Sawdust to swing open its doors

For Laguna Beach, June isn't only the first month of summer — it's the start of an annual migration to the city's "big three" art festivals.

On June 24, the 45th annual Sawdust Art Festival opens its doors to unveil a talented colony of local artists who not only sell their art, but also teach their craft during workshops.

Susan Wade, Sawdust treasurer and painter, said the festival is integral to the city's character.

"I think we are part of the reason that people consider coming, living, making a home and being part of something extremely unique," Wade said. "It is unique not only because it springs from residents of a small town, but our location is so rare and wonderful."

There will be 30 new artists this year, Wade said, which is 10 more than last year. As always, the festival is an experience for all the senses, including food, drinks and three stages of live musical acts.

Throughout the festival's run through Aug. 28, there will be special events such as '80s Day on Aug. 4 and Beatles Day on Aug. 20.

Sawdust is also special because of its atmosphere, Wade said.

"I think our visitors feel that our casual atmosphere is very approachable," she said. "Art can be, at times, off-putting to people. They want to know it and understand it, but they're reluctant to engage if they don't have a background with it.

"People can come and relax, and look at a wide array of arts and crafts and don't have to have a degree in fine art to appreciate it."

With a bachelor's in studio arts from UC Irvine, Wade said Sawdust has really nurtured her career and provides much-needed attention to new artists in the area.

Another way the Sawdust gives back to artists is through the Artists' Benevolence Fund, its nonprofit arm that fundraises for Laguna Beach artists in catastrophic circumstances who cannot work. It became especially important last year, when floods destroyed not only artists' homes, but their studios, materials and works.

Sawdust artists donate pieces of their art every year for the Artists' Benevolence Fund Auction, the biggest fundraiser for the charity. This year the event takes place Aug. 7.

For more information, call (949) 494-3030 or visit

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