There must be some lingering disappointment among Laguna Art Museum board members and staff over the abandonment of the ambitious plan to build a big new museum in the city’s official Arts District.
The problem was, the plan was too ambitious and over-reaching. It involved building a museum over a public parking structure and in conjunction with private town homes that would be sold to finance the project. No city money would be needed, museum officials said.
This all was to be put in place at the Village Entrance on Laguna Canyon Road where many city services are now located and due to be moved to the Act V remote parking lot area.
When museum officials announced the plan about a year ago, they apparently anticipated city officials and the community would jump at the opportunity to get a free parking structure out of the deal.
It all looked too good to be true, and when community watchdogs got wind of the proposal, they tore into it as too massive for the area and as a misuse of public property for private residences.
It was a missed opportunity for the museum, which by all rights should be located in the heart of the arts district, within walking distance of the Laguna Playhouse, Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair, not to mention a slew of studios and galleries that pepper the road.
Added to the “arts” mix in the area are the Laguna College of Art & Design and its ancillary gallery, [seven-degrees] and Laguna Culinary Arts, with its restaurant and wine and cheese shop.
This area is simply percolating with culture and the museum ought to have a presence there.
Museum officials still feel they need a larger space to fulfill their mission, and have decided the only option is to expand where the museum sits on the corner of Cliff Drive and North Coast Highway.
Museums are no longer content to be repositories of artifacts; they want and need to be part of a dynamic community and able to host educational and social events.
Next year, the museum will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the original art group in Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Art Assn., which created the museum and put the enduring stamp of “art colony” on the town, setting its character in perpetuity.
Museum officials feel this is a golden opportunity to get their message across to the community and raise the support that was so glaringly lacking during the Village Entrance debacle.
The museum deserves the community’s support and encouragement as it seeks to move forward with a new expansion plan, and perhaps, dare we say, one that can include some presence for the city’s original arts entity in the arts district.