The role of public art: to please or to provoke? Sian Poeschl offers her unvarnished opinion


Sipping coffee at Zinc Café last week, Sian Poeschl and I chat about the controversies over recent art installations around town, from the temporary Light Beam to one of her favorite permanent pieces, Deer Warrior in Jahraus Park. Sian is the City’s cultural arts manager and a talented glass artist who has exhibited her work at the Sawdust Festival for 18 years.

“I understand the controversy about public art,” she says. “You can choose to walk into a gallery or art museum. You don’t have much choice about what you might encounter at City Hall or in the parks.”

Which is exactly what gets some people uptight. Even benches have been known to bring locals close to blows. Residents feel a sense of ownership in the look of our town, and in its history, too, and their perspective isn’t always represented in the choices the City makes, nor can everyone’s taste be taken into consideration. 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Sian with Deer Warrior: Protective force, or scary figure?

And public art is hard to avoid in Laguna Beach. There are approximately 90 permanent art pieces on public and private property around town, not counting temporary installations.

Does that mean that public art should be pleasing to the majority of residents?

Comforting, not controversial?

Created locally always, never internationally?

Quite the opposite in every respect, Sian believes.

“Art should spark conversation above all,” Sian says. “Get people talking, even if they disagree. I would hope they would disagree. Otherwise all we’d see is the boring, the conventional. We need different perspectives to be a well-rounded city, to be an arts colony.”

Take the recent Light Beam installation

Take the recent temporary Light Beam installation (“Please do!” some residents were overheard to say when they saw the multicolored rings outside City Hall).

I mention some disparaging remarks I’d heard at its unveiling: “Looks like a roll of Lifesavers” and “That should be in a children’s playground,” and how pleased some locals seem to be now that its lease is over and it has been taken down.

Sian is unfazed.

“Maybe it was intended to show City Hall in a different way, a more lighthearted way. Maybe it was meant to be out of scale,” Sian says. “I remember a kid coming up to the artist when it was being installed, and saying ‘what is this, doughnuts?’ – and instead of being insulted, the artist just said, ‘it’s what you see and what you want it to be.’“

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Picasso quotes, as applicable to literature, I believe, as the visual arts.

A painting is not thought out in advance. While it is being done, it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it’s finished, it goes on changing, depending on the state of mind of anyone looking at it.

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Photo by Tom Berndt 

Light Beam: Eyeing it from a different perspective

Light Beam was created by an LA artist. And so we segue into the question of whether the City should employ only local versus national and international artists to create public art.

“Not at all,” Sian says. She notes that the City, and the Arts Commission, is tirelessly pushing the goal of maintaining Laguna’s reputation as an art colony. 

“Laguna should be an incubator of art, not a jewelry box,” Sian says. “Art from beyond our borders acts as an inspiration to local artists. 

“Encouraging national and international artists to come here, to exhibit, to lecture – commissioning them to create public art sometimes – also raises our profile in the world art scene, which can only help us become known as a place that nurtures talent, supports young artists, doesn’t close them off from all the possibilities, instead exposes them to new art forms.”

Sian points out that year-round displays and exhibits of international artists at galleries like saltfineart, and the presence of LCAD, help Laguna Beach fight the perception that the town is mostly about summer festivals for summer people.

Temporary pieces engage the community with art

“The idea is that we want to engage people with art here, not just become a place to ‘view and purchase’,” she adds.

“Happily the trend these days is toward temporary art installations. That keeps the art scene fresh and there are opportunities for all. And of course at the same time we need to make sure our local artists have the opportunity to show and market their work, and that’s where places like the Sawdust Festival come in.”

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Sian exhibits her glass art at the Sawdust

“The Sawdust growing, too, with new workshops, hands-on art experiences, different ways for people to engage with art, and music, and more,” Sian adds.

Running out of time for both of us this breezy afternoon in Laguna, Sian and I agree to pick up the conversation another day. 

“Let’s meet at your favorite piece of public art,” I suggest. 

Deer Warrior: Appropriate for a park?

And so next time, Sian, never one to shy away from controversy – she’s the human equivalent of the art philosophy she espouses – chooses to meet at Deer Warrior, a bronze sculpture by Sian’s friend, Cheryl Ekstrom, who died in 2015. The sculpture, once one of around a dozen similar figures, is now located in Jahraus Park. 

Deer Warrior has caused and continues to cause some alarm. Small kids have been known to cry when they see that, a friend told me when I mentioned where I was meeting Sian. Looks like something from a horror movie.

And indeed, face-to-skull with the seven-foot Deer Warrior, spear spiking the sky, antlers jutting wildly from its head, does stir unease at first – as well as questions. 

Most people don’t realize that Cheryl Ekstrom saw the warrior as a comforting figure, a representation of her late brother’s fierce desire to protect his sister. Sian says she was inspired to create the sculpture when she saw a deer outside her window not long after her brother’s death

Transfixed by its gaze, as if it were his spirit talking to her, Cheryl wanted to channel that “feeling of being given the freedom to face a fearless future.”

Sian gazes up at the Deer Warrior. “Cheryl was a wonderful artist. I feel drawn to this figure for comfort.” 

And now, all at once, I see it: the way the deer warrior’s head is cocked slightly down as though to gaze upon the figure at its side, as if to reassure the vulnerable by virtue of its commanding presence.


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Boy and Dog when first commissioned: Boy and Dog last week

Jahraus Park is also the site of the oldest public art in Laguna, Boy and Dog, created by Ruth Peabody in 1933. We walk over to the iconic figures, streaked with recent rain, now in hues of green and teal. 

I touch the tiny toes of the boy, marveling at their accuracy, remembering my sons’ little feet at that age; there’s something about this piece that invites a tactile, emotional response.

Sian strokes the Boy’s head, revealing in her gesture the depth of tenderness, of passion she feels for works of art, for artists. “Look, see his arm, how the texture looks different, how smooth it feels? That’s because Cheryl helped repair this. I love to think of that connection between these two women artists over time.”

Cultural arts is literature and music and dance, too

As the Deer Warrior’s shadow lengthens in the late afternoon, his antlers spearing across the grass to reach the tip of the pavement, I realize that we haven’t talked much about other aspects of the City’s Cultural Arts program, from the Literary/Poet Laureate program, to the dance festivals, to the Sunset Serenades at Heisler Park– something exciting is bubbling up there, by the way! – and so much more.

But my article will run long, very long, if I delve into music, dance and literature (it’s already long…), so those subjects will have to wait for another day.

So I say cheers to Sian and hop into my car, thinking of another of Picasso’s quotes, how “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

We’re lucky in Laguna to have so many opportunities to be surprised by art, to ponder its meaning, to delight in it, or even to shake our heads and wonder aloud who on earth thought that might be a good idea, before the dust settles again, and we realize we haven’t decided yet what to cook for dinner, and that the laundry basket is waiting for our attention.

Wang Xin Yong exhibition “Love Letters to Nature” is coming to Ning Zhou Gallery on Thurs, April 5 

Ning Zhou Gallery of Laguna Beach will host an exhibition of 29 paintings on rice paper by prominent Chinese artist, Wang Xin Yong from Thurs, April 5 through Thurs, April 12. 

The artist, Wang Xin Yong, will be at the exhibit’s Opening Reception, which coincides with April’s first Thursdays Art Walk on April 5, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. 

Like Ning Zhou Gallery’s well-known namesake, Wang Xin Yong is from Nanjing, China. The paintings on exhibit will showcase his insights into the nature and cultural landscapes experienced during his extensive sojourns in the US over the last decade. 

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Exhibition “Love Letters to Nature” to run April 5-12

Although firmly rooted in traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy techniques from his studies at the Nanjing Arts Institute and China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, Wang’s work also is infused with Western influences using traditional Chinese paint and inks as well as watercolors. 

His ink-and-wash technique has clearly been influenced by the accurate modeling, textural expression, colors, and brushwork of Western painting. Whether inspired by a squirrel, an adobe church or a forest, these “love letters to nature” are ingenious amalgams of East and West, full of charm, quietude and warm-heartedness.

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Wang Xin Yong combines East and West in his rice paper paintings

Wang is a member of the Artists Association & Calligraphers Association in Jiangsu Province, Chairman of Jiangsu Micro Technology & Culture Co. Ltd, Executive Vice President of the US Jiangsu General Chamber of Commerce, and Deputy Director of the Culture and Arts Commission of the US Jiangsu General Chamber of Commerce.

He has held many exhibits and workshops in Beijing, Nanjing, New York, Santa Fe, J. Wayne STARK Galleries in Texas A&M University, Brazos Valley Art Center, Asia Study Center in Michigan State University.

Ning Zhou Gallery is located at 357 S Coast Hwy, 714-726-1763.

For more information, go to

Playhouse May 12 Gala celebrates 50thanniversary of the Moulton Theatre and honors Moulton Family 

Laguna Playhouse announced plans to honor the Moulton family at the Annual Gala on Sat, May 12, commemorating the Moulton Theatre’s 50th Anniversary and the family’s generous contributions to The Playhouse.

The 2018 Laguna Playhouse Gala will be held at Fashion Island Hotel, Newport Beach, featuring an elegant cocktail reception, live and silent auctions, fine dining, live entertainment and dancing, and an intimate VIP experience with Davis Gaines, Los Angeles longest running Phantom, among other highlights.

“Honoring the Moulton family on the 50th Anniversary of the Moulton Theatre is such a wonderful time to share the story of Lewis and Nellie Gail Moulton. Nellie Gail Moulton generously contributed to building the Laguna Moulton Playhouse in 1967,” said Event Co-chair and Season Producer Lisa Hale. “The Playhouse opened with its first performances in 1968 and the same structure continues today as The Laguna Playhouse and Moulton Theatre.” 

Inspired by Nellie Gail and Lewis’s passion for the arts and commitment to the community, the Moulton family works to keep their tradition alive. 

Great-grandson and Playhouse Board Member, Jared Mathis said, “Our family honors the tradition of Lewis and Nellie Gail by passionately giving our time and resources to those that enrich culture, expand education, and provide great services to our communities.”

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Nellie Gail Moulton orchestrating her dream of building the Moulton Theatre at Laguna Playhouse

Through the Moulton Family Foundation, they are also working to keep the history of OC and its ranching era alive through the creation of an interactive archival collection that will soon be open to the public. 

“Nellie Gail loved Laguna and she loved The Playhouse. Our family helping to protect its history and secure its future is the right thing to do,” said Mathis.

Actor Richard Burgi, who plays Mr. Braddock in the current Laguna Playhouse hit “The Graduate,” lauds the Moulton family for their generosity and support of The Playhouse. “Any family that puts their heart and resources into the arts, I have a lot of admiration and gratitude for them. I think there’s not enough of that in the world.” 

The Gala is the Laguna Playhouse’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

“Last year’s Gala, under co-chairs Glenn Gray and Kathryn Burton Gray, grossed $600,000. It is a very large part of our annual fundraising number,” said Hale.

Founded in 1920, the historic Laguna Playhouse is one of the oldest continuously-operating not-for-profit theatres on the West Coast and is proud to be an active participant in the celebrated Laguna Beach arts community. 

Serving more than 80,000 patrons each season, Laguna Playhouse has been recognized in 2016 and 2015 as one of Orange County Register’s “Best of OC” in the category of Live Theatre. 

For more information on events, go to

JoAnne Artman Gallery presents Jane Maxwell’s show Behind the Silhouette, opening April 15

The exhibition Behind the Silhouette featuring artist Jane Maxwell will be presented by JoAnne Artman Gallery from April 15 - June 30. The exhibit will feature a collection of Maxwell’s recent works that explore the dichotomy between visual language, perception, and the written word through the use of both current and iconic images.

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Red Billboard by Jane Maxwell 

Every day across a multitude of platforms, screens, signs, and printed materials, many are confronted by the preconceived notion of femininity or the feminine ideal. Magazine covers, billboards, posters, and ads all attempt to sell their product by capturing the male gaze and exploiting primal fears and desires. 

Artist Jane Maxwell addresses this constant inundation of data in the age of information in works that explore identity and the female form through the medium of paper collage and the classic motif of the female silhouette. 

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Striped Walking Girls by Jane Maxwell 

The medium of collage became popularized in conjunction with the development of early stages of modernism during the early twentieth century. It was first favored for both its versatility as well as accessibility by Picasso and Braque and became popular amongst the Surrealists. Bits of newspaper and other ephemera found in such works provide a telling portrait of an artist’s studio practice, current events, as well as other pieces of socio-cultural information. 

Maxwell’s works on panel create a direct dialogue with this history of collage as a timestamp, utilizing torn sheets of paper taken directly from city walls, enshrining revealing moments in the history of time.

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Blue and Black Billboard by Jane Maxwell 

Physically, the works both enshroud as well as expose the human form as figures emerge or sink into the surrounding elements, their silhouettes outlined in stark black. The works have a sculptural feel through the sheer physicality of material, which is layered and then cut and peeled into distinctive female silhouettes. Areas of readable text emerge from the placement of numbers, letters and words that work together to create lyrical passages that are hauntingly familiar yet unplaceable. 

Maxwell’s works on panel are of myriad complexities in both form and visual language as the shifting imagery synthesizes new meanings through various readings, becoming itself a symbol to the subjectivity of our individual inward gaze.

Jane Maxwell’s work will inspire, provoke, engage and mesmerize. With visual perceptions always changing, peek behind the stories told and you’re sure to find the right artistic expression. 

For more information on this upcoming event, visit

Concert Hour is free each Thurs at Saddleback: on April 5 Francois Moutin & Kavita Shah perform

The Music Department at Saddleback College presents Concert Hour, a variety of individual and ensemble performances on each Thursday, from 2 - 3 p.m., in Fine Arts Room 101 and the McKinney Theatre. Admission is free. 

On Thursday, April 5, guest artists Francois Moutin and Kavita Shah perform in FA 101. This unique duo embraces spontaneity, virtuosity and lyricism. Francois Moutin was born in Paris and received a doctorate in physics at the age of 24 before choosing to become a professional musician. The bassist and composer has since toured in over 30 countries around the world. Shah studied languages and literature at Harvard University before pursuing a Master’s in jazz at Manhattan School of Music. 

Hailed by NPR for her “amazing dexterity for musical languages,” Shah regularly tours in Europe and the United States at venues such as the Park Avenue Armory and the Kennedy Center.

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Join Francois Moutin & Kavita Shah at Concert Hour for a unforgettable performance 

Saddleback College is located at 28000 Marguerite Pkwy in Mission Viejo, just east of Interstate 5 at the Avery Parkway exit. Take Avery Parkway to Marguerite Parkway, turn left to the third traffic light, which is Saddleback’s Marguerite entrance. Turn right into the campus and take the second left to Theatre Circle. Lot 12 will be on the right.

Saddleback College provides quality higher education and training to the greater south Orange County community. Having served more than 500,000 students since 1968, Saddleback College offers over 300 degree and certificate programs to help students reach their personal, career, and educational goals. 

 For more information, visit and for Fine Arts information, visit

“Celebration of Art” showcases exclusive art of all kinds at the big house on the hill on April 7

Art lovers are invited to the art party of the year, Celebration of Art, on Saturday, April 7, from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. at 2190 Hillview Dr. This exclusive art showcase will feature works from painter Karen Petty, jeweler Leslie Edler, glassblower Mike Panetta, and designer Bohdana.

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Celebration of Art on Saturday, April 7

Petty, whose work has been featured at the Laguna Art Museum, attended the Chicago Art Institute. Her paintings of women have been described as “sensuous sinewy forms flowing into dreams.”

Inspired by her love of the ocean, Edler is well-known for her unique settings using freshwater pearls which reflect the beauty of the sea and nature’s gifts. Her Flamingo Jewelry maintains its prominent reputation with its distinctive collection of “one of a kind” jewelry. 

Bohdana is an Art Glass and clothing designer in Laguna Beach, in a style described as refined tribal, Bohemia to California. 

The Artist by Karen Petty

Glassblower Panetta often looks to the ocean for inspiration, making it a part of his everyday life. “The ocean is like glass, so beautiful and clear. It is always changing, there is always something new.”

Call (949) 280-5504 for more information.

Valet parking is provided.

For more information on the artists: For Karen Petty, go to

For Leslie Elder, visit and for Mike Panetta, Bohdana can be seen on Instagram @bohdanam.

Arts Marketing Workshop explores entrepreneurial development and collaboration on April 7

Artists and arts organizations are invited to this free workshop to be held on Saturday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Susi Q Community Center. 

At this workshop, titled Beyond Marketing: Making Community, presenters Roseann Weiss and Con Christeson invite artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives of all kinds to step aside for a few hours from traditional marketing and selling practices. 

This experiential workshop asks participants to speak, listen, and make visible the places in the community they inhabit. 

 (L-R) Roseann Weiss and Con Christeson

Once imagined and described, attendees can begin to map an arts environment that is about cooperation and collaboration, community and opportunity. 

This workshop explores artist/entrepreneurial professional development who live/work/play in this unique place.

Susi Q Center is located at 380 Third St. Call (949) 464-6645 for more information. Space is limited.

This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach

For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or register at

The FOA Foundation announces $100,000 in grants to local nonprofits

The FOA Foundation is proud to announce that it has awarded $100,000 in grants to local nonprofits in the Laguna Beach. The recipients are as follows:


Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

Community Art Projects

Festival of Arts

Laguna Art Museum

Laguna Beach Chamber Singers, Inc.

Laguna Beach High School Art Department

Laguna Beach High School Band Boosters

Laguna Beach High School Ceramics

Laguna Beach High School Dance Department

Laguna Beach High School Performing Arts

Laguna Beach Live!

Laguna Beach Seniors

Laguna College of Art & Design

Laguna Community Concert Band

Laguna Dance Festival

Laguna Outreach for Community Arts

Laguna Plein Air Painters Association

LagunaTunes, Inc.

Master Chorale of Saddleback Valley

No Square Theatre

Sawdust Art Enrichment Fund

The Laguna Playhouse

“The FOA Foundation has just distributed $100,000 to 23 deserving nonprofit art organizations in the Laguna Beach community. While the FOA Foundation serves all ages and their pursuit of artistic enrichment, we make a special effort to support the cultural education of our youth, from primary school through college,” said FOA Foundation President Scott Moore. 

Along with Mr. Moore, Foundation board members include John Campbell (Vice President), Bob Earl (Treasurer); Jacquie Moffett (Secretary) and John Rayment.

In 1989, the Festival of Arts with a $1.5 million donation established the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Foundation, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation, in order to guarantee annual financial support for the arts in Laguna Beach. 

The Foundation, co-founded by John Rayment and David Young, was designed to hold these funds in a permanent endowment. The earnings and income from this endowment would be distributed annually in the form of scholarships to graduates of Laguna Beach High School and as grants to nonprofit art organizations and educational institutions in and about the city of Laguna Beach. 

The Foundation operates independently from the Festival of Arts. In 2007, the Festival of Arts assumed the financial responsibility of the art scholarships, enabling The FOA Foundation to focus on its grant program for local nonprofit art organizations.

To date, the Festival of Arts along with the Foundation cumulatively has awarded over $2 million in grants to the art community in Laguna Beach. Anyone interested in donating to the Foundation may contact Scott Moore at the FOA Foundation, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.

Watercolor painting class offered by LOCA Arts Education on the beach March 25, April 22

   LOCA Arts Education offers watercolor painting classes at Treasure Island Beach for adults, families, and beginners. The al fresco activity is offered on a choice of Sundays; March 25 or April 19, from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Participants should gather at Wesley Drive steps at 9:45 a.m.

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September McGee leads watercolor class near tide pools at Treasure Island

   Participants will enjoy a viewing of live tide-pool creatures and learn about ocean preservation by a trained docent. Following that, September McGee will lead a fun, step-by-step watercolor class. It offers families a wonderful activity to participate in together. This workshop is offered to ages six through adult.

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Kids enjoy waves, sand, and sun during a watercolor class

  The cost is $35 for adults and children ages five and up. Everyone will take home finished ocean-themed art, a journal, watercolor kit, gel pen, pencils and reusable canvas tote. Refreshments are provided. 

Treasure Island is located just north of Aliso Creek Beach.

Advance registration is required. Call (949) 363-4700 for more information.

For more information on LOCA Arts Education, go to

Documentary about LAM’s 100 years of history will be shown on April 19 at 7 p.m.

Laguna Art Museum will be presenting the premiere screening of the documentary Laguna Art Museum at 100, produced by filmmaker Dale Schierholt, on Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. 

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Laguna Art Museum under construction

The film will chronicle the museum’s history, from its founding as the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918, through its transformation to Laguna Art Museum in the mid-1980s, and continuing to today with its mission as the museum of California art.

Advance tickets are recommended. Go to to reserve tickets online, or call (949) 494-8971 x203.

Art in our Backyard: “Survival Is Insufficient” exhibition by Sue Greenwood artist Joe Brubaker

Sue Greenwood fine artist Joe Brubaker and the Exquisite Gardeners will present their “Survival Is Insufficient” exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art. The exhibit addresses the essential role the arts play in our daily lives. 

“Survivial is Inefficient” is set to run from March 17 - Aug 5. The reception will take place on opening night, Sat, March 17 from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. at the gallery, located at 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside. 

Photo from Exquisite Garden website

Found art by Joe Brubaker and the Exquisite Gardeners

Joe Brubaker and the Exquisite Gardeners use their artwork to visually express themes related to preserving culture in a dystopic landscape. These artists represent and utilize familiar objects, remnants of the built environment and artifacts and icons of everyday life in an exploration of the cultural threads that tie us together. 

For more information on this upcoming event,

Opening night of The Graduate, starring Melanie Griffith, brings a tinsel town affair to Laguna Beach

The opening night audience of The Graduate was at capacity, with 420 major donors, corporate sponsors, Board of Trustees, press and Hollywood celebrities excited to experience Melanie Griffith’s Laguna Playhouse debut as Mrs. Robinson in this venerable and iconic 1963 story of the societal world that was Pasadena, CA.

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(L-R) Costume Designer Kate Bergh, Costume Assistant Ghislaine Harding, Director Michael Matthews, Actress Valerie Perri (Elaine)

Ann E Wareham, artistic director, says, “I am so proud of this production. Melanie and I have been plotting her Laguna Playhouse debut for more than a couple of years now. The music, the fashion -- everything made a statement about the times. Women were looking outside of their place in the home to seek equal rights and opportunities in their economic and workplace activities, their personal lives, and politics. Mrs Robinson, Benjamin and this entire powerhouse cast of characters, directed by Michael Matthews, bring us a fantastic interpretation of what it meant to be living, loving, and working in the ‘60s.”

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(R) Playhouse Season Spirit’s Sponsor Nolet’s President Bill Eldien, 

(C) Playhouse Trustee Melinda Masson and guests

Ellen Richard, executive director, greeted the audience, thanked and acknowledged supporters. “The show is made possible by the generosity of our supporters including: Season Producer: Lisa Hale, The Graduate Producers: Paul & Heather Singarella, 2017/20178 Season Sponsors:  South Coast Plaza, Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders, Firebrand Media LLC, Gelson’s, Haskell White, Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin and Surterre Properties. The strong commitment from these philanthropists enables the Playhouse to elevate the audience’s experiences, and is essential revenue to fill the gap between ticket sales and the true costs of top-flight theatre.” 

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Playhouse Season Sponsor (South Coast Plaza) Michelle Barwick and husband

A post-show reception at Laguna’s Las Brisas Restaurant had cast and guests celebrating the terrific performance by the company of 20 including:  Melanie Griffith (Mrs Robinson), Nick Tag (Benjamin Braddock), Richard Burgi (Mr Braddock), Geoffrey Lower (Mr. Robinson), Valerie Perri (Mrs Braddock), Martha Magruder (Elaine Robinson).  

Even Jesse Johnson, Melanie Griffith’s son, who performed in the leading role of The Playhouse’s 2017 production of King of the Road: The Roger Miller Story, attended.

The Graduate, which closes March 25, serves as a centerpiece in bringing excitement and prominence to Laguna Playhouse’s 97th season.  

For tickets and information, visit or contact the box office at 949-497-2787.

LAGUNATOTS invade No Square Theatre on two weekends in March

This year’s pint-sized parody show takes a playful swipe at all things “kid,” including boba, homework, and the horrors of having an embarrassing mom. Laguna- specifics like the demise of our poor pepper tree and the new rolling chairs in the schools are cast favorites. 

The youngsters from grades one through eight will sing, dance, and entertain with comedic takes on timely topics set to familiar tunes. The show has a LAGUNATICS-like spirit, but it’s about kids, and every moment is perfect, fun-filled family entertainment.

Performances are March 16-18 and 23-25. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. and Sundays are at 2 p.m.

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Lagunatots “Slime tots” from the 2017 performance

LAGUNATOTS is directed by Ella Wyatt, music-directed by Susan Geiser, costumes by Brigitte Harper, and new parody lyrics by Ella Wyatt, with a number for the boys about “being a man” written by Laguna native Rufino Cabang, and a few special numbers written by cast members. 

The talented company includes kids from Thurston Middle School: Sydney Alderson, Chase Benson, Lula Buckle, Alfie Cant, Kamryn Crawford, Chloe Flaherty, Laird Garcia, Grace Gilchrist, Lila Goldstein, Darcy Hurley, Hannah Kaiser, Lauren Kimball, Olivia Lane, Joie Lucas, Sienna Mason, Brooke Shaw, Talia Stewart, Kate Storke, Berkley Thacker, Maya Trengove, MaryJeanne Walker; From El Morro Elementary: Marco Lapayese Calderon, Lila Tacklind, Leah Turner; From Top of the World Elementary: Kate Baker, Tatum Brennan, Will Briggs, Mason Bruderer, Story Bullington, Nicolas Camacho, Grace Gilchrist, Jonah Goldstein, Ava Guziak, Marco Lapayese Calderon, Maris Morgan, Allie Nottage, Douglas Nottage; Other schools: Anna Gabriel, Taite Morrison, Kemper Rodi.

Tickets are $15 for children, $25 for adults, and $35 for VIP seats. Dinner is available for $10 and is served an hour before the performance. It’s the best bargain in town. Arrive early and enjoy dinner and drinks al fresco before the show. 

No Square Theatre is located in Historic Legion Hall, 384 Legion Street.

For more information, visit

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Actor and longtime local Richard Burgi is loving his role in The Graduate & working with Melanie Griffith 


From the ocean to the outdoors, to the arts, and to the stage, esteemed actor and Laguna Beach resident Richard Burgi is a big fan of Laguna Beach and the Laguna Playhouse. Lucky for the longtime local, he gets to marry the two in the much-anticipated production of “The Graduate,” which opens on Sunday at Laguna Playhouse. 

Playing the role of Mr. Braddock, the main character’s father, and working with star Melanie Griffith as Mrs. Robinson, Burgi in real life seems nothing like the character he plays. Rather, he’s easy-going, laughing it up with fellow cast members during rehearsals and enjoying the moment. 

 “You know the movie is so iconic, so I love the material, and it was an opportunity to stretch,” Burgi said. “I had a couple auditions that day and that was one of them. I went up to LA for it. I didn’t think I was in the running. I don’t have a lot of theater credentials and there are some wonderful actors out there, a couple I saw at the audition.” 

A big fan of the iconic 1967 film, Burgi was all in.

“I was really eager to do something at the Playhouse. I had been wanting to do a show there for a while,” Burgi said. “I auditioned for ‘The Graduate’ and then I was asked to do ‘12 Angry Men,’ so that was my first foray at The Playhouse.”

 His last theater role was “Johnny on the Spot” in 2006, he said, seeming to disbelieve time.

“I bounced in and out of theaters over the years. And I really love the mercurial aspect of it. You know there’s nights when the audience is with you and nights that it’s off,” Burgi said. “Each glitch makes it more human and more dynamic and unpredictable. Film you can sanitize it, you can clean it up, do multiple takes, which also lends itself to potential bad habits - the safety net or illusion that you can create perfection, which I think is not necessarily a healthy thing.”

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Photo courtesy of David Elzer, Laguna Playhouse

An actor for 30 years, Burgi is well known for his role in Desperate Housewives among myriad popular series and movies, like “In her Shoes”

I asked him the question everyone wants to know, what it has been like to work with Golden Globe winner and Academy Award Nominee Melanie Griffith and the rest of the cast.

 “Melanie has been wonderful. She brings a different element than I think that people might be used to. If they have the film etched in their mind, she has her own brand of elegance and beauty and art to the role,” Burgi said. “She’s had an incredible career. It has been fun watching her and being a part of it.”

Listing each actor on-by-one, he bragged about how talented and fun they are, including local Taylor Rene LaBarbera.

“The other cast members have been terrific. I just love watching all their process. We have lots of laughs. It’s such a funny, goofy group of guys, extremely eccentric and diverse. Gosh, we just laugh. And it’s such an incredible crucible at this time and age of such discord in our country,” Burgi said. “I love the aliveness of it; I love the dangling over the edge of a cliff feeling. The camaraderie is wonderful and finding new things in the same material is quite wonderful. It’s a wonderful metaphor for so many things in life.”

How Burgi discovered Laguna Beach

Burgi got his first taste of Laguna Beach in 1978 when his oldest and best friend drove him across the country from the East Coastto work one summer for his brother. 

“I couldn’t have loved it more. I am a real water rat, so I was just in love with the ocean, the energy and the climate, the typography, the town,” Burgi said. “And I would come down here when I moved to LA in 1990 to get out of town, go in the water, and to clear my head, see my friend, my old employer.

In the mid-nineties, Burgi decided to purchase a house in Laguna. He and his family – including his two sons – have made Laguna Beach their home for decades.

 “I had this thought that you know somehow you’re going to screw up your kids, but the ocean, she’s going to be the greatest teacher. She would always steer them in the right direction, so I got that one right,” Burgi said. Burgi also appreciates Laguna’s rich arts heritage. 

“I love it. My dad painted, I painted, my brother paints, and we are all involved in music, arts, theater, etcetera, so I love that aspect of Laguna.” 

He said he’s very grateful to live here in a place where everybody breathes well with clean air and beaches.

“We have this incredible environment that’s so unique and dynamic. Our school system is wonderful. I have two kids. I have a senior at the high school now and one that went through. It’s a great primer through the system for life,” Burgi said. “I can’t think of a better place to live than Laguna. I couldn’t see living anywhere else. I am certainly grateful to call it home and to raise my kids here, and to have given them the opportunity to call Laguna Beach home.”

Until next time… so lucky to live here, so much Laguna Playhouse excitement, so little time!

Modern Jazz Saxophonist Tom Luer’s Project Popular presented by Laguna Beach Live! on March 14

On Wed, March 14, Laguna Beach Live! presents Modern Jazz Saxophonist Tom Luer’s Project Popular. Luer is a freelance saxophonist who resides in Los Angeles, and is a Rico Reeds Performing Artist. He is joined by Andy Langham - piano, Edwin Livingston - bass, Dan Schnelle - drums, and Angela Parish - guest vocalist.

His album “Project Popular” was released in 2011 to critical acclaim. Luer has performed on the NBC broadcast of “Sports Illustrated 50 Years of Beautiful” and on the “X-Factor” on Fox, the American Music Awards, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the Ellen DeGeneres Show. 

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Tom Luer appears on March 14, hosted by Laguna Beach Live!

 Just two more concerts remain in the Winter series: New West Guitar on March 28 and Josh Nelson on April 11, followed by the Laguna Beach Live! Benefit Concert with jazz vocalist Leslie Lewis on April 25.

 Concerts are from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., doors open at 5 p.m. Full bar and buffet dinner menus are available for purchase starting at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door. Seating is assigned. Reservations are accepted until noon on day of concert or until sold out. 

Jazz Wednesdays Winter 2018 is held in the distinctive [seven-degrees] event facility, 891 Laguna Canyon Rd

For more information, visit or call 949-715-9713.

Melanie Griffith slyly seduces audience on opening night of The Graduate at Laguna Playhouse


As if it were still the ‘60s, I vividly remember watching the 1967 screen adaption of Charles Webb’s novel, The Graduate, in Palm Springs. This film is so ingrained in the consciousness of moviegoers of that era, one wonders why anyone would want to take on the monumental task of adapting The Graduate to the stage. 

However, Terry Johnson took it on in early 2000, reshaping it from Webb’s novel (and the screenplay by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham) into a stage production. The current production at Laguna Playhouse, under the direction of Michael Matthews, along with his talented cast and crew, succeeded in this interpretation, yet it’s difficult not to compare the two versions, no matter how hard one tries.

The opening night audience was delighted with the reimagined Graduate; laughing and responding to iconic dialogue and scenes. And when Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin are in the hotel room, and she asks him for a hanger, there was an audible collective gasp of recognition.

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Melanie Griffith as Mrs. Robinson tries to seduce Benjamin, played by Nick Tag

To say the least, Melanie Griffith is a big draw. She’s still gorgeous, sexy, and svelte enough to strut the stage in a garter belt, bra, and nylons. The only word to describe her is, “Wow.” 

As Mrs. Robinson, she has a kittenish and sensual allure that translates to the stage, even though the movie’s Mrs. Robinson had a more tragic and jaded glamour. But Griffith beautifully and effectively represents the corruption of the older generation in contrast to Benjamin’s innocence. 

The theme of an unmoored youth, trying to find his place, is well captured in Benjamin’s character by Nick Tag. He possesses the boyish looks, and a certain naivety that Benjamin requires, as he strugglesto search out an honest and sincere way to live his own life, without following his parents’ California lifestyle. 

The other actors embody their characters with confidence and significant talent; Richard Burgi as Mr. Braddock, Valeri Perri as Mrs. Braddock, Geoffrey Lower as Mr. Robinson, and Martha Magruder as Elaine, Gregory Butler as the psychiatrist.

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Mrs. Braddock (Valeri Perri), Benjamin and Mr. Braddock (Richard Burgi)

The one scene in which the Braddocks, Benjamin, and the psychiatrist sit in beanbag chairs is hilarious. Who of that era doesn’t remember trying to get out of one?

Everything works together to create the mood, surroundings, and sound of the era.

The wonderful settings by Scenic Designer Stephen Gifford bring back The Mad Men décor of the ‘60s, and the gaggle of hippies who move the furniture about between scenes is a wonderful touch. They are superb. 

Kate Bergh, costume designer, chose the perfect costumes. 

Songs such as “Downtown” and “Tell Him” convey the feel of the period.

Other behind the scenes designers should be commended as well; Mike Ritchey, sound designer, Tim Swiss, light designer, and Vernon Willet, production stage manager. 

The ‘60s were a singular time that embodied dual themes, the innocence of youth and the degradation ofthe older generation. This production of The Graduate was successful in bringing back the sights, the sounds, and, most significantly, the mindset of that decade.

The Graduate will run through Sunday, March 25.

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., (949) 497-2787.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

Festival of Arts announces new exhibit, Fresh Faces, at the Wells Fargo building 

Summer time is just around the corner and the Festival of Arts is excited to announce its newest exhibit, Fresh Faces. Presenting the works of newly juried Festival artists, the exhibit will showcase a wide range of mediums including painting, sculpture, glass, pastels, photography, mixed media and more. 

Fresh Faces 2018 runs now through June 1 at the Festival of Arts Third Floor Gallery at Wells Fargo Bank, 260 Ocean Ave.

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Photo courtesy FOA

Eileen McCullough, Lifeguard on Duty

Fresh Faces 2018 showcases a fascinating look into the world of the innovative and fresh new artwork of fourteen prestigious artists from Orange County. The artists and mediums being presented are Richard Bohn (sculpture), Jorge Burtin (glass), Gil Delinger (pastels), Lani Emanuel (oil painting), Carolyn Johnson (mixed media), Maaria Kader (scratchboard), Eileen McCullough (watercolors), Corine Schaff (hand-painted silk), Laura Seeley (acrylics), Joshua Serafin (mixed media), Andrew and Rebeca Snider (photography), Stephen Swintek (photography) and Sue Thompson (acrylics).

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Photo courtesy FOA

Corinne Schaff, Room with a View

These exhibitors were recently juried into the Festival of Arts by a panel of six knowledgeable artists and/or art experts including painter Paul Bond, Creative Director of USC Design Studio Sam Carter, photographer Rick Graves, former Director of Irvine Fine Arts Center Wendy Shields, ceramicist Mike Tauber and Arts Coordinator of the Orange County Department of Education Steve Venz.

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Photo courtesy FOA

Laura Seeley, The Whole of Us

 “We are very excited to have 14 of the 16 new artists joining us for this exhibit,” said Director of Exhibits, Education and Permanent Collections, Ron Morrissette. “Their work, along with our longtime exhibitors, will help create one of the most exciting years the Festival has ever seen.”

The Wells Fargo building is open to the public Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Admission is free. The Festival of Arts is a non-profit organization whose proceeds support the arts in and about Laguna Beach. For more information call (949) 494-1145 or go to

For more information, visit

Landscape painting events; Artists Paint at TOW on March 10 and Paint Along at Alta Vista Park on March 12

LOCA Arts Education and Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) offers two unique landscape painting activities in Laguna Beach. The first is on Sat, March 10, from 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at Top of the World Elementary School. This indoor workshop, for adults and families, will feature a choice of beginner, intermediate or advanced workstations. 

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Photo submitted by LOCA

Indoor workshop for adults and families at TOW on Sat, March 10

Using photos, participants will follow easy steps in sketching and finishing a trees and skies painting. Instructors include Rick J Delanty, Rita Pacheco, and Wendy Wirth.  

Advance registration of $40 is required and includes all supplies. Register at website listed below.

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Photo submitted by LOCA

Alta Vista Park site for outdoor workshop on Mon, March 12

The second activity will take place on Mon, March 12, from 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. The Mentor Paint Out is offered outdoors at the breathtaking Alta Laguna Park. This activity allows painters to improve skills by positioning themselves and painting alongside acclaimed artists, Lisa Mozzini-McDill and Anthony Salvo, while receiving helpful guidance. The event is free, and no is registration required. 

  To register and find all the LOCA -LPAPA class offerings, visit the calendar page at or call (949)363-4700.

Festival of Arts is honored for Outstanding Historical Renovation Project

Orange County’s most iconic cultural landmark, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts, has been awarded the 2018 Outstanding Historical Renovation Project by American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for its exceptional design and aggressive schedule of completion. 

The Festival of Arts grounds are home to some of California’s favorite outdoor summer events including the Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts Fine Art Show, offering live music, hands-on art activities, exhibitions of local student artwork, and a wide variety of special events.

“This award exemplifies our dedication to offering world-class art and stunning, cultural, live performances for our local community and visitors to enjoy,” said former board president and current treasurer, Fredric Sattler. 

“We are honored to be recognized by American Society of Civil Engineers and excited to see our patrons continue to experience rich culture, art history and unique performances at Festival of Arts for generations to come.”

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Fred Sattler holding the 2018 Outstanding Historic Renovation Award 

Hailing its 85th anniversary in 2017, the Festival of Arts debuted the brand new multi-million-dollar facility which features a 31,774 square-feet art exhibit space, workshops, a retail area and concert stage. The Festival Directors commissioned BAUER Architects with Fuscoe Engineering (civil engineer of record) and landscape architect Spurlock Poirier to design a state-of-the-art and inviting facility on the grounds.

Last remodeled in 1964, the renovated grounds were updated to meet accessibility standards and incorporate progressive sustainability features. New elements include a tensile roof pavilion that shelters artwork from weather, the green lawn for picnics and concerts was positioned to be easily accessible, the retail space was relocated and expanded, and the junior art exhibit space adjusted to a prominent location near the facility entrance.

Since opening in 1932, thousands of artists have shown and sold their work at the Festival of Arts and many of the artists have their work featured in the private collections of leading art collectors, celebrities, and museums around the world. 

The 2018 Festival of Arts Fine Art Show will take place July 5 – Sept 1 with general admission tickets starting at $10 per person. The Pageant of the Masters is July 7 – Sept 1 with advance tickets now available starting at $15 per person. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Art With Provenance opens new art exhibit on April 5 

On Thurs, April 5, Art with Provenance will hold an opening night show from 5 p.m.- 8 p.m. featuring local as well as international artists: Mark Fehlman, Jesse Powell, John Burton, Ray Roberts, Craig Pursley, Jeff Sewell, Jim Wodark, Debra Joy Groesser, Vanessa Rothe,  Rodolfo Rivadelmar, Sergey Kovalenko, Vadim Suvorov, Daniil Volkov, and more.

The show, a collaborative event with Vanessa Rothe Fine Art and Provenance Realty, will run through April 3, two successful luxury companies joining forces for art. The exhibit includes works by leading famed American Impressionists as well as imported Russian and Ukrainian Impressionists, both historical and contemporary. 

Provenance is located at 540 South Coast Hwy, Suite 202 upstairs.

With top listings in Laguna Beach and Orange County, Provenance Realty has lived up to its name providing provenance, or “proven years of quality” service and homes. With this show, the company joins a local art curator, editor and artist to bring to residents a very fine collection of art for home or office. For more information on this upcoming event, call Vanessa Rothe at 949-280-1555.

JoAnne Artman Gallery presents Deconstructing Gender: New Works by America Martin

JoAnne Artman Gallery has just opened Deconstructing Gender: New Works by America Martin. 

Fearless, bold use of line and color, a profound sense of form and space - the work of America Martin transcends cultural as well as internalized gender aesthetics in a conversation with universal, underlying themes of beauty, nature, and the human form.

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Woman & Rocks by America Martin 

Formal idealization of the figure exists for both genders and although the exact form this “perfect” figure takes has changed over time, there are certain standards of beauty related to gender that are constant in addition to ingrained ideas of the essential male and female. JoAnne Artman Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of Martin’s recent work that explores nuances of gender perception by addressing the formal aspects of gender constructs.

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Woman in Grey & Day Roses by America Martin 

Although Martin’s focus is primarily on the female form, aspects of gender neutrality and ambiguity permeate her work. Both male and female figures are solid in width and girth, commanding the space that they occupy within her work, lacking most of the gendered signs of normative beauty standards. Women are distinguishable through their generally rounder forms and associations with nature, while the male figures are portrayed through a more angular approach.  

However, there is a distinct de-sexualization in the appearance of both genders such as in Martin’s emphasis on expressive, exaggerated hands and feet that draw us to inherent similarities and androgyny within both genders, rather than the differences that separate them. Narrative compositions place these figures in various contexts that speak to archetypal, universal themes of the human condition. 

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Submitted Photo

Wild Creatures I, by America Martin

Martin explores new modes of representation throughout her practice approaching the human form through a diversity of mediums. Expressive of her Colombian-American heritage and rooted in modernism, Martin’s visual language feels iconic and familiar as the artist utilizes the essential elements of line, form and color in vibrant, humanist compositions. 

America Martin’s work will inspire, provoke, engage and mesmerize. With visual perceptions always changing, peek behind the stories told and you’re sure to find the right artistic expression. 

For more information visit,

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