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Museum a big part of city history

Gene Felder

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

is invited.

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.