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Festival of Arts celebrates 90th anniversary in style

A flash mob takes over the quad area and dances around guests to the song "Celebration" during the Festival of Arts.
A flash mob takes over the quad area and dances around guests to the song “Celebration” during the Festival of Arts 90th anniversary celebration at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

A community that fell in love with the arts long ago celebrated a big milestone for one of its longstanding creative pillars, as Laguna Beach observed the 90th anniversary of the Festival of Arts.

The festivities on the grounds Saturday included speeches from local dignitaries, a lively musical performance and even a flash mob.

David Perry, the president of the Festival of Arts, had only begun his opening remarks when a group of people popped up from their chairs and began dancing to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.”

David Perry, president of the Festival of Arts, addresses the crowd during the 90th anniversary celebration on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

“With the exception of the World War II years and 2020 …, the festival has taken place each and every summer since 1932,” Perry said. “But over those years, it has grown and changed to what you see here today. Now, it’s a two-month-long show featuring 120 artists, a dedicated space that is visited by over 200,000 visitors each summer.

“But one thing remains constant. It continues to celebrate all the arts through its exhibits, the Pageant of the Masters, the musical entertainment, the arts and education scholarships, and its community programming.”

Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf and Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett both presented proclamations recognizing the festival for its growth and longevity.

Guests browse through the Festival of Arts during the 90th anniversary celebration on Saturday in Laguna Beach.
(James Carbone)

“We can only imagine the Pageant storylines, the beautiful work of the exhibiting artists, the thousands of volunteers — stage builders, costume and makeup artists, kids that manage to stand still — and members of the Festival of Arts board that kept this enduring and famous Laguna Beach institution thriving for 90 years,” Kempf said.

“We thank all of you, past and present, who so generously volunteered time and energy to support our ongoing legacy as an arts community,” the mayor added.

Milestones marked in the proclamation read by Kempf included the founding of the Festival of Arts in 1932, the introduction of the living picture show the following year, the construction of the Irvine Bowl amphitheater in 1941 and the establishment of the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Foundation nonprofit in 1989.

Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats plays the standup bass as he performs during the Festival of Arts 90th anniversary celebration.
(James Carbone)

Laguna Beach celebrated its 95th anniversary as a city earlier this year, and the Festival of Arts has been around for nearly the whole time.

After the dignitaries’ remarks were made it was Stray Cat Lee Rocker’s turn to get attendees jazzed up, as the bassist brought attitude and energy to the stage during a performance of “Stray Cat Strut.”

As seen throughout the summer, artists juried into the Fine Art Show were on hand at their stations, some working on projects and others interacting with the viewing public.

Andrew Keyser of Laguna Beach, dressed as a tube of paint and brush, entertains guests.
Andrew Keyser of Laguna Beach, dressed as a tube of paint and brush, entertains guests during the Festival of Arts 90th anniversary celebration.
(James Carbone)

Some individuals walked around the festival costumed as a paint tube and brush.

Jacobus Baas (jewelry and oil painting) and Dan Miller (jewelry), both of whom are exhibiting artists with artwork in the festival’s permanent collection, were both honored during the ceremony. Perry introduced them to the crowd and handed them awards for their longstanding contributions to the festival.

“They’re just brilliant people,” Perry said. “It’s a big deal, it seems to me, to be in the festival for 50 years. This is a show where each year, it’s judged, and it’s competitive, and to make it year after year really says a lot about the talent of the artists and the evolution of their work.”

Guests take part in arts and crafts during the Festival of Arts 90th anniversary celebration on Saturday in Laguna Beach.
(James Carbone)

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