Mailbag: Landscape painting heritage imperiled

If you were out and about this past week, you probably saw some 50 artists from 13 states painting Laguna's landscape in town and in the canyons and hills. All this activity was part of the 12th Annual Plein Air Invitational sponsored by the Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn. (LPAPA). You may have even taken the opportunity to see the fruits of their labor at the Saturday night soiree and auction and public sale on Sunday.

While we were delighted at the quality and beauty of this year's efforts and the artists clearly enjoyed Laguna hospitality and atmosphere, our artist members and LPAPA face tough challenges in these trying times. These challenges threaten the plein air painting heritage that created and made Laguna Beach the community it is today.

Maintaining our artists' financial balance is more challenging than ever. The cliché "starving artist" has never been so apt for many of our members. As art sustains and nurtures community, especially the heart and soul of Laguna Beach, the diminution or loss of a vibrant arts scene would be a tragedy of major proportions. This must be avoided. LPAPA is addressing this head-on.

Several months ago, I wrote that LPAPA was embarking upon a number of new initiatives set forth in our strategic plan to increase our financial strength, acquire a permanent exhibition space and to increase our visibility in the art world in order to better serve our artists and enrich our cultural life.

We have set plans in motion to videotape our popular artists' Paint Outs and post them on our website as an education and artist showcase tool. Look for the first of these in 2011. Through generous grants from the City and the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, we now have the financial resources to acquire display and lighting equipment for our artist events.

In addition, we are exploring alliances with other community organizations for shared exhibition space. We have reached agreement with the Pacific Art Foundation and The Irvine Museum for a high-profile artist event in 2011. This will allow our artists to increase their high-capability patron base.

But despite these positive steps forward, LPAPA still operates on a shoestring budget financed by member dues and proceeds from events.

Accordingly, LPAPA is forming a new program called The Collectors' Council made up of major art patrons who will be a deep and sustaining base for landscape art and who can proactively involve themselves with LPAPA's mission and efforts.

The Collectors' Council will also create high-profile opportunities for our established and up and coming artists to actively engage with plein air aficionados, major collectors and patrons of the arts in a series of salon soirees to occur over the next several years. The soirees aim to resurrect the grand 19th century European traditions of arts salons where intellectual and cultural exchange among artists and patrons took place in elegant and stimulating surroundings.

Our plan is to organize some 30 such soirees over a three-year period for small groups of patrons and featured landscape artists, both established and up-and-coming talent. We will invite dedicated patrons of plein air art to open their homes to host evenings of fine dining, entertainment, artistic display, conversation and social networking.

Each patron host would defray the cost of the soiree as a charitable contribution and LPAPA would handle all of the event logistics and additionally seek in-kind service donations from local vendors of food, wine, spirits and the like to offset the host's prospective costs. Each patron guest would also help defray LPAPA's operational costs.

As members of the Collectors' Council, the patron hosts will gain recognition, appreciation and membership benefits in gratitude for their extraordinary commitment and generosity.

The proceeds from the Collectors' Council soirees will be utilized to create a LPAPA operating fund to allow us to increase our service capacity to our members and the community. As mentioned earlier, the sustenance of Laguna's collective artistic heritage is at stake.

If you are interested in becoming a Collectors' Council patron or would like to receive an invitation to any of the planned salon soirees, please contact me at or (949) 376-7059, or our Executive Director Rosemary Swimm, or (949) 584-9162.

As the ink dries on this missive, I am about to board a plane to visit my son, Billy, who is starting his college career in Florence, Italy, where, I, too, studied during my Stanford University junior year. That experience awakened me to fine art and to the important role that patrons such as the Medici played in fostering the art and architecture that has animated and defined western — and world civilization for more than 500 years. Can you imagine what our culture would be like without that heritage? The same question applies to landscape painting and Laguna Beach today.

Greg Vail

Laguna Beach

Editor's Note: Greg Vail is president of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn.


Tall tree solution needed

About the upcoming City Council elections: the candidate who comes up with a solution for the overgrown trees will have my vote.

Tall trees have taken over our ocean views, and devalued our property, for which we paid a premium.

A win/win solution to contemplate might be an ordinance to keep trees topped to house roof height by the homeowners. When building our homes, we were obliged to adhere to height restrictions.

Tree owners [would] have their trees, we [would] keep our ocean view.

Frances Gannon

Laguna Beach


Skateboarders make city proud

I hope my fellow Lagunans share my pride in our local downhill skateboarders' achievements at the recent IGSA National Championship held in San Dimas, CA.. I have watched our local downhill skateboarding controversy with some interest over the last few months and was proud of my grandson and his colleagues as they took on a challenge and worked together with community to find a solution.

Now we see these same young athletes take the skills they honed on Laguna's beautiful hillside streets and put them to the test against riders from other locales. I would ask the naysayers to take a good look at what a positive experience both scenarios were in the development of social and physical skills for young people who are part of America's future. Maybe we can come together and help these young people host a competitive event in their own city and bring in some tourist dollars at the same time.

Patrick Forrest

Laguna Beach


No apology for 'Blasphemy Day' rite

This letter is a bit longer than my usual letters, but shorter than Linda Shepard's sermon, er, I mean letter. It's long because it responds to four "blowback" letters to the editor, from Linda ("Bible desecration raises questions"), E. Tobias Earl ("Why only Bible a target for ridicule?"), Benjamin J. Jones ("Bible desecration offensive"), and Ben Earl ("Koran getting special treatment"). [Coastline Pilot, Oct. 15.]

International Blasphemy Day is a once a year opportunity for the non-believing minority to express their frustration in living in the so-called "Christian nation" of the majority. Why did I desecrate Bibles? Because I work in mysterious ways. Hey! Why not? Many people swallow up that cop-out. For those more reasonable, I took advantage of that opportunity by hindering access to the book that offends me in its insistence that I will roast for eternity in a fiery hell just because I don't believe in such supernatural nonsense.

The reason I desecrated the Bible and not the Koran is that Laguna Beach has about 18 Christian houses of worship while Muslims are a minority and in fact, have no local mosque. My aim was to offend the majority. Make sense?

Yes, Bibles are placed in hotel rooms to be read and my friends and I elected to take them. If you insist that we stole them, please press charges and have us arrested.

Linda writes that what I did was vandalism, littering and unconstitutional. Then how come the Laguna Beach police did not arrest me when I visited their downtown station and outright confessed to them that I was the one who desecrated and distributed the Bibles?

It's interesting that Ben Jones objects to me censoring the Bible, but then turns around and tells the Pilot "not to give Theris all of that space in your paper."

Contrary to Ben Earl's childish name-calling (I'm cowardly), it actually takes conviction and courage to publicly express an unpopular minority opinion and be open and honest about it to the majority and the police. Now I'll be childish: Nya, Nya! I bet my secularism can beat up your sectarianism! In fact, that has been happening for some time. The "good news" is that, for better or for worse, the traditional religions in this country have suffered a rash of its members switching around and eventually switching out. They have lost, are losing and will continue to lose adherents, particularly among the young, while non-belief has rapidly grown, is growing and will continue to grow. Don't take my word for it, ask your clergyperson. If you don't have the courage to do that, log on to and see Exhibit 7.

Niko Theris

Laguna Beach


Parking fine is really a tax

Editor's Note: The following was addressed to the City of Laguna Beach.

RE: Contesting Parking Violation #10112895, July 27, 2010.

I am contesting the above referenced citation/violation.

My reasoning is as follows: First of all, this notice was mailed to an address I have not lived at for four years. I think it is a shame that the City of Laguna feels that they are due a fee to spend money in their community. It seems as though the Starbucks parking lot is targeted since downtown is a virtual ghost town at 8:25 a.m., yet the parking meter people rush there first thing in the morning. Why? Guaranteed fees from locals grabbing a cup of coffee. (I have since started leaving town going north and now stop in Newport for my coffee, more citizen-friendly rather than the let's fleece the flock mentality that Laguna displays). I arrived at 8:25 a.m. to get coffee, and since you have no change machine and all I had was a $10 bill, I went to the gas station for change and before I could get back I already had a ticket on my windshield. Now I will not pay any more money to Laguna Beach for this ticket and will not accept spending anymore of my time over this, if you attach the vehicle I will simply donate the car or sell it. I live in Laguna and it is a shame that every time I want to support local businesses, I have to pay Laguna Beach a fee, kind of like the old mafia style insurance. The city is not a business for profit, your job is to provide services to the citizens, and parking meters are not a service, but a form of tax, all laws and public projects meant to protect and serve the community have become nothing more than revenue enhancement for city government, i.e. your upgrades at Heisler Park. How many new meters are you adding, are you going to put more change machines than dog [poop] bag dispensers?

Government is not in the business of profit, yet Laguna paves its roads with public funds, purchases parking meters with public funds, purchases a fleet of vehicles and hires a crowd to drive around and cite people for parking on a street they in reality paid for in front of a meter they bought by a person whose salary they pay, not to mention the people I see around town with spray bottles, rags and a truck wiping meters off. Here's a novel idea, stop spending the funds to make it easy for you to fleece the people and you will not need to hire more people to push your forced sales revenue up. Now you have done the same thing in banning smoking at beach access and beach areas, hired new beach patrol officers and vehicles whose sole purpose is to walk or drive around looking for violations that they can write up. Bottom line is revenue enhancement, aka taxes. Stop acting like a Fortune 500 company that answers to shareholders and start acting like a city that answers to the citizens.

Jon Wright

Laguna Beach

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