Laguna Beach’s Sawdust Art Festival and Pageant of the Masters

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Photo Courtesy of Pageant of the Masters

Laguna Beach is located on the California coast and is home to over 20,000 acres of protected wilderness, but it’s the towns art colony that draws thousands of people to visit this beach getaway location.  Just outside of Los Angeles, Laguna offers art festivals, galleries, museums and classes around every corner.

During the summer, three big art events take place in Laguna: The Sawdust Art Festival, The Festival of Arts, and Pageant of the Masters. All within walking distance from each other, the three events are the perfect family day out in Laguna Beach. Looking like the storybook house out of a Grimm’s fairytale, the Sawdust Art Festival is hard to miss. Colorful geometric windows line the face of the building, leading up to lopsided awnings and a jagged roof, all playing into the magic of its facade.

Once inside, you realize it’s not a building at all, but an open festival. Browse through the booths of 168 Laguna Beach artists, showcasing their handcrafted masterpieces across mediums like glass, wood, photography, acrylic, ceramic, jewelry, and so much more. Live music stages can be found around three different parts of the  grounds as well as a glassblowing demonstration, and complimentary arts and crafts classes.

Photo courtesy of Sawdust Art Festival

Sawdust shavings cover the entire ground, hence the name of the art festival, and each booth is crafted different than its neighbors.  It’s not the typical tents and tables you see at most roaming festivals. Because the Sawdust Festival is a permanent resident of Laguna, and opens in the summer and winter, the booths are each decorated uniquely to the artist.  Some even have giant tree trunks standing through the center of their space, adding to the magic of the festival and allowing art and nature to collide together.

The Sawdust Festival is open daily until September 3rd, and while you are out visiting, you can take a walk or trolley ride down the rode to the next summer art festival happening in Laguna. The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is now open through September 1st, with nightly performances starting at 8:30 PM.

Photo courtesy of Pageant of the Masters

The Festival of Arts is a fine art show featuring 120 award-winning artists during the two-month summer season. Here you can listen to jazz music, sip wine, and meet artists, many of which use this time in their booths to work on new pieces for their collection. One artist painted the red feathers of a woodpecker’s head she had been working on over the last few days, while another artist was just getting started on a charcoal sketch of a family of gorillas. 

Art workshops are available and sponsored by Bank of America, where for an additional fee you can take an Adult and Teen Art Class or sit in on a Wine and Paint Night class. They also have free craft areas for kids too! When you purchase a ticket to the Pageant of the Masters show, your ticket acts as a passport for the Festival of the Arts so you can come back and enjoy art all summer long.

As the sun goes down, the canyon temperature drops drastically and its finally time to get your seats for the Pageant of the Masters show.  Binoculars, seat cushions, and blankets are recommended but if you don’t have any, they have items for rent and purchase. This year’s theme is “Art Colony: In the Company of Artists,” and celebrates the 90th anniversary of the Pageant. 

Photo Courtesy of Pageant of the Masters

The 90-minute theatrical performance showcases famous works of art that are brought to life on the stage with real people.  A live narrator and orchestra takes the audience through the story of each piece and artist while your eyes are in disbelief on what is a painting and what is real. Oil creations from Pierre-Auguste Renoir open the show and take viewers through the art renaissance in Florence, Paris, and then to the Ashcan School of New York in the early 1900s.

You don’t quite understand how these “living pictures” are made until they take a few minutes to demonstrate how a picture is put together on stage.  A slanted foreground is rolled in like a parade float, and painted actors climb ladders or steps to get into the appropriate place and body position as the character in the painting. Then the backdrop is rolled behind, and when everything comes together, they melt into one flawless piece of art where you can’t tell when the people begin and the painting ends.

Not only are oil paintings represented, but even bronze, gold, and marble statues appear on the side stages. Act two takes viewers through the Harlem Renaissance with artists like Aaron Douglas, and then to East L.A’s Chicano art in the early 2000s, while wrapping it up with Laguna Beach artist, Roger Kuntz’s oil paintings. 

Last but certainly not least, the show finale ends with the recreation of the The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 1490s. The tempera on plaster “living picture” stretches the entire stage, and holds the most live actors in one piece. It’s the perfect way to end the show!

Get your tickets to the Sawdust Art Festival and Pageant of the Masters before the summer season ends in September.