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Under new leadership, Art-A-Fair plans to be ‘part of the fabric of Laguna Beach’

Artist Tim Genet's figures of mixed-media oil paintings at the show in July 2021.
Art-A-Fair recently announced new leadership, including the installation of Robert Ross as the president of the board of directors. Pictured are artist Tim Genet’s figures of mixed-media oil paintings at the show in July 2021.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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A Laguna Beach art festival has new leadership, and a new vision, as Art-A-Fair looks to enhance its desirability as a destination for locals and visitors alike.

Robert Ross has taken over as the president of the board of directors for Art-A-Fair, and he is promising a more collaborative and engaging approach with Laguna Beach’s art community.

“We’re going to change the way we look on the outside,” Ross said. “We won’t allow people to walk past us anymore and say, ‘Well, we didn’t even know you were an art fair.’ We’re increasing our signage, our presence in the town itself.

“We’re going to meetings now with the other two shows, and we’re going to start doing things together that we hadn’t done, or we used to do and we let lapse. … We are now going to become a part of the fabric of Laguna Beach.”

In addition to a public outreach campaign, Art-A-Fair plans to offer free admission to Laguna Beach residents to get more people in the door.

Ross and his wife, Laura, both exhibit at Art-A-Fair, where she is fondly thought of as “the Pink Elephant Lady,” after the creature that has appeared in her work.

As a juried show that showcases artists from all over the world, Art-A-Fair’s appeal has differed from the other festivals in town. The Sawdust Art Festival features artists with connections to Laguna Beach. The Festival of Arts has a juried art show, with the Pageant of the Masters tableaux vivant production also serving as a big draw.

Art-A-Fair’s efforts to rejoin the local community are reflected in the festival’s artists furnishing ornaments to go on a Christmas tree at the Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy, which is currently running weekends through Dec. 18.

“We wanted to show that this is a creative endeavor on our part,” Ross said. “We put up a tree, and we decided we’d make our own ornaments, so the artists got together and started making ornaments.

“The ornaments that you’re going to see on our tree are all made by our artists, which I think is really fascinating, and I love the idea of it. While we were there, we saw representatives of the other shows, and it gave us a chance to talk. It gave us a chance to get to know each other.”

Of the trees decorated by various community groups for Winter Fantasy, Art-A-Fair’s earned the “Best Overall Tree” recognition, said Franky Duschane, director of marketing and public relations for the Sawdust Art Festival.

Art-A-Fair, which began in 1967, generally features approximately 120 artists in a given year. Ross hopes that additional ideas, like an on-site restaurant and bar, as well as live music, will make the show an even more enjoyable experience for its guests.

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