Mailbag: City's plein air heritage imperiled

City's plein air heritage imperiled

If you were out and about the week of Oct. 15, 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 ghvail@cox.net or (949) 376-7059, or our Executive Director Rosemary Swimm, rpswimm@yahoo.com 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.

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

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

Topping trees is no solution

After moving to Laguna last year, I began noticing the number of topped trees scattered throughout the city. I understand that people have issues with trees that block views, however, the solution is NOT an ordinance for topping trees.

I do not write on behalf of tree-hugging nature lovers who chain themselves to trees in rain forests, rather, I'm writing on behalf of those who park their cars on our streets and the children who play outside. A simple Google search of "topping trees" will reveal decades of professional, scholarly research regarding reasons why topping trees is unsafe. What many don't understand is that topping trees creates an upsurge of new, unstable growth called water-sprouts. These unstable branches can snap during wind storms — at times crushing cars, houses and even people. Topping also opens trees to pests and diseases that considerably weaken them over time, leading to more problems, especially during wind-storm and wild-fire events.

If an established tree is blocking a view, consider spending the money on tree removal rather than paying to have the tree topped year-after-year. Plant a tree that, at full maturity, will be smaller and won't block views. The real solution is knowing the genetic destiny of the trees we plant. Research to find out which trees grow large and small. For example, planting a giant sequoia in the backyard is probably not a good move.

Lastly, it's my opinion that a topped tree is quite possibly the ugliest and most unnatural looking thing around. Many municipalities in California have banned tree topping — for safety reasons. But in reality, it's just ugly to see a tree looking so lame and unnatural.

Sean Orfila

Laguna Beach

Tree-topping has her vote

Regarding "Solution is needed for tall trees." (Oct. 22)

Mr. Gannon, I commend you for putting forth a simple solution to a problem that plagues many of us in Laguna Beach—pass an ordinance to keep trees topped to the house roof height.  Brilliant! I suggest that we write-in "Frances Gannon" for Laguna Beach City Council—believe me, that is what I am doing.

Marianne Blume

Laguna Beach

Walkers need better route to fire road

As many know, over the years (and I hear from others, even decades), various people have pushed for easier, safer access to the beautiful fire road walk from the Top of the World side similar to what has existed for a long time from the Moulton Meadows (Arch Beach) side.

I am very appreciative of the first steps made to help out with access linking TOW to the Fire Road. For walkers like us, it makes it much more enjoyable and certainly less dangerous, as these steps help walkers negotiate the steep and slippery terrain and help separate bikers from hikers.

The access from the TOW street side, however, is still unimproved, steep and rutted. And after the recent rains, it becomes quite treacherous — really making passage to the Fire Road impossible.

An improved route along the city easement there would provide better access to the Fire Road making many of us regular walkers very happy, and more importantly, keep us safe by making the trail more navigable and separating hikers and walkers.

This would also achieve the goal of reducing traffic and pollution by encouraging parents and children to walk or bike to school instead of driving down and up two hills several times each day.

Roger Kempler

Laguna Beach

It is interesting that the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade Assn. has taken note that many of our troops are beginning to return from the two longest conflicts in our nation's history when it announced its 2011 parade theme, "Welcome Home." This is as it should be.

As a retired Marine, I note with a certain pride that at least 10 Lagunans have served as Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. We too welcome them home but in a special way. For more than 40 years, local Marines have gathered together for the traditional celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday on Nov. 10. This year, Laguna Marines, friends, and loved ones are invited to gather again at the Canyon Lodge of the Aliso Creek Inn for the Corps' 235th at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in their "best availables." Call Krystal Neitske for information and reservations at (949) 499-9534. Semper fidelis.

Charlie Quilter

Laguna Beach

Editor's Note: Charlie Quilter is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marines.

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