My connection to Laguna goes back to the 1970s when I absorbed copious amounts of green paint in the service of the Pageant of the Masters, posing as a statue from Gettysburg. Burnished with a teaching credential, I spent a year coaching swimming and water polo and teaching part time at Laguna Beach High School while waiting for a coveted full-time position that never materialized.
I recall fondly the distinct mascot of LBHS – the Artists! Perfect! I thought then, was there any other place in the whole United States – even world – so enlightened as to refer to themselves as artists? What, I wondered, must people infer about a town whose children aspire to be artists rather than bears, falcons, wolverines and various other rapacious creatures, most of which don’t even exist in Southern California.
Given the lack of local teaching opportunities, I soon moved on. After more than 30 years with the Capistrano Unified School District, I nevertheless look admiringly on each generation of LBHS Artists (Breakers now), outsized but still stubbornly fighting to hold onto their precarious identity.
I believe this to be an apt analogy given my understanding of the state of affairs with regard to a beautifully designed and articulated work/live facility designed for, of all things, artists, right there in the canyon and within walking distance to various art venues, including the place where I slathered on all that green paint so many years ago.
I am not one who believes in change for change sake. In fact, I am a bit of a Luddite and have managed to survive to the present time without the benefit of a cell phone. I have to be convinced that the advantages of something new will outweigh the disadvantages that come with the change. On the other hand, as a teacher and coach, the most important quality I can bring to a classroom or a team is vision. I need to see students not as they are now, but as the striving and successful individuals they surely will be in the future as we work each day to make small improvements.
With this thought in mind, I urge Laguna Beach and the City Council to remain vigilant in their vision, to make art paramount, to keep a vision of artists and the art of vision as a defining statement for this fair city. Let other locales wallow in their mediocrity. Let them have their bears and tigers. I say, stay stubborn Laguna and keep the Artists by keeping the artists in Laguna. Save Laguna for the artists and the artists will save Laguna. That’s the vision. Only now, give them a place to live and work in the canyon!
Gary Keene, Capistrano Unified School District teacher