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Laguna Beach High students have artful creations showcased at Sawdust Festival

Bud Weir, a local artist and exhibitor, stands in the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot, a mini-gallery he championed.
Bud Weir, a local artist and exhibitor, stands in the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot, a mini-gallery he championed.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Tradition is passed on from one generation to the next, and with the Sawdust Art Festival in its 56th year, it certainly has plenty of that.

For relative newcomers to the festival, however, they may have happened upon an unfamiliar space being referred to as the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot.

Such a space had existed on the festival grounds years ago, but it was discontinued. This year, however, high school students once again have a dedicated exhibit to showcase their work.

Bud Weir, a local artist and exhibitor, stands in the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot next to a piece by Zoe Gort.
Bud Weir, a local artist and exhibitor, stands in the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot next to his favorite piece by Zoe Gort, in the mini-gallery he championed to bring back.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Bringing a high school booth to the grounds is a development that longtime Sawdust artist Bud Weir saw come to fruition during his two prior stints as a board member for the festival.

“The reason I did it was because Laguna Beach is an art town, and there are a lot of really great artists in the high school,” Weir said. “Again, it was up for three years, and then they dropped it.

“The reason I did it this time was [because] the first time and the second time that we did it, some of the high school artists ended up being exhibitors in the show, and there are actually a couple of exhibitors now … [who] were originally displayed in the high school booths. So that just really turned me on, being able to help the kids like that.”

Laguna Beach High student Matysse Sybirski created this sculpture, "Bobo," on display at the Sawdust Festival.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Weir said it has been close to 15 years since the high school booth last made an appearance at the Sawdust Festival. This summer, it features the artwork of 23 Laguna Beach High students.

“We want to thank our incredible VAPA [Visual and Performing Arts] teachers and the Sawdust Festival team for the opportunity to collaborate and showcase these young artists’ talent,” Laguna Beach Unified School District Supt. Jason Viloria said in a statement. “We are proud of our outstanding arts program in LBUSD and any chance to show off our students’ talent.”

Students worked with various media to produce the exhibit, including ceramics, oil painting, photography and sculpture.

Bud Weir, a local artist and exhibitor, stands in the Laguna Beach High School Art Spot, at the Sawdust Festival.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Agata Shamis, a rising senior who immigrated from Russia as a young girl, turned reflective in her oil painting titled “Reminiscent.” A woman is shown looking skyward as she bathes with a pan. Shamis noted it had been just her second venture with oil painting.

“The [AP Art and 2D Design] portfolio focuses on my experience as a Russian immigrant into the United States,” said Shamis, who added that she began creating art during the coronavirus pandemic. “It specifically focuses on the coldness and desperation of living in Russia and knowing how people live there because I still have family there, and it’s very, very sad.

“This painting specifically is reminiscent of a moment. We get our hot water turned off a lot, and especially in the winter, it’s a very desperate time, so when hot water is off, it feels like it’s deadly sometimes, so the emotion is desperation.”

Laguna Beach High student Zoe Gort created this sculpture, "Sweet Thang," on display at the Sawdust Festival.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Recent graduate Zoe Gort produced some of the most unique pieces, featuring sculptures that centered around the lips, teeth and tongue. It was the sort of off-the-wall creativity that felt right at home with the Sawdust Festival, a place Gort grew up going to.

One piece featured those human parts on the body of a doughnut. Gort noted that painting and sculpting have kept her in touch with her “inner child,” granting her the license to explore her freedom of expression and creativity.

“As far as the doughnut goes, … I just think it’s kind of fun to give inanimate objects personalities,” said Gort, who will be heading to Cal State Monterey Bay in the fall. “Even though the doughnut doesn’t have any eyes or the face or whatever, you could still kind of tell if it was a person, it would probably be a funny one — funny-looking, at least.”

Laguna Beach High student Gavin Pike created "Thinking of You," a sculpture on display at the Sawdust Festival.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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