Our Laguna: City, school laud 50 years of art education

In 1961, the Festival of Arts and the Art Assn. united to give birth to an offspring that no one could have predicted would become an international star in art education.

Fifty years later, the result of that union has matured from a community art school into the Laguna College of Art & Design, with an enrollment of students coming from 50 states and 20 foreign countries to study with an enthusiastic faculty in surroundings that inspire both pupils and teachers.

The school's 50th anniversary was celebrated Sept. 15 at [seven-degrees].

"As we pass this milestone, let's take a moment to give thanks for all of those who have contributed to the college's growth and success over the years," said new LCAD President Jonathan Burke.

The late David Young, perennial FOA board member, scraped together $5,000 to get the school started. Classes were held adjacent to the festival grounds, about where the office is now, FOA President Fred Sattler said.

"Success takes vision as well as action," he said. "[LCAD] is an important thread in the art design of Laguna Beach."

Laguna Art Museum Treasurer Marshall Eichenaur spoke about the contributions of the Art Assn., formed in 1918 to evolve into the museum.

"From that one organization, you can trace almost all art organizations in town," he said. "How can one group be so influential?"

Mayor Toni Iseman added her congratulations on the breadth of achievements of the past 50 years, which saw enrollment swell, the long-sought accreditation certified and bachelor's and a master's degree programs begun.

It wasn't all beer and Skittles.

Ruth Salyer was appointed the school's founding director in 1962 and was called upon frequently in subsequent years to act as college president when one administrator or another bailed. The office had a swinging door for years.

The school moved to 2222 Laguna Canyon Road in 1977, reluctantly agreed to by local environmentalists with the understanding that no expansion would take place on that side of the road.

Chris Abel designed the building, with instructions to make the campus as invisible as possible. The late and revered Fred Lang landscaped the front with native plants, to which he brought his students until Patricia Caldwell, president from 1984-86, decided to dig up the garden and put in grass. She also decided the building would look better pink, which made Young see red.

His actions resulted in Caldwell ousting him from the board and it was years before he again stepped foot on the campus, but the buildings stayed their natural wood color.

Other presidents included William Otton, who moved from the Laguna Art Museum, the popular Alan Barkley and Dennis Power, who retired in June of this year.

Power and his wife, Leslie, attended the anniversary party, where Burke announced that the expanded college library has been named in their honor.

"The Power Library is the first of several campus improvements planned and made possible by contributions from generous individuals that believe LCAD can stand among the finest art colleges in America," Burke said. "We have our sights set on that."

Burke has been at the college for 30 years, serving as faculty department chairman and dean before succeeding Power as president.

"During that time, my purpose was to help art students of all ages realize their dreams to become artists and designers," Burke said. "Now, as president, of this wonderful art college, I have another responsibility. It is to ensure the vision of the founders — to produce an art education of the highest quality — continues to thrive.

"It shouldn't be that difficult. I have a talented, hardworking and dedicated staff — and the college is in Laguna Beach, a community with extraordinary natural beauty where creative and complex people meet and inspire one another.

"How fortunate for our students to be in this supportive environment that welcomes aspiring artists. Their passion and talent will yield a new generation of creative leaders."

Paintings, animation and sculpture by faculty artists were displayed at the celebration.

The faculty exhibit reflects the increasing prominence representational work holds in galleries and museums around the world, according to Jennifer Daniels. Graphic and digital pieces created by the visual communication faculty showcases innovative trends in the design and entertainment fields. The exhibition will continue at [seven degrees] through September.

"What can I say about our amazing faculty?" Burke said. "Each is an expert in their studio area and each has significant professional achievements.

"I know this faculty … they are passionate about integrating enduring classical traditions with 21st century sensibilities and as artist/teachers, they are constant and positive reminders to our students that an art career in achievable.

"At LCAD, art education continues to meet the intrinsic need to observe, study and describe visual truth. Our students create and reveal a new reality through the integration of classical traditions and 21st century technology."

The celebration, which also included a film produced at the college, "50 Years of Great Art Matters," was organized by 50th Committee members Barbara Clarence, Lisa Dallendorfer, Pat O'Brien, the Powers, Grant Hier, Helene Garrison, Tracy Hartman, Daniels and Burke.

Arts Commissioner and LCAD board member Mary Ferguson served as mistress for the celebration, which included film produced at the school. She thanked Mark Orgill for the use of [seven-degrees] and Nancy Milby for the LCAD 50th wine.

Musical entertainment was provided by Adam Kaplan and Jason Wolverton — Duo Absinthe. Kaplan is the son of Leonard Kaplan and nephew of Andy Wing.

Guests included Michelle and Councilman Kelly Boyd, Visitors Bureau President Karyn Philippson, former Councilman Wayne Peterson, Laguna Playhouse Director Karen Wood, FOA board member Tom Lamb, and Lagunaticsmeister Chris Quilter.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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