There’s something idyllic about Laguna Beach, California in the summertime. Maybe it’s the quaint cottages and mesmerizing sunset views. Or it could be small-town vibes mixed with the independently owned shops and restaurants. But one thing that’s for sure is that the summer art festivals bring a certain magic to the coastal air.
Working in Laguna, I’ve always taken the town’s summer art festivals for granted. I knew they had a lot to offer. But I also knew they were the reason I couldn’t find parking in the morning. And the reason there were crowds all over the city. So I stayed away.
But this year, I decided to change things up and embrace the creative community full-heartedly. Have some artistic adventures of your own with a visit to these summer art festivals.
Festival of Arts
For over 85 years, the Festival of Arts has been an important part of the artistic culture in Laguna Beach. As the weather heats up, so does the fabulous artwork at this juried show. More than 140 artists from Southern California will set up their artwork in stunning displays. Beyond paintings, view everything from prints, sculptures, photography, jewelry, ceramics and glasswork.
This prestigious art festival requires that guests be invited to display their pieces so, naturally, it’s a special affair. This year, catch artists like Casey Parlette, whose sculptures made of wood, metal, and stone depict wildlife often inspired by the California sea. Or browse through Mary Aslin’s realistic pastel pieces, Jacobus Baas’ oil painted landscape, and Randy Bader’s impressive wooden furniture.
But even with the fantastic artwork to view, the real appeal is the Pageant of the Masters. This annual “tableau vivant” show, which features so-called living pictures, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before—guaranteed. For nearly two hours, delight in actors who pose as famous paintings and sculptures, holding perfectly still in expert makeup. The 2018 theme “Under the Sun” details the history of art in Laguna Beach and Southern California as a whole, with segments on surf art as well as the artwork displayed on old orange crates that were pivotal to Orange County’s agricultural heritage. You’ll also find displays of Monet paintings before the show concludes at one of the city’s summer art festivals.
Sawdust Art & Craft Festival
Further up Laguna Canyon Road, at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival grounds, explore a magical world of creativity. Of all three of the summer art festivals, the Sawdust is the only one featuring artists only from Laguna Beach. Because this event has such a local focus, it’s a special place to visit on any trip to this coastal retreat.
Gather your group and wander the sawdust-covered grounds as you meander past the handmade booths. Laguna artists will showcase a variety of unique arts and crafts. From butterflies encased in glass to unique rings and photographs of creatures in underwater tide pools. Eucalyptus trees and waterfalls offer an idyllic setting in which to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. As you wander one of these summer art festivals, chat with the artists or pick up gifts for friends and family.
This year marks the final time the famed 1970s Sawdust Volkswagen bus will be on display, painted to reflect the local Southern California landscape. Surf artist Drew Brophy has created an ocean scene filled with vibrant colors on the outside of the bus, making it the perfect spot for selfies and group photos alike.
While the artwork is the main focus, with more than 200 artists on display, the picturesque Sawdust festival is home to three stages with live music to enjoy as well as glassblowing demonstrations. There are also food and drink stands throughout so make a day of it and enjoy your time together.
While the other two summer art festivals in Laguna are focused solely on Southern California artists, Art-A-Fair takes it international. Creative types from around the world come together to display pieces here, with more than 120 artists showcasing 2D and 3D works. While many of the mediums include watercolors, mixed media pieces, acrylic paintings, photography, and printmaking, still more include glass and mirror pieces, leatherwork, sculptures, wood pieces, jewelry, gourd art, and ceramics.
Your whole crew can get together to learn artistic skills of your own at Art-A-Fair too. Adult art workshops include all necessary supplies and give visitors the chance to try their hand at something new. A traditional watercolor class focuses on protecting the white of the paper as well as keeping colors fresh and vibrant while an oil painting workshop discusses realism, rules of composition and lighting.
But topics go beyond painting as well. Learn about the principles of design in collage, experiment with wire wrapping to make your own pieces of jewelry, or add gold and silver foiling to whimsical gourds.
Beyond the Summer Art Festivals
Of course, this artist colony is filled with other artistic adventures to be had as well. After you’ve explored each of the summer art festivals, head to one of the more than 100 galleries and studios. One of the most popular spots is Wyland Gallery, home of a massive sea life mural featuring the type of works the artist is famous for. Another notable gallery is the JoAnne Artman Gallery, where vibrant and varied exhibitions showcase pieces with meaning.