It didn’t take long to realize that on Thursday night heroes were among those at Laguna’s [seven-degrees].
A venerable Hall of Fame of local artists, musicians and filmmakers received recognition for their creative pursuits at the sixth annual Laguna Hero Fest.
The event was part of the MY HERO Project, a nonprofit that encourages artistic storytelling through film, art and music.
Jeanne Meyers co-founded the organization in Laguna in 1995 to empower people to make positive change in the world.
Those recognized included a Sawdust Art Festival stalwart, radio station host, iconic painter and surfer. All shared a common bond: a love for Laguna.
“Any time you’re recognized in your hometown is special,” said James Pribram, who grew up surfing off the Laguna Beach coast and co-founded Eco-Warrior, which raises awareness about improving water quality and protecting the ocean’s wildlife and habitat. “We all respect each other and walk in the footsteps of the people before us.”
Pribram joined Doug Miller, who has painted 14,000 pieces — 80% to 90% of them depicting Laguna Beach — marine conservationist and muralist Wyland, musician Nick-I Hernandez, local radio station host Tyler Russell, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the Susi Q Senior Center as honorees.
Laguna Hero Fest director Wendy Milette emceed the ceremony.
Miller, 66, moved to Laguna Beach in 1971 and has painted every day for the past 19 years. He has displayed his work at the Sawdust Art Festival for 42 years.
He is also a violinist and photographer; he’s taken 500,000 photos — all on film.
Miller joined vocalist Sasha Evans for a music video tribute to James Dilley, dubbed “Ditty for Dilley.” Dilley was instrumental in helping preserve hillsides surrounding Laguna and Laguna Greenbelt Inc. in 1968.
Miller doesn’t run out of subjects to spotlight in his work.
“There’s always something I haven’t painted in this town,” Miller said.
Russell arrived in Laguna Beach in October, and has made a mark already in the city, starting the non-commercial KX 93.5 radio station.
He received a Community Hero award and was humbled to be in the select company of Miller, Pribram and Wyland, who painted his first marine life mural in Laguna Beach in 1981.
“To be in the company of Wyland and James Pribram... I literally moved here last summer,” Russell said.
Russell has received support from 35 volunteers who he said have been with him from the station’s beginning in October.
“It’s a testament to how much fun they are having,” Russell said. “It’s all about Laguna while at the same time growing our station on a national scale.”
Pribram appeared in a documentary shown to the audience Thursday that called out dolphin slaughter along the Japanese coast.
“We hoped to create a spectacle that resonates with people, a shock value,” Pribram said of the film. “It’s not mean spirited, it’s creative activism.”
Artwork from children at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and fourth-graders at Anneliese’s School dotted the walls inside [seven degrees].
The idea was for the children to represent their hero, said Victoria Murphy, MY HERO Project art curator.
The MY HERO Project has reached 194 countries, but Laguna holds a special place, Meyers said.
“It’s such as great community; it’s not hard to find outstanding people to recognize,” Meyers said. “Art is a great means for global storytelling.”
For more information on the MY HERO Project, visit myhero.com.