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Committed to culture

Peter Blake stepped with some trepidation into City Hall Wednesday.

It was the first time the gallery owner had seen 33 paintings hung in the space, as part of the city’s first annual Juried Fine Art Show.

As the show’s adjudicator, Blake had selected all the pieces based on slides; he admitted some nervousness at viewing the works in person.

But his fears were quickly dispelled.

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“I was really surprised at the quality of the work,” he said.

Works in the exhibition include mixed media, oil and encaustic; subject matter ranges from pears to landscapes to abstract representation.

A neon pop-art flower by Serge Armando hangs near Becky Prelitz’s fiery “Sky,” created by applying layers of molten colored wax to create an image.

Familiar names like Anne-Liv Scott join up-and-comers like recent Laguna College of Art & Design graduate Katy Betz in the show.

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“They were really honored to be picked,” Arts Commissioner Mary Ferguson said of the artists.

“Having Peter Blake participate and support our latest program enhances the arts for everyone in Laguna Beach,” Ferguson said. “We are excited about this latest program and hope the community will visit the exhibition to see the wealth and diversity of the two-dimensional art in Orange County.”

Blake opened his gallery in 1993; since then, he has gained a reputation for being highly particular about his selection of work, and his gallery has gained renown in Orange County for its modern and contemporary work.

“No one’s ever questioned the integrity of art in my gallery,” he said. “I don’t show anything that I don’t want to show.”

This highly tuned eye was turned recently to 147 entries for the City Hall exhibition from artists throughout Orange County; from those, he selected 33 artists, but said the decision was difficult.

“There was a lot of very valid work that I didn’t choose,” Blake said.

The 33 selected artists are Ebrahim Amin, Eileen Anderson, Serge Armando, Judy Baker, Kathleen Updyke Barrett, Connie Beatty-Bean, Anders Beckrot, Katy Betz, Wolfgang Bloch, Eunice Choi, Darcie Copeland, John Cunningham, Mika Denny, Diane Edwards, A.K. Erlinger, Beverly Factor, Ashlee Fletcher, Detra Francis, Annemarie Hall, Fred Hope, Elaine Hughes, Beverly Ann Kelly, Gregory Lincoln, Ferial Nassirzadeh, Sharon Palencar, Ralph Palumbo, Lana Perry, Becky Prelitz, Paul Prewitt, Elaine Ruettiger, Anne-Liv Scott, Lynn Weiser and Lynne Welker.

Although Blake was familiar with some of the artists’ names, he didn’t personally know any of them, he said.

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“There was no favoritism,” he said.

Winners in the first annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition will be named at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 at a reception at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave, before First Thursdays Art Walk.

The winners will receive $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place and $250 for third.

Blake spoke highly of Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, who spearheaded the project.

He also saw the show as an opportunity to make city hall’s working environment more pleasant.

Blake said the show illustrates the city’s focus on art.

“It confirms our commitment to culture,” he said.

The exhibition will run through Nov. 21. For more information, call (949) 497-0722.

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