Festival of Arts goes north to H.B.

Huntington Beach artists can forget about entering their work in Laguna Beach's Festival of Arts open-air show, unless they can prove that they live in one of 34 ZIP codes outside of Surf City.

Under the Festival's present-day rules, Surf City and points in Orange County north and west of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine lie outside the zone of residential eligibility for the annual juried summertime fine arts exhibit.

But Kate Hoffman, executive director of the Huntington Beach Art Center (HBAC), hopes that a new collaboration with the Festival may lead to a more accommodating change in the rules.

"This may open the way for local artists to apply," Hoffman said. "I am hoping that they will recognize our local artists."

On May 19, the HBAC — the spacious and high-ceilinged facility on Main Street — and Festival will jointly open an exhibition at the HBAC that showcases 48 paintings and sculptures by 18 artists from South Orange County.

The featured artists — including Scott Albert, Ken Auster and Mariko Ishii — have either exhibited at past festivals or will do so at this summer's festival, which is set to run from July 1 through Aug. 31.

"Contemporary Traditionalists: A West Coast Perspective," the name given to the show, may also mark the first time in the Festival's 80-year history that a comprehensive exhibit of works by Festival artists on such a scale has happened outside of Laguna Beach, said Festival spokeswoman Sharbie Higuchi.

Martin Betz, the Festival's director of exhibits who is one of two Festival officials curating the Surf City show, expressed excitement about being able to show the works of Festival artists within the setting of a large-enough contemporary art gallery.

"There's not a place like the Huntington Beach Art Center in Laguna Beach," he said. "It's the only other beach city [in Orange County] that has an art center like that. It's kind of about art from the coast, so it makes sense."

He added that exposing the work of Festival-renowned artists outside of the Festival's confines and outside of Laguna would help raise their artistic profiles.

"This is just my idea that we should be putting ourselves out there — not just as a premier art exhibit, but that Laguna has some of the best artists around," Betz said.

In a separate interview, Hoffman added that the HBAC collaboration with the Festival would satisfy the Festival's need to display art in a large art space under one roof, while helping the city-run HBAC meet its annual goal of presenting three major exhibitions per year.

City budget cuts have reduced the art center's ability to spend money on exhibits, she noted.

"It's about establishing joint relationships between artists in both cities," Hoffman said.


Twitter: @ImranVittachi

If You Go

What: "Contemporary Traditionalists: A West Coast Perspective," an exhibition of works by artists from Laguna Beach and South Orange County

Where: Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St., Huntington Beach

When: May 19 through June 23; An opening reception will take place in the HBAC galleries from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Gallery hours: HBAC is open to the public from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays

Cost: Free admission

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