For the 10th straight year, the festival stayed out of the red, drawing crowds to the art exhibits and events on the grounds and to the Pageant of the Masters.
The financial and popular success of the season was announced at the annual membership meeting Nov. 9 in the Festival Forum Theatre.
"I'd like to take the credit, but I only count the money," said Anita Mangels, festival treasurer.
Mangels reported a net of almost $1 million for the 2011 season. Net assets have increased from $7.7 million in 2008 to an unaudited $10.3 million in 2011, while liabilities were lower than posted in 2009 and 2010.
Ticket sales to the pageant were up by 2.1%, and couldn't have gotten much better.
Only 424 seats were unsold for the 56-show season, a remarkable 99.97% of the 2,600 seats in the Irvine Bowl. Almost 226,000 people attended the show and the pageant this year.
"The past year has, by all measures, been once again successful," festival President Fred Sattler said at the annual meeting.
The show's success over the years made it possible for the festival to give financial assistance to Laguna Beach artists whose homes and/or studios were damaged or lost in the December deluge, he said.
Some of the net proceeds will fund the city's annual grants, an agreement in the festival's lease of the city-owned grounds, the terms of which are being negotiated.
Proceeds from the festival also funded $82,400 in scholarships awarded for the 2011-12 academic year, announced by board Secretary Pat Kollenda.
"There were 16 freshmen awards:, three scholarships in dance, two in music, five in performing arts, four in visual arts and two in writing," she said. "The freshmen average high school grade point average was 3.56. In addition, there were also scholarships awarded to 35 returning recipients, with a GPA of 3.55. Our recipients are not only talented, they are smart."
Healthy finances also made site improvements possible under the direction of Gary Fowler. In addition to a series of fire code upgrades to the stage house in the spring, a major earthquake retrofit of the house and rigging was completed a couple of weeks ago. The roof was also replaced.
"Directly behind the bowl, we are planting over 140 trees, mostly live oaks, to create a buffer zone from light and sound, and of course maintain the beautiful ambience of the bowl," Sattler said.
He credited the tenacity of board member Wayne Baglin for the completion of the projects.
Also in the past year, the festival established two new satellite locations: foaSOUTH and foaNORTH.
"We couldn't have done those projects without the vision and leadership of board member Tom Lamb," Sattler said. "Together these two enterprises reinforce the festival dedication to promoting its heritage, preserving its history and maintaining its commitment to art education."
Not only does the festival exhibit art, it collects it, too. The collection was augmented this year by Rick Lang's donation of his family archives: 55 boxes of photographs and materials related to the festival and pageant, and regional historical information dating from 1970.
Lang estimated the donations includes more than 750,000 images, souvenir programs, newspaper articles, posters and postcards.
The festival will be in full celebration mode for the next two years, with two milestones coming up: the 80th anniversary of the art show in 2012 and the pageant's 80th birthday in 2013.
Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy — "Dee" when she is with locals — presented a video preview of the 2012 show, titled "The Genius."
"I thought I knew what they did," said Mayor Toni Iseman, a de facto member of the 10-member festival board. "But I didn't. The CD really captures what they do and I am requesting that it be put on the city website."
Casting calls for the show will be held in January.
"The theme actually originated back in 2009, when we produced 'The Muse,'" Challis Davy said. "The show examined women's roles in making and inspiring art and [tableaux vivants] were selected from a feminine point of view. I thought it would be interesting to craft a companion show, one with a masculine sensibility, focusing on the power, strength and intelligence inherent in masterful works of art.
The show will also draw a corollary between art and advances in science and technology. And it will restore Leonardo DaVinci's "Last Supper" to the show finale, which was replaced this year by Salvador Dalí's version.
With few exceptions, the works in the show are by men. Among them: American painters John Singer Sargent and Norman Rockwell; European painters Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh; and sculptors Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin.
Next year, 2012, will be Challis Davy's 17th year as show director, but she was part of the team long before that.
Her 30 years of participation were recognized at the membership meeting, along with Life Memberships presented to Sharon Ames, Elaine Fliesher, Doug Hood, Kathy Hood, Kasey Elizabeth Perry, Charles Remley and Mandy Writer, who have at least 15 years to their credit.
The awards were presented by Challis Davy, Mangels and board member David Perry, whose daughter was among the recipients.
Student volunteers Kathryn Zimmermann, Emily Writer, Kaitlyn Waidley, Emily Tomich, Shannon McNulty, Christianne Kinder, Alex Kempler, Rebecca Hernandez, Kyle Grabiel and Sydney Ames were also recognized, with awards presented by board member Ann Webster.
Each of the 2011 high school graduates received $750.
The meeting concluded with the announcement of the 2012 festival board. Three candidates applied for the three open seats, so an election was not held. Bob Moffett, Baglin and Steven Dicterow, the latter two former mayors of Laguna, will continue to serve.
The 2011 executive committee of Sattler, Mangels, Lamb and Kollenda was reelected.