For the last several years, Sawdust Art Festival has featured a mural at the entrance of its grounds to kick off its annual summer festival. Each year, the festival seeks out new artists to revamp the crowd pleasing, larger-than-life photo opportunity spot.
This year’s mural was done by artists Charmaine Olivia and Alec Demarco, but their work was vandalized in May before the festival opened. The duo had intended to seal their mural with an anti-graffiti coating but hadn’t applied the sealant at the time due to damp weather.
City officials said the incident was the first time in at least two decades that a publicly displayed artwork in town was targeted for vandalism.
Festival organizers said the original artists, Olivia and Demarco, were not available to restore the work. In a show of solidarity, the community of Sawdust artists rallied together and artist Walter Viszolay took on the task of bringing the mural back to life by the close of the festival on Sept. 2.
“We were devastated by the vandalism but inspired by Walter’s willingness to undertake the project on short notice,” said Franky Duschane, Sawdust Festival marketing and public relations coordinator. “It would not have been a Sawdust Festival without our iconic mural to greet visitors.”
Viszolay is close to finishing the new mural, which features a panoramic scene of Laguna Beach’s Victoria Beach, with the iconic pirate tower to the right.
A Budapest native, Viszolay came to America at age 7 and settled in Southern California. He began developing his artistic skills and upon graduating, spent some time in Hawaii, where he became known for his island scenes series of original oils, acrylics and pastels. He finds inspiration and beauty in his surroundings, and especially in places where land and sea meet.
“I was honored to be chosen to take on such an important task for the festival,” Viszolay said.
Viszolay currently lives in Laguna Beach with his family and has a gallery in Laguna Village that is open daily.