Hometown Artists Take a Star Turn


Laguna Beach’s arts community honored the leaders and activists who have worked diligently to further the arts throughout 2010 at its annual Art Star awards last Friday.

Lee Rocker, left, and Buzz Campbell.

The event featured keynote speaker and local resident Lee Rocker, a founding member of the Stray Cats and enduring rockabilly star, who the alliance honored with its visionary award.


In a tribute to Rocker’s success and the Stray Cats’ fame, guests mingled in the courtyard on a tiger-striped carpet and select servers sported expertly applied tiger face paint. Rocker added a feline anecdote of his own, describing a recording session where the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards contributed a guitar part and then pinched his leopard  jacket on exiting.


In his remarks recounting his 30-year career, Rocker thanked his wife Debbie for her support and the community for an artistic environment that allowed his children to flourish. Rocker, who recently released “The Cover Sessions” and records later this month in Memphis for a PBS television program, remains driven by the joy of creating and the discipline it demands. “If you want to accomplish anything, you have to be obsessed,” he admonished.


Rocker treated a full house at Seven Degrees to a brief performance on upright bass, accompanied by his son Justin and guitarist Buzz Campbell. Before and between presentations, the audience also grooved to the sounds of Bossa Zuzu, a Brazilian inspired jazz trio led by another local musician, Dan Reckard, who played saxophone and flute.


Local Scott Moore, known for his colorfully surreal paintings that defy rules of proportion and composition (“Coffee and Doughnuts” was included in last year’s Pageant of the Masters), was named Artist of the Year, an announcement made by Marsh Scott. As has become tradition, the previous winner in each category presented the award to new recipient.


An exception was the new Seven Degrees of Inspiration award, devised by the venue’s owners, Dora Wexell and Mark Orgill. Artist Roark Gourley’s proposal for project involving diverse manners of recording the human form in a liquid environment won the $5,000 grant.


Two-time Arts Patron of the Year winner Mark Porterfield presented this year’s award to the James Irvine Foundation, which made a four-year grant of $400,000 in 2006 to Laguna Playhouse received, and a three-year grant of $375,000 in 2009 to Laguna Art Museum.


Karyn Philippsen presented the best new arts program award to David Green, founder of Musical Theater University, an alliance with Laguna’s No Square Theatre.


The Passport for the Arts team of representatives from the Visitors Bureau and three arts festivals presented the arts collaboration award to the Laguna College of Art and Design for its alliance with Hurley in establishing the pioneering action sports design program.


LCAD President Dennis Power received the Innovation and Arts Leadership award from Pat Kollenda. “This has been the Power era; Laguna has become a college town,” she said. Under his leadership, the college now features, among other innovations, dorms for select students.


“Art is not easy,” said Power, remarking that he had always wanted to be a sculptor and never thought he would come into art the way he ultimately did. “I can now safely retire,” said Power, who previously announced his intended departure.


Sculptor Louis Longi added a poignant somber note, recounting the travails of Laguna Canyon artists devastated by flooding last December and the ensuing generosity of the surrounding arts community. Longi, who lost his home and studio, created the one-of-a-kind statuettes presented to award winners as well as surprise awards to flood-relief stars. Recipients included Fred Sattler, of the Festival of Arts’ Emergency Flood Relief Fund; Sue Thompson and Susan Wade, of the Sawdust Festival’s Artist Benevolence Fund, Anne England and Rosemarie Swimm of Laguna Plein Air Painters Association’s Artists’ Fund, and Bree Burgess Rosen, who repurposed a No Square Theatre production as a fundraiser for artists.


Rob Harriman, who wrote the song “Wednesday Morning” and performed it at the flood-relief benefit, reprised the tribute to the flood victims.


The events organizers chair Lisa Mansour, Sharbie Higuchi, Dora Wexell, Karen Wood and Jennifer Daniels.

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