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Commissioned for love

Love is in the air at the Festival of Arts.

Art imitating life took on a new meaning Saturday when two couples got engaged on the festival grounds, both with the help of commissioned art from festival artists.

Patrick Moss proposed to his girlfriend of four years, Sophia Phan, at the booth of fine art photographer Barbara White. On display: a photo of Moss down on one knee. In real life: Moss down on one knee.

“She didn’t even notice the photo at first,” Moss laughed.


Moss, a Huntington Beach resident, had been thinking about proposing for about six months.

“The whole point was to sort of have her be shocked,” Moss said. “Turns it out it worked.”

Moss said White was more than happy to help with the plan.

“She said, ‘Well, I’m a true romantic at heart, too,’” Moss said.


After the proposal, the newly engaged couple went to the Lumberyard restaurant. Moss planned for a band to be there playing Train’s “Marry Me,” which is one of Phan’s favorite songs. Inside, family members waited to surprise Phan with cheers and champagne.

“It seemed unique, it seemed romantic, it seemed like a perfect way to do it,” Moss said about his proposal idea.

That same night, Andrew Shen and his girlfriend of four years, Crystal Paul, were also enjoying their night at the festival, which they attend together every year.

Before seeing the Pageant of the Masters, the couple walked by the booth of painter Elizabeth McGhee.

Shen commissioned McGhee in early July to paint an image of him and Paul at the booth, with Shen down on one knee. It was up in the booth Saturday and the details of the painting matched the real life scenario perfectly — right down to the dress Paul was wearing.

Shen and Paul had talked about getting engaged for about a year, so Shen said he really tried to find a way to propose that she wouldn’t expect.

“It was gonna be tough to try and surprise her,” Shen said. “I’m sure she woke up every morning thinking, ‘Oh, this is the day he’s going to propose to me.’”

McGhee, a graduate of the Laguna College of Art & Design, said this was an exciting experience.


“This is completely new for me. That’s why I was really excited to do it. I thought it was so romantic,” she said. “It’s a personal touch. It’s almost … like a treasure in a way.”

After the proposal, friends and family members who had been trying to remain inconspicuous nearby celebrated with the couple.

But the summer lovin’ isn’t just for festival visitors.

In July, Mike Kortge proposed to festival employee Nan Fisher at fine jewelry artist Lance Heck’s booth.

Fisher and Kortge had grown up together as best friends in The Dalles, Ore., but grew apart after graduating high school. Now both in their 60s, the pair reunited at the beginning of this year and fell in love.

After they got together, Fisher asked Kortge why he had never asked her out when they were younger.

“He said that, ‘Well, I would’ve asked you out, but I was afraid you’d turn me down and that would’ve broken my heart,’” Fisher said.

Kortge came down from Oregon for a visit in July, and while walking the festival grounds July 24, he found a beautiful sapphire ring at Heck’s booth and decided to drop down and pop the question right then and there.


“There wasn’t anyone around until we got back up — and then there were all these people clapping,” Fisher said.

One woman standing nearby asked when they met.

Kortge answered, “Kindergarten!”

The crowd laughed, and someone else called out, “What took you so long?” Fisher said with a laugh.

After the proposal, there were celebrations with both of their families.

“Everyone is so excited for us,” Fisher said.

“I think we both strongly feel that when you reunite after what, 50 years, that it was just meant to be.”