Laguna Art Museum to celebrate LGBTQ culture and heritage with panel discussion

From left, Daniel Stachowski, Craig Cooley and Jonathan Colliflower at Laguna Art Museum on Thursday.
From left, Daniel Stachowski, Laguna Art Museum public programs coordinator, Craig Cooley, Laguna Beach Pride 365 president, and Jonathan Colliflower, Laguna Beach Pride 365 vice president, pose for a portrait at Laguna Art Museum on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

At various restaurant counters and storefronts in Laguna Beach, the rainbow flag is prominently on display as the beach city long considered a haven for the LGBTQ community celebrates Pride month.

A rainbow flag waves in the wind from the flagpole at Laguna Beach City Hall, a recognition put into place by a council vote a few years ago. In May 2017, city leaders proclaimed June to be LGBTQ Heritage and Culture Month in Laguna Beach in perpetuity.

A collaboration between Laguna Beach Pride 365 and Laguna Art Museum is the latest sign of LGBTQ acceptance in the community. The museum will host a Pride celebration and panel discussion event Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.

Laguna Beach Pride 365 promotes itself as an organization that focuses on “building unity and commerce through the power of diversity.” Jonathan Colliflower, the vice president of Laguna Beach Pride 365, says the partnership with the museum works toward that purpose.


“Our mission is to bring back the vibrancy of Laguna Beach,” Colliflower said. “Bring back the commerce, bring back the tourism, bring back the life. Starting a relationship with the museum would be an amazing step because we want to build those safe spaces, if you will, for the LGBTQ community, knowing that the museum supports them. They’re an ally.”

A champagne reception will kick off the event, and entertainment, drinks and light bites will be available. Admission to the panel discussion is $7 for museum members and $14 for nonmembers. There is no cost to attend the celebration.

Laguna Beach High School saw 246 seniors graduate in its commencement ceremony on Thursday night at Guyer Field.

June 10, 2022

Panelists will educate those in attendance on the history of Laguna Beach and its relationship with the LGBTQ demographic.

Laguna Beach resident Chris Tebbutt (founder of Laguna Beach LGBTQ+ Heritage and Culture Alliance) will serve as the moderator. Confirmed panelists include resident and business owner Ruben Flores, museum board member Mike Johnson and Sarah Kasman (retired executive director of Shanti Orange County, a mental health and wellness services organization).

“I’m excited for the panel to share their insight from the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s to the present,” Colliflower said. “We kind of have that nice age range, people who have been here over those last several decades, to talk to the history of Laguna and it being Orange County’s kind of West Hollywood.”

Colliflower, 52, said he remembered coming to Laguna Beach for its gay bars and the popular West Street Beach as he was growing up, and he said he feels it is important for the public to know the history of the town.

Craig Cooley, president of Laguna Beach Pride 365, echoed Colliflower’s sentiments.

“We should celebrate what Laguna Beach is as a community and how embracing and supportive they are of the gay community and what a wonderful cultural environment there is here in Laguna Beach,” Cooley said. “We should celebrate it, appreciate it, and part of that is the history and the path.

“The idea is to look back and look forward. The forward part of it, I guess, is getting together and celebrating who we are and what’s going on in the community today.”

Museum officials said the institution views the upcoming event as the first in a plan to bring further programming that demonstrates its commitment to be welcoming to audiences from diverse backgrounds.

“I’m passionate about not just doing these one-off programs and really solidifying this commitment to inclusivity,” Victoria Gerard, deputy director for the museum, said. “I told [Cooley and Colliflower] pride is 365 days a year, and we’ve already kind of started to talk about more programming, including family programming and story times that talk about the LGBTQ community.

“There’s a lot of really interesting history in Laguna related to this community and the arts and the museum, so there’s certainly more programs and panel conversations that we’ve kind of started to dream up for the future, and I really feel like it’s just a first step to kind of reinvesting the museum in various communities.”

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