art gallery. Photo by Suzette Lipscomb


As Laguna Beach has evolved as an art destination, its scores of galleries, too, keep evolving.

Two established galleries recently expanded by broadening their roster with new artists and new purpose and a newcomer opens its doors this weekend in the HIP district.

Long in need of a permanent home, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association   (LPAPA) has found one at the Forest & Ocean Gallery downtown after the Laguna College of Art and Design vacated the venue to open a new satellite space a few doors down on Ocean Avenue.

Rosemary Swimm, left, and Toni Kellenberg visit the first LPAPA exhibition at the Forest & Ocean Gallery.
Rosemary Swimm, left, and Toni Kellenberg visit the first LPAPA exhibition at the Forest & Ocean Gallery.

The painters hung their first show, “LPAPA in Residence,” last Friday, May 1. Featured artists include Michael Alten, Scottie Brown, Patricia Rose Ford, Lore Hold, Mark Jacobucci, Terry Masters, Rodolfo Rivademar, Laura Rosenkranz, Anthony Salvo and Toni Williams, as well as Ebrahim Amin, Saim Caglayan, Larry Cannon, Rick J. Delanty, Mark Fehlman and Rita Pacheco.

Bereft of year-long, permanent exhibition space, LPAPA shuttled between Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach before approaching Forest & Ocean gallerist Ludo Leideritz, said LPAPA executive director Rosemary Swimm. The 400-member organization’s annual collectors’ soiree, too, has been itinerant, departing the Laguna Art Museum after 13 years for The Ranch at Laguna Beach and now scheduled for fall at Tivoli Too in Laguna Canyon.

“I made it my mission early on to find a permanent home to exhibit our artists’ work and finally found it here on Ocean Avenue, a perfect location since it’s so close to the art festivals grounds,” said president Toni Kellenberg. “The only challenge was getting the board of directors to get on board and allocate funds for renting the space.”

Leideritz calls the arrangement a win for both sides. “Having known LAPAPa and the quality of their work, I realized for them to not have a place where they could permanently display seemed detrimental, especially in a place like Laguna Beach. We worked through the logistic and the physical means to host them on a regular permanent basis and hope for a long, fruitful relationship,” he said.

A reception to celebrate the move is planned at the gallery for May 23.

A different type of expansion is underway by Salt Fine Art gallery owner Carla Tesak Arzente. “We’re going global,” she said.

Salt is well known for showing work by artists from Latin America in Laguna Beach. Last week, she opened a new annex, RAWsalt, in the space formerly occupied by jeweler Silver, Blue and Gold.

To open the new space, Arzente tore down physical and metaphorical walls by selecting emerging artists from locales as far-flung as Russia and Spain and as close as Santa Ana and Los Angeles. All are recent fine arts graduates.

Julio Labra, for example, received a master’s in fine art from the Laguna College of Art and Design. Only Tokyo-born Aya Kakeda could, after having earned several critical accolades, qualify as a mid-career artist.

Works are multi-media and representational, with many centered on fantasy and whimsy or personal inventions with storylines offering a plethora of interpretations. Tree-filled landscapes by Sarah Walsh might label her as the group’s impressionist. Gallery director and artist Suzanne Walsh and her sister Sarah are the author’s daughters.

RAWsalt has selected 10 artists as permanent exhibitors, giving them a chance to showcase their growth throughout succeeding shows. “Both Salt and RAWsalt has used techniques of baseball scouting, looking for artists that are not necessarily readily known and available here and helping them build their career,” said Arzente. “When artists are beginning, there is a lot of growth to follow and, over time, people come to collect certain artists.”

Prices differ between the annex and gallery, too. Work by established artists fetches five figures, while budding collectors can pick up a favorite in the annex for far less. “We have a transient populations as well as locals who would be a lot happier spending $800 than $5000,” said Arzente. “For visitors it’s a way of picking up a souvenir from Laguna that’s spectacular.”

Meanwhile, Karen Worden, former proprietor of Silver, Blue and Gold, gave up brick and mortar retailing for more time to make jewelry. While selling her work online, she will maintain a retail presence by showing at the Delgado Gallery, a venue also in the HIP district and established by watercolorist Lydia Delgado.

“Lydia exhibited her work at my gallery and now I am showing at hers,” said Worden.

A Laguna resident since 1987, Delgado has also been a Sawdust Festival exhibitor since ’89. “Karen and I both do nature-inspired work that complements each other,” said Delgado. “We have the same idea and direction, but it’s also going to be a mix of creative people and energy.” The gallery at 1550 S. Coast Highway opens on Saturday, May 9.


A photo in the May 8 arts section was incorrectly credited. The photo of Julio Labra was taken by Suzette Lipscomb.

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