Laguna Art Museum is a museum to be proud of and one worth
maintaining and preserving for future generations.
Over the years, the Laguna Art Museum has added to the cultural
and educational life of our city and has helped ensure our identity
as an “art colony” which contributes significantly to our economy.
The Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918, was the
predecessor to the Laguna Art Museum. It was this seminal institution
that spawned the Pageant of the Masters and the Festival of Arts
among other important cultural organizations in Laguna, including the
Art Institute of Southern California.
These endeavors, as well as others that no longer exist, led the
Chamber of Commerce to promote Laguna as an “art colony”. It is
interesting to note that our current Sawdust Festival grew out of the
Festival of the Arts, and the Art-A-Fair grew out of the Sawdust
Festival. Laguna’s arts reputation and charm has historically been
the keystone to its economic viability and the museum has been a
significant factor in the arts scene.
Chapman College did a study on the economic impacts of the
nonprofit arts in Orange County. As referenced in the Laguna Beach
Community Cultural Arts Plan, the total economic impact of the
nonprofit arts in here for the year 1993 was over $33 million.
As part of Laguna’s Heritage month of May, the Laguna Beach
Historical Society is sponsoring a program on the history of the
Laguna Art Museum. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Laguna
Beach City Council chambers, 505 Forest Ave.
Janet Blake, the museum’s curator of collections, will present a
program with numerous photographs. There is no charge and the public
Material is taken from the book “A History of the Laguna Art
Museum 1918-1993,” by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure and Joanne L. Ratner.
From the turn of the century until 1930, Laguna Beach was the most
important American art colony on the West Coast. As a consequence,
Laguna Beach has evolved as a community centered in the arts and
Laguna Art Museum has functioned as the center of art activities in
the city for 80 years.
LAM is also the oldest cultural organization in Orange County. In
fact, it can be said that culture in Orange County emanated from
Laguna Beach, as the museum founded the first art programs in county
In 1918, when a group of some 20 painters who had settled in
Laguna Beach founded the Laguna Beach Art Association, the goals of
LBAA as stated in its 1918 constitution were: “To maintain a
permanent art gallery; to advance the knowledge of and interest in
art and to create a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between the
painter and the public.”
As one of the most important exhibition spaces in the region, the
gallery advanced the careers of many early California. A review of
the museum’s exhibition history and its collection records closely
parallels the unfolding history of art in the western United States.
In 1971, the association attained museum status, and the museum has
continued to refine its focus on California art, making major
contributions to the field of the art history of the state.
* GENE FELDER is president of the Laguna Beach Historical Society.