The Festival of Arts is the original Laguna Beach summer fine art show, started in 1932. The competitive, juried show features the top visual artists in Orange County working in a wide range of media from photography to oils, acrylics, watercolors and pastels on a myriad of surfaces, and three-dimensional art in bronze and other metals, fine woods and ceramics. One of three art festivals in Laguna Beach, the Festival of Arts runs for eight weeks every summer.
Festival of Arts
Many of the artists work all year to build their collection to sell during the summer. Plenty of people attend the Festival of Arts just to admire the work, but for serious art buyers, attending early in the season gives you the biggest selection to choose from, since prime pieces often sell early. Weekdays during the day are less busy for scouting out new additions for your collections, but there are fewer artists present. Many of them do come out in the evening to be there for the crowds that show up for the Pageant of the Masters. Some artists may negotiate or reduce prices at the end of the season, rather than transporting remaining pieces back to the studio. You can purchase art from artists who are not present at the Fine Art Sales window.
If the original works of art are out of your price range, or you just want a smaller souvenir of your visit, a variety of products, from print reproductions and books to Festival and Pageant T-shirts are available in the Festival Store near the entrance.
Part of the fun of the Festival of the Arts is all the other activities that go on during the event. Tours and art workshops are available every day. Weekends are full of live music and special events, since that's when the biggest crowds are around. To get the most bang for your buck during the week, Thursday is the day to go for noon art talks by participating artists and evening jazz (with optional wine and chocolate tastings for an additional fee), as well as the daily tours and workshops.
Food & Drink
Food and beverages, including alcohol, are available for purchase at the snack bar. The charming Tivoli Terrace cafe and restaurant are on site for more formal dining. Picnics are welcome if you're coming in for art talks or music, and there are tables set up in the courtyard. During Jazz, Wine and Chocolate evenings, central tables are reserved for ticket holders. People show up hours early to claim the remaining tables. Many locals take advantage of the Festival season pass to attend all the music events.
Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts
The Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts is a single ticket that provides admission to Festival of the Arts, the Sawdust Festival and Art A-Fair all season long. It does NOT include Pageant of the Masters or other special ticketed activities. The Passport also includes one day of free parking at a designated lot. For more information and to purchase, go to lagunabeachpassport.com.
There are two parking lots immediately across the street from the Festival of the Arts, one large lot to the north on the same side of the street as the festival, and more small lots in Downtown Laguna Beach. On a busy weekend, or evenings for the Pageant, you might find yourself driving around to find a free spot. Check the parking map on the website for options. A free trolley shuttle runs from all the lots to the Festival. Daily parking rates range from $10 to $15, possibly more on weekends - cash only.
The Pageant of the Masters
One of the most beloved traditions in the Festival of the Arts is the Pageant of the Masters living pictures, a centuries-old European tradition of the tableaux vivant where famous works of art are re-created on stage using live models. It has been a part of the Festival since its inception in 1932, although it has expanded and been renamed a couple times along the way.
Staged nightly, Pageant of the Masters requires a separate ticket. That ticket includes full season access to the Festival of the Arts, so if you're in the area, and you go to the Pageant early in the season, you can enjoy the Festival and its music events all summer. A regular Festival ticket does NOT include the Pageant.
Hundreds of volunteer models are cast every year to portray dozens of paintings, sculptures and even movie posters for each show. Two complete casts alternate weeks throughout the summer. Quite a few of the models are children - sometimes portraying children, and other times portraying background adults who have to be smaller in the frame to create the right perspective.
Director Diane Challis - who came to the show in 1996 - and her 100 volunteer art researchers come up with a theme for each year's show and spend hundreds of hours finding just the right works of art to populate that theme and flow in a cohesive narrative through the evening.
Models, whose job is to hold still, start rehearsing in February for a show that starts in July. This seems kind of crazy until you see the precision and speed needed for the characters to find their way into each tableaux, which remains visible to the audience a mere 90 seconds.
At that speed, you get to see dozens of living paintings and sculptures appear before your eyes. Each year, one painting is chosen to reveal how the models get into place within the picture frame before the frame is turned to the audience.
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Art Tours at Festival of Arts
Artist Wai-Sin Tong-Darbonne talks about her technique of painting with water colors on rice paper on a decent-guided art tour at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, CA. Tours are offered a couple times a day throughout the eight weeks of the festival.
Art Workshops at Festival of the Arts
Art Workshops are available for kids and adults every day at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, CA. Additionally, there is always a special Family Day with more activities for the kids.
Art Talks at Festival of the Arts
Every Thursday at the Festival of Arts, a midday artist panel addresses a different art theme. Here, sculptor Jessica deStefano, and painters Elizabeth McGhee and Michael Obermeyer discuss their different approaches to capturing portraits.
Live Jazz at the Festival of Arts
Chris Standring performing a live jazz set at the Festival of Arts fine art show in Laguna Beach. The Festival offers live music in the courtyard on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Picnic at the Festival of Arts
You can bring your own picnic to attend the music events in the courtyard at the Festival of Arts, or grab food from the snack bar.
Tivoli Terrace Cafe and Restaurant
For a more formal dining experience at the Festival of Arts, the Tivoli Terrace Cafe and Restaurant is a charming venue for a full service meal or just coffee and dessert. The menu is limited, but the setting is lovely and the food is good.
Wine and Chocolate Pairings at Festival of the Arts
During the Thursday Jazz Evenings, the Festival of Arts also offers a Wine and Chocolate Pairing experience. Wine and chocolate are also available a la carte.
Artists at Work at Festival of the Arts
Artist Michael Situ works on a landscape painting at his booth at the Festival of Arts, an eight-week fine art show in Laguna Beach, CA. You'll find the most artists on site evenings and weekends, but there are always at least a few artists working on new creations or demonstrating techniques at their booths, or just making themselves available to talk to visitors. Guided tours include short presentations from a few artists on their work, so that's one sure way to meet artists. Otherwise, it's hit or miss when a particular artist will be around.
Fine Art Bronze at Festival of the Arts
You don't find that many artists working in bronze today, so it's a real treat to see the delicate work of such a fine bronze artist as Elaine Cohen on display at the Festival of Arts. Her booth is one of my many favorites.
Entrance to the Festival of the Arts
The renaissance arches of the entrance to the Festival of Arts have been in place for 14 years, since 2000, but in 2015, the Festival is planning to replace it with a brand new modern entrance, as seen in this rendering. The new entrance looks cool, but I'll miss the Italianate arches.