Anne England passed away Oct. 29 at her home in Laguna Niguel with family by her side. She was a Festival of Arts and Sawdust Festival exhibitor and tireless advocate for the arts and artists in Laguna Beach. She was founder of The Festival of Arts Artists Fund, the Sawdust Festival’s Artists’ Benevolence Fund and co-founder of Laguna Outreach Community Arts (LOCA). “Anne was a pillar of the community,” Sharbie Higuchi, marketing director for the FOA, said in an announcement.
Born in Florida, England came to Laguna Beach in 1962, then a single parent, and while working as a nurse began exhibiting her artwork at the Festival of Arts the following year. She studied painting in oil and acrylics with Roger Kuntz at Laguna’s Art Institute of Southern California. In 1980, she switched to watercolors mentored by local artist and instructor Roger Armstrong. Later that decade, Jonde Northcutt and Nick Capaci led England back to printmaking, the medium she worked in until the end of her life.
England earned a bachelor’s degree at Laguna College of Art and Design and a master’s of fine art at Long Beach State University.
“She had a large life,” her daughter Lansing Molzen said, recalling her mother’s advocacy for artists and her tenacity. “She was very vocal about the arts,” added Molzen, whose earliest memory of Laguna was watching the FOA puppet show and being a “festival brat.”
In 2007, England shared memories from her early days as an exhibitor at the FOA with Dan Duling, scriptwriter for the Pageant of the Masters. “We used to have potlucks up at Tivoli Terrace after the people went in to the Pageant. Arul Raj, the watercolorist from India, made wonderful Indian dishes to share and Armen Gasparian made Armenian food to die for. These dinners were going on at least twice a week,” she said, recalling the “fun and camaraderie” with artists in the group including Jane and David Rosen, Mary Riker, Larry Rink, Herb Griswold, Dixie Hall and Roger Kuntz.
Another recollection illustrates what Shirley Rush, England’s friend and current president of the FOA Artist’s Fund, describes as England’s “rarity in talent and personality.” On a Sunday in 1964, while single-handedly manning a booth at the Festival of Arts which she shared with two other artists, England found herself confronted by a “very pushy” lady looking for jewelry with diamonds or 24-carat gold. England explained there were no gemstones or gold, just pieces in silver and bronze. “The lady then stuck her hand in my face and on her ring finger was a very poor quality, huge, diamond. She asked what I would do if I had a diamond like that. I thought a moment and replied, I’d hock it and get a manicure! That’s a true story,” England said in a 2007 email to Duling. “She never lost the Southern influence,” said Rush. “She could be beyond charming and she was very thoughtful, but she had definite views on things.”
The legacy England is most proud of is the 1999 founding of the FOA’s Artist’s Fund to provide disaster and medical relief grants for artists who could not afford to pay for unanticipated events. She credits Mike Tauber, an FOA exhibitor, for kicking the program into high gear and directing fundraising events. The fund has since added an education component, providing scholarships to artist for classes, conferences and supplies.
England is also a co-founder of LOCA,the nonprofit that pairs professional artists with students in the community by sponsoring art classes and workshops. “LOCA keeps art flowing to the schools and teaches the children to have art in their lives,” England told the Coastline Pilot in 2002.
Rush remembers that England encouraged her fellow artists and was admired by artists of all ages. England also collected art by Caroline Zimmerman, Herb Griswold, Patric Kelly and Ken Auster. Her collection will remain with her husband, Michael England.
Further demonstration of her advocacy for artists is her role in establishing the Sawdust Festival’s Artists’ Benevolence Fund, originally begun as the Artists’ Relief Fund in 1987 to provide assistance to Laguna artists who were unable to work. England told the Coastline Pilot in 2002, “The Laguna art community is a really tight community and they really do take care of their own and look after each other. They have taken great care of me.”
In the mid-1990s England was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer. She was given the Breast Cancer Survivor of the Year Award by the American Cancer Society in 2001. She continued to make art and attributed working to her survival. “It is what keeps me going back to my studio. It also kept me going through many bouts with lung cancer and subsequent treatment. I had small windows when I could (was strong enough) to work. Knowing the festival would be coming spurred me to do some of my best work,” she wrote in her 2007 email to Duling.
Rush remembers a young, red-haired England who was an accomplished singer, dancer and pianist. She also recounted a recent day when England complained a young surfer cut her off in the water, “I told her shouldn’t be surfing at her age anyway,” Rush said. Rush also accompanied England and her husband on several trips to Italy, where England taught printmaking classes at Il Borro, a working farm and hotel on the Feragamo Estate north of Arezzo.
Equal to her passion for her work was her love for Laguna Beach. “Laguna means going downtown and seeing at least six people that you know, visiting in the art supply store with other artists or having coffee at Zinc. Its beauty never ceases to amaze me. Laguna is a place where you can be whatever it is you are and it’s okay by the majority,” England told Duling in 2007.
In a 2002 letter to the Coastline Pilot, England wrote:“People travel from all over the world to experience Laguna Beach and we welcome them with open arms. They visit our studios, the galleries, the homes of artists and, during the summer months, they attend our world-famous art festivals. We try to help them see the world through artists’ eyes and show them that art is a form of healing, as well as an expression of love. This is what our heritage is all about! Without the artists who have lived, worked and exhibited in our community for more than 100 years, we would have no heritage. The art that has been inspired here in Laguna Beach will live on long after we are gone.”
England is survived by her husband Michael England of Laguna Niguel; her daughter Lansing Molzen and son-in-law Phil Molzen of Las Vegas; their children Hunter (Lauren) and Hasting (Briana) and her great-grandchildren Jayden, Adalee and Azayan.
A funeral mass will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 9 at St. Timothy Catholic Church, 229102 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel. In memory of her passing, England’s family is requesting donations be made to The Artists Fund. Checks can be sent to The Artists Fund, care of Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach 92651 or by calling 949-612-1949 or by visiting: theartistsfund-foa.org. Donations will also be accepted at a celebration of life to be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Sawdust Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Rd. Attendees are requested to bring brunch food to share.