Laguna Beach Live! presents AlmaNova Duo at the Art Museum on Thurs, Sept 14 at 7 p.m.

Flutist Jessica Pierce and guitarist Almer Imamovic are AlmaNova, a talented and classically trained duo presenting an eclectic program of music from all over the world.

AlmaNova’s great love of all musical genres shines through by way of dynamic performances and mesmerizing stage presence. The duo has traveled the world playing their unique blend of classical repertoire infused with music from the Balkans, Spain, Latin America and the British Isles. 

Click on photo for a larger image


AlmaNova’s music has been featured for various film and TV projects. Most recently Almer’s song “StaniDraga” was featured in the film In the Land of Blood and Honey, written and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Live! at the Museum takes place the second Thursday of each month from 7 - 8 p.m. The concert is free to museum members and to non-members with museum admission. Pre-reservations are available online through the Museum’s website, or at 949.494.8971 x203. These seats are held until 6:45 p.m. 

Additional seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information about the series and other concerts, visit or phone 949-715-9713

Laguna Dance Festival features The Paul Taylor Dance Company and Ballet BC, begins Sept 7

This year, the Thirteenth Annual Laguna Dance Festival runs from Sept 7 – 17, and showcases the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company from NYC and Ballet BC, a company from Vancouver, Canada, breaking new ground in contemporary dance.

Company performances will be held Sept 14 – 17 at Laguna Playhouse. 

Ballet BC has quickly established a reputation for breathtaking physicality and originality and will showcase three innovative dance works choreographed by women. Performances are Sept 15 and 17. 

16+ a room features unique choreographic language deployed by Ballet BC’s Artistic Director, Emily Molnar. In the poignant Solo Echo, celebrated choreographer, and director/choreographer of Kidd Pivot, Crystal Pite, explores the symbiosis of acceptance and loss—inspired by two sonatas for cello and piano by Brahms and the poem “Lines for Winter,” by Mark Strand. 

Tel Aviv-based Sharon Eyal’s Bill is a daring piece showcasing Ballet BC dancers in their most intricate expressions of the body. 

Click on Photo for larger image

Photo by Chris Randle

Gilbert Small and Nicole Ward of Ballet BC performing 16 a Room

The legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company, which broke the mold on dance fifty years ago, performs Sept 14 and Sept 16. Best known for dynamic modern choreography, Festival performances will include three representative works.

Esplanade, set to two Bach violin concertos, was first performed in 1975, when Taylor was inspired to create dance around found objects the way contemporary artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg fashioned paintings. 

Arden Court, a space age ballet, features athletic movement set to 18th century symphonic music. An audience favorite, Piazzolla Caldera, is a sensual exposé of tango as reinterpreted and reimagined with modern dance.

Off the stage, the Festival features a presentation at Laguna Art Museum of the academy award-nominated documentary “Paul Taylor: Dancemaker.” The film will be introduced by Patrick Corbin, former principle dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company. The screening on Sept 9 at 6 p.m. is free to museum visitors and members. 

“Backstage with Paul Taylor” will show on Sept 13 at 7 p.m. and is the Festival’s first Backstage event, featuring two Paul Taylor principle dancers in a 45-minute free on-stage rehearsal demonstration. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by James Houston

Michelle Fleet of The Paul Taylor Dance Company

The evening prepares the audience for the upcoming shows and will be an informal event with a focus on three duets choreographed by Paul Taylor. Additional performances by Entity Contemporary Dance from Irvine and Kybele Dance Theater from LA will perform as part of First Thursday Art Walk on Sept 7, as well as master classes with each visiting dance company and our new educational workshop, “Choreograph your Career” featuring LA choreographers Andrew Winghart and Spenser Theberge. 

“This year’s Festival once again brings to OC the most exciting dancers to grace international stages,” says Festival Founder and Artistic Director, Jodie Gates. “Ballet BC is an astonishing international contemporary company with a repertory of movement second to none and the one and only Paul Taylor Dance Company will present three of their greatest works by one of the world’s leading modern dance legend’s, Paul Taylor. A winning combination for dance lovers.”

The following programs are scheduled for the Festival:

Thurs, Sept. 7, 6:30 and 7 p.m., Laguna Beach First Thursday ArtWalk

Kybele Dance Theater at Laguna Art Museum and Entity Contemporary Dance at Dawson Cole Fine Art

 Sat, Sept. 9, 12-2 p.m., Paul Taylor Dance Company Master Class with Patrick Corbin 

Sat, Sept. 9, 6 p.m., Dance on Screen, at Laguna Art Museum: Academy Award-nominated documentary “Dancemaker” introduced by Patrick Corbin. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Paul Palmaro

Paul Taylor of The Paul Taylor Dance Company

Sun, Sept 10, 12-4 p.m., Choreograph Your Career, Workshop and Master Classes with professional dancers Andrew Winghart and Spenser Theberge, and Dance Festival Founder Jodie Gates.

Wed, Sept 13, 7 p.m., Backstage with Paul Taylor Dance Company, a special glimpse into preparation for the dance with two feature performers in a stage rehearsal. 

Thurs, Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m., Paul Taylor Dance Company Performance, Pre-Show Talk, 6:30 p.m. 

Fri, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m., Ballet BC Performance, Pre-Show Talk, 6 p.m. Post-Show Reception Following

Sun, Sept. 17, 10 a.m., Ballet BC Master Class 

Sun, Sept. 17, 2 p.m., Ballet BC Performance, Pre-Show Talk, 1 p.m.

Tickets range from $35 for students to $75 for the Sat night show with a post-reception with the company. For tickets and information, or Laguna Playhouse Box Office: 949.497.2787. 

Laguna Dance Festival presents world-class performances on the local stage and provides quality dance education to increase public appreciation for the art. An award-winning non-profit enterprise in collaboration with many local arts programs, the Festival event schedule, tickets, and video excerpts of previous performances at

Grammy winners will headline Wheels 4 Life’s Rock 4 Bikes special event on Fri Sep 29

Laguna-based nonprofit Wheels 4 Life’s Rock 4 Bikes is planning a night filled with rock music, food, drinks, and great company on Fri, Sep 29 at 6:30 p.m. There will be an incredible musical line-up, starting with Nick-i and Billy Sherman from Common Sense, and featuring four Grammy Award winners, Charles Colin from Train with rock legends Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Buckley from America. 

Additionally, Chevy Metal will be introduced for the finale, showcasing one of the best drummers in the world, Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters.

Proceeds from the event will go towards purchasing bicycles for people in several countries who desperately need a means of transportation in order to be employed in the workforce. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo from Wheels 4 Life website

Seven year old Adam rides his bikes to raise funds for W4L

Tickets must be purchased in advance by visiting the website Ticket prices range between $200 -$250 depending on when purchased, and $1900 for ten tickets plus a sponsor. This event will be held at a private residence in San Juan Capistrano, with a dress code of cocktail. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Gifting bikes to all those in need worldwide 

Wheels 4 Life life hopes to see a big turn out, raising fund to change lives for the better through the gift of bikes.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Wait a minute…after this weekend

the Festival Season will sadly fade away


To go from the excitement of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters Celebrity Benefit Gala last Saturday night, to the closing of the Festival last night, and now the final weekend at the Sawdust, how much is an arts reporter like me supposed to take? Seriously, c’mon man! Or to make it perfectly clear, in Suzie-speak, Wait a minute! What is going on? 

 Yes, that is a rhetorical question. And of course, I’ve been well aware of the closing dates before they opened. Still, I am really not prepared. 

I’m going from red carpet runways to roadways and empty sidewalks. No longer will I be able to slink like a mink through the throngs of festival-goers, running in a zig-zag like I’m racing through a maze.

So as I say goodbye to this year’s Festival Season, I’d like to share a few of my personal highlights. 

Of course, the joy and merriment of opening of the Sawdust goes without saying. It takes practically the whole season to make it all the way through, stopping every few steps to talk with the artists, enjoy their art. Moments filled with a lot of laughter and fun along the way, as the minutes seem to turn into hours in a blink of an eye. And the live music at the Sawdust is a true delight, serving as the soundtrack to my summer. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

An appreciative crowd at the Herb Alpert concert

And then, I enjoyed the excitement of the Festival of Arts opening with the new grounds…it’s five-star. They did an amazing job! My applause to the board and Mr. President, Fred Sattler. Obviously, anyone that doubted you could pull it off or suggested you were hiding out in a foreign land is foreign to The Festival of Arts. It was the best and most exciting opening ever! 

The Pageant of the Masters is always a highlight, enjoying a new adventure through famous works of art via the portal of each year’s new theme. Dee, Butch and Dan, thanks for all you do to keep the magic of the Pageant vibrant and alive every year!

Other highlights: potluck dinners with Festival artists, Concerts on the Green, enjoying everyone from Jane Lynch to Herb Alpert, which brings me to my next fave - chatting up the celebrities at the Celebrity Gala, Art-to-Go, fun and free art workshops, artist demos, and exploring the grounds through the lens of The Boys & Girls Club’s talented young photographers.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Suzie Harrison

With Master glassblower John Barber retiring…the Sawdust will never be the same without you!

Last, but by far, not least. This is going to an exceptionally sad closing of the season with Master Glassblower Genius John Barber retiring from the Sawdust.

Watching him blow glass at the Sawdust was my first memory of awe of the art festivals. I cannot tell you how many times, or how many hours I’ve spend mesmerized, as I’ve stood glued, watching John create his breathtaking masterpieces, he’s truly one-of-a kind, gifted beyond compare. Truly an original…you’ll be missed beyond words.

There really are too many amazing moments to list this season, but the experiences have been abundant, now held cherished in my memory.

So, this weekend I will be soaking in every minute at the Sawdust with the grand finale appropriately punctuated with the killer sounds of World Anthem.   

Until next time…so long art festivals, so little time!

Magic at the HeART fashion show: Tactile textiles, floaty fabrics, and hats with h-attitude wow the crowd


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

A woman sitting opposite me at the HeART of Fashion Show at the Sawdust, dressed in brilliant blue, caught my attention immediately. Waves of energy shimmered from her; throughout she was vocal in her approval; her enthusiasm was palpable. 

I would find out later that her name was Nikki Grant, one of Sawdust’s founders, and the wife of Jay Grant, the Deep Thinker behind the show.

Magical people do have an aura, and Nikki’s was in full bloom.

I was distracted only by the flow and glow of models wearing fabulous floaty fabrics, shawls with serious swagger, and hats with what can only be called h-attitude.

Click on photo for a larger image

Fabulous hats with h-attitude, created by Sue Winner

Introducing the show, Olivia Batchelder made the point that at the Sawdust, artists were their own jury, and that we would see “scrumptious” outfits worn extended family members of the 15 artists displaying their art via the human form. “There are even models who weigh more than 50 pounds!” she noted.

What Olivia didn’t mention was that several models would weigh less than 50 pounds. A number of kids brought whimsy and wonder to the catwalk, none more so than a young man in a chef’s outfit, whose Queen-of-England-wave – which just didn’t quit – and his wide-eyed enjoyment of the moment evoked frenzied applause. He did artist Mary Keating proud.

Click on photo for a larger image

Helen McNamara’s shawl is a fiery delight

Lagunan Caryn Kleinberg, who sat next to me, praised the HeART of Fashion show to the skies, noting the wide range of textiles employed and head-to-toe artistry on display. 

“I would have used that as a tablecloth,” Caryn said at one point as a model sashayed by, “not realizing what a fantastic outfit it would make in the hands of an artist. I love the way these fashions honor the elements of the earth and the sea and the sky.”

In true Sawdust style, the fashion was creative and quirky, from the Native American meets Conehead outfit by Helga Yaillen, to the slogans on some of the earthier (in every way) looks, for example, “Roll me in fairydust and call me a unicorn,” by Brynne Corgono.

I loved every moment, with background information brought to us by Terrell Washington Anansi, the Master of Ceremonies. “It’s clothing as an art form and storytelling,” he said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Models Dasha and Irena modeled earthily elegant headdresses by Reem Khalil

Once it was over, I dashed across to the woman who turned out to be Nikki Grant, who was bubbling with happiness over the show and raving about many of the gorgeous models, especially Irena and Dascha, whose intricate headdresses, by Reem Khalil, wowed the crowd.

“They’re so beautiful in every way,” Nikki remarked. “The models, the art, the clothes and especially those headdresses.”

Jay Grant, former president and a 44-year veteran of Sawdust, joined us. “This is a labor of love for everyone,” he said, clearly thrilled at the evident love of the crowd for the runway show. 

“You know for a long time we used to have these shows every Sunday. I’m thrilled that they’re happening again. We’ve already got the committee together for next year’s event, all volunteers, of course. Everyone did such a fantastic job this year. Art truly is at the heart of this! We want to do more!” Grant said.

And, with that and a final woo-hoo or two and a high-five from Nikki, it was time to leave. What a send-off to a successful Sawdust Festival! 


Enjoy a gallery of Mary Hurlbut’s photos, below:

LCAD alumna’s work is published in Nat Geo honoring the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Anniversary 

Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) BFA in Drawing & Painting (2014) and MFA in Painting (2017) alumna, Charity Oetgen, has had six of her paintings published in a recently released issue of National Geographic honoring the 50th anniversary of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. 

Oetgen will appear at three events during Dr. Jane Goodall’s US tour to mark the 40th anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute.

“These projects embody everything I want to do with my artwork, blending conservation and art to make a difference,” Oetgen said. 

Oetgen was approached by Tara Stoinski, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, at The Joint Meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatologists in Aug 2016, where she was showing 58 of her paintings. Impressed by her work, Stoinski recommended Oetgen to National Geographic. 

Click on photo for larger image

Charity Oetgen

Oetgen worked closely with the editorial team to sketch and paint the final watercolors of Digit, the gorilla who had formed a close bond with Fossey in 1967, as well as other gorillas the foundation has supported. 

For Oetgen, it was an emotional and serendipitous experience. “I would find myself in tears that all of this was happening,” she said. “The week after I was commissioned by National Geographic, the Jane Goodall Institute invited me to join Dr. Goodall on her institute’s 40th anniversary tour.” 

When Oetgen received her BFA from LCAD in 2014, she was asked by the Goodall Institute of France to create a painting as an 80th birthday gift for Dr. Goodall.

Oetgen credits Sharon Allicotti, artist and LCAD professor, for inspiring her on her journey of using art in support of conservation efforts of primates and other endangered animals. “She told me that I spoke more about bonobos than art and I should find a way to bring these two influences together in my life,” she says. 

Click on photo for larger image

Jane Goodall with the painting Charity created for Goodall’s 80th birthday

Since then, Oetgen has completed independent study in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has exhibited work at Laguna Art Museum, Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, as well as the Jane Goodall Institute France. She has also showcased art at the Great Ape Summit in Jackson Hole, WY and was commissioned by Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) to create art for their great ape infographic and the cover of their magazine. On behalf of Friends of Bonobos and Claudine André, Wallis Annenberg was presented with Oetgen’s bonobo paintings as a thank you to the Annenberg Foundation.

LCAD will exhibit Oetgen’s painting titled Maman Esperance with Boma at its new Administration Building, located at 2345 Laguna Canyon Rd. The public is welcome to visit between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Mon through Fri. For further information, go to  

For more information about Oetgen’s work, visit

Broadway stars and Hello Dolly Bars will be featured at the Ocean Institute Fundraiser, Sept 9

What are Hello Dolly Bars? Guests attending the Sand Dollar Guild’s “An Evening On Broadway” on Sept 9 will find out. According to organizers, in addition to an amazing musical journey through favorite Broadway musicals, performed by Broadway star Ivan Rutherford and friends, attendees will taste a bit of Broadway history.

Hello Dolly Bars were created by the original caterer for the opening night party of Hello Dolly on Broadway. One of the local Sand Dollar Members inherited [the recipe] from her mother in Aztec New Mexico, who got it from the caterer. These melt-in-your-mouth memories will be served as dessert for a delicious dinner prior to the start of the musical evening.

Mission Viejo Country Club Executive Chef Bob Peterson has planned a special menu for the occasion, starring a plethora of appetizers and food stations at the lovely venue. Crostini of Gorgonzola, Fig spread, Malaysian Chicken Satay provide the pre-course for the Chinese Chicken salad and the Fusilli Pasta Alfredo with Meat Sauce. 

Bob is a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute, and has been in the hospitality and culinary industry for over 25 years.

The event will take place at the Mission Viejo Country Club, 26200 Country Club Drive, Mission Viejo from 5 to 8 p.m. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ocean Institute’s popular Ocean in Motion program. The specially equipped van and trained instructors reach out to special needs and underserved children in Orange County and beyond. 

Doors open for this year’s event at 5 p.m. to a special menu light supper and no-host bar. The elegant evening of favorite musical pieces from hit Broadway shows like Les Miserables, West Side Story, Hello Dolly, Grease, and Oklahoma will be performed by Ivan Rutherford, whose acclaimed Broadway singing career includes over 2300 performances playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. He is joined by Shannon Brennan, co-director and co-star of Broadway Nights Cabaret,  and Robert Meffe, Director of Music for the MFA Musical Theater Program at SDSU.

A silent auction with exciting vacation and restaurant packages and services will also hit a high note of the evening. Palm Springs Hilton offers a stay that includes the use of a car from Allen Cadillac. A stay at The Ranch has spa treatments included. A charming condo and dinner in exclusive Rancho Mirage courtesy of Mavar Realty is the perfect get-away.

Rounds of golf from area golf courses, merchandise and services from local businesses such as Stance, Mike’s Pet Care, Salon Incognito and original signed artwork by local artists, theater tickets and more will round out the evening’s fun.

Tickets are on sale now.  Premium seating is on a first come first served basis. Contact Katy Moss, Sand Dollar Membership Chair, for ticket information. 949-494-4281, or

Laguna Dance Festival announces Master Classes 

Master classes with dance masters and a one-of-a-kind on-stage rehearsal this year are part of the expanded Laguna Dance Festival. Feature performances begin Sept 14 with the iconic Paul Taylor Dance Company of NYC and conclude with the groundbreaking Ballet BC of Canada at Laguna Playhouse.  

“We’re delighted to once again offer an opportunity for aspiring dancers and dance professionals to take classes with some of the most extraordinary performers and choreographers on the stage, and learn more about the business of dancing as well as the art,” says Jodie Gates, Laguna Dance Festival Founder/Artistic Director, and Vice-Dean, USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. 

Up first, Patrick Corbin, alum of the prestigious Paul Taylor Dance Company, will conduct a master class on Sat Sept 9, from noon to 2 p.m. A celebrated dancer and choreographer, Corbin currently teaches dance at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and also directs and choreographs for worldwide audiences.

Submitted Photo

Patrick Corbin set to teach a master class for the Laguna Art Festival 

“Master classes provide access to movement theory, practice, technique, and choreography that many students haven’t experienced, which creates a unique opportunity for professional and personal growth. As a master teacher, it is a special pleasure to expose dancers to the diverse choreography of Paul Taylor,” says Corbin. 

Master Class with Ballet BC’s rehearsal director, Makaila Wallace, will be held on Sun, Sept 17, from 10 a.m. to noon, just before the company’s final performance. This is a unique opportunity to explore contemporary dance movement and choreography with some of most inventive dancers on the modern stage. 

Master Classes are held at Laguna Beach High School. Tickets are $25 for students, and $15 for observers. Students must be age 12 or older and at an intermediate or advanced level. 

Master-class performance packages are also available

As the master classes will focus on elements of dance performed at the Festival, there is an opportunity for students to tie the two together with a master class-performance package ticket of $50. There is also a group rate for ten or more students taking the Sunday morning Ballet BC class followed by the matinee performance.

Tickets are available at

A very special program, “Choreograph Your Career” will take place on Sun, Sept 10, from noon  to 4 p.m. The event will feature top LA choreographers and dance administrators, and includes a mock audition with Laguna Dance Festival founder and artistic director, Jodie Gates. 

Also, in a first for the Festival, “Backstage with Paul Taylor Dance Company” features Patrick Corbin and two of the company’s lead dancers in a rehearsal on stage at the Playhouse, on Sep 13, at 7 p.m. This is a free event, first come, first seated. 

Laguna Dance Festival presents world-class performances on the local stage and provides quality dance education in an effort to increase public appreciation for the art. An award-winning non-profit enterprise in collaboration with many local arts programs, see the Festival schedule, tickets, and video excerpts of previous performances at

No Square Theatre announces upcoming classes for youth plus auditions for Annie

No Square Theatre has announced the start dates for four different youth classes, all under the direction of Ella Wyatt, as well as the timing of auditions for Annie.

No Square Theatre’s youth programs are created and directed by performing artists with both professional experience and degrees in their respective fields. 

In the winter session, there will be four different classes to choose from.

Classes one and two will take place on Tuesdays from Sept 19 – Dec 19 (no classes on Oct 31 or Nov 21). Class one will be from 4 - 5:15 p.m. Kids will learn a capella arrangements of popular Christmas carols and holiday songs, complete with harmonies, to perform at the opening gala for Annie on the evening of Sat, December 2. There will be opportunities for solos as well.

Guest teachers will liven up the classes

Class two will be from 5:15 - 6:30 p.m., teaching stage production to kids ages 10 and above. This class will focus on all of the non-performance elements of putting on a show - sets, costumes, props, and lighting will all be covered, with plenty of guest teachers from the entertainment industry, including Sammi Wallschlaeger, an art director from The Voice and the hit Disney TV show, KC Undercover. 

There is also the potential of being director’s assistant for future No Square Theatre youth productions.

Acting, schmacting!

Classes three and four take place on Wednesdays from Sept 20 – Dec 20 (no class on Nov 22). Class three will be from 4 - 5:15 p.m. learning schmacting for ages six and above. 

Geared towards LagunaTots cast members past, present, and future, the Schmacting class will focus on perfecting that over-the-top performing style that will get you a featured part in the next production of LagunaTots. Learn how to ham it up and get the laughs that every performer craves while telling the silly stories of LagunaTots parody songs. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alexis Amaradio

Kids loved the summer camp at No Square this year

Class four will be from 5:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. learning improv for ages 10 and above. During this class, kids will explore the elements of improvisation, learning the core fundamentals and principles of improv, focusing on various games and exercises that encourage trust, communication, agreement (“yes and”), active listening, character, and making your scene partner look good, all culminating in an improv performance showcase during our class time on 12/20 at 5:30pm. 

Prices range according to how many classes are taken, one class is $300, two classes are $550, three classes are $825, and four classes total out to be $1,000.

For more information on registering for any of these classes, visit

Auditions for Annie are set to begin on Friday Sept 22

Adding more exciting news, is the announcement of the play Annie and the opening of auditions. Directed by Joe Lauderdale and choreographed by Ellen Prince, this production will be a minimal staging based on the ideas of Story Theatre. The Ensemble will be even more important than a traditionally mounted production.

Auditions for adult roles and ensemble only will be on Fri, Sept 22 at 6 p.m. Auditions for Annie and orphans only will be on Sat, Sept 23 at 10 a.m. Callbacks for Annie and the orphans  will be done on Sun, Sept 24 at 1 p.m. and must be able to sing and read from the script. Callbacks for adults and ensemble will be on Sun, Sept 24 at 6 p.m. For more information on scheduling an audition with the director, visit

Sunday series on Progressive Christianity begins on Sept 10 at Neighborhood Congregational Church

Neighborhood Congregational Church invites residents of Laguna and surrounding communities to a Sunday series on Progressive Christianity. Beginning on Sun, Sept 10, and continuing for another six weeks, participants will learn what it means to be a progressive Christian, and how it can affect one’s daily life. 

Each program begins at 10 a.m., dress is casual, and includes contemplation and live music by local artists. There will be a question and answer period after each session, along with coffee and refreshments. The series will also highlight a Homecoming Event and potluck lunch on Sept 24. 

Submitted photo

Reverend Rod Echols, NCC pastor

During the series, many vital questions will be addressed: Is it possible to take the dogma out of religion and move forward focusing on truth, justice, and love? What values can it teach children today as they strive to navigate this difficult world?  What opportunities will it give children to learn compassion for others, how to work as a team, and find a wider family? Can Christianity provide both answers and pose questions?

Rev. Rod Echols says, “We’re going to begin Sun, Sept 10, focusing on “an old story for a new time.” 

The subsequent weekly topics include: Sept 17, We are Not Alone; Sept 24, A Pilgrim State of Mind; Oct 1, What Exactly Do We Believe; Oct 8, Living the Questions; Oct 15, Peace & Justice for All; Oct 22, Standing on the Side of Love.

 Neighborhood Congregational Church is open and affirming, and no matter where one is on life’s journey, each guest is welcome. The Church is located at 340 St. Ann’s Drive behind Ralph’s Supermarket. Children’s Sunday School is available. 

To download a flyer, visit, or call the office at (949) 494-8061.

Chamber Singers invite qualified singers to audition for the 2017/18 season

Laguna Beach Chamber Singers, a dues-free community chamber choir conducted by Cory Winter, invites qualified singers to join them for the 2017-2018 season. Rehearsals are held in the Music Room at Thurston Middle School on Tuesdays from 7:15 – 9:15 p.m.

 Their season extends from Sept 5 (when rehearsals begin) to April 29 (final performance). 

Submitted photo

Laguna Beach Chamber Singers

The Chamber Singers offer two concerts each season – a Dec 3 Winter Concert and April 29 Spring Concert, allowing enough rehearsal time to feel really comfortable and confident in its preparation. 

The group prefers new members to experience the group before auditioning. Auditions are arranged after a prospective new member has attended two rehearsals. 

Auditions will consist of performance of a piece of the singer’s choosing, vocalizing, and sight-reading. 

The Winter Concert this year will feature the entire Poulenc Gloria, excerpts from Bach’s Magnificat in D, Copland’s The Promise of Living, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chanukah songs – some serious and some not so. 

Those who are interested in joining the Chamber Singers, contact Deborah Rabben, Membership Coordinator, at (949) 370-4723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , so that there is music available when you arrive. 

For more information about Laguna Beach Chamber Singers, visit our website at

Suzie’s ARTiculation

The stars shined bright at the FOA/POM Gala 


Photos by Scott Brashier

Lights, cameras, action, the spotlight was aimed at the red carpet arrival of the many celebrity guests, who came to support the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters Celebrity Benefit Gala on Saturday night. 

 The media was especially clamoring to interview and take photos of this year’s Celebrity Gala host Bryan Cranston. He’s very familiar with the Festival and Pageant, as he has attended the summer events for 30 years. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Suzie interviews Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame

“What I look forward to every year is the unknown,” Cranston said. “This is called ‘The Grand Tour’ tonight. I don’t really know what the details of it are. But what I do know is that I am going to experience something unique. And every single person who comes here every year experiences something very unique. It’s just a wonderful experience. You learn something about art and you’re with other people who have a mutual appreciation for art.” 

He called the whole experience, a grand experience, including checking out the Junior Art exhibit, which features the next generation of artists.

 “If anyone hasn’t seen the Pageant, they are in for a real treat. It’s not just an experience of art but it’s experiencing it with everyone. It’s like being in a very comfortable environment like a live museum, but in a comfortable seat and you can have a nice glass of wine with you,” Cranston said. “It’s like no other.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert in silhouette

Cranston lauded the history of the Pageant and the fact that it has been going on for nearly 85 years.

“Every year that we come my wife and I bring someone who doesn’t know anything about it. The don’t know what they’re in for,” Cranston said. “So I can’t wait to see their reaction because it’s magnificent.”

Cranston talked about how the paintings with the lighting, the music, and the way everything comes together that it truly brings these famous works of art to life. 

“I think that coming to the Pageant of the Masters and the Festival of Arts should be on every Californian’s bucket list,” Cranston said. “You’ve got to see this in some point in your life. It really is that important.”

Asked about whether he had seen the new renovation of the Festival grounds, Cranston said he had on Friday, the day before the Gala.

 “I did a complete tour of the art. I bought another piece of art, which I think is important, not just to come for the Pageant, but to support it,” Cranston said. “Laguna has a rich history of artists and they need to be supported. So if you have the means to do it; it’s important to buy the art and support the artists. But it’s more than just about that person you support; it’s a culture you support.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Lani Hall sings with husband Herb Alpert

Legendary actor Donna Mills said she likes to come and support the Pageant and the Festival.

“I just think it’s such a unique and wonderful thing that they do, and I look forward to it every year because it is always different and always has different paintings,” said Mills. “I encourage friends and lots of people that I know to come always, and everybody that comes loves it.”

Actor John O’Hurley said, “Bryan reminded me that he was the one who took me here 20 years ago.” 

He said he hasn’t seen it since then, but this year, he brought his family with him to experience the magic of the Pageant together.

“I haven’t described it to them. It’s something you can’t really describe to someone. You have to see it then understand what it is,” O’Hurley said.

He said his family also looking forward to hearing Herb Alpert perform.

And perform Alpert did, with his wife Lani Hall, they held the crowd captivated during their entire performance with the crowd on their feet loving every sweet sound of the legendary musician playing his greatest hits and new works alike. 

Ending in a standing ovation, the whole event was sensational from start to finish. Hats off to the FOA & POM, well in my case, caps off. Thank you for the wonderful, five-star evening!

Until next time…so many stars and memories of delight, so little time!

Vibrant art by Jan Lord is now on show at LGOCA

Jan Lord’s masterpieces are now on display at LGOCA. These beautiful mixed media paintings are inspired by Jan’s love of music, in which lyrics appear etched into the layers of graphite, paint and metals. These vibrant pieces are on Baltic Birtch wood rather than canvas. 

Born and raised in Canada, Jan Lord studied art from the time she was in Grade School. During her childhood, she could be seen painting during the summer months in the beautiful parks in Vancouver, B.C. Throughout her career, she has studied under a variety of Canadian and American watercolor and acrylic artists.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted Photo

Girl on Fire by Jan Lord

Jan has found her total and unique style through many great instructors. Her techniques include acrylic and oil pastels, glazing, and adding a variety of elements such as aluminum, graphite, paper, iron, nuts and bolts.

LGOCA is a unique contemporary gallery showcasing top regional and international artists, offering a diverse mixture of paintings, sculpture, bronze, fused glass and metal creations. It’s not your typical white walled gallery affair: LGOCA promises to engage you in an experience you won’t find anywhere else. LGOCA is located at 611 South Coast Hwy. 

19th annual LPAPA Invitational Collectors Gala set for Sat Oct 14: early bird tickets available now

On Sat, Oct 14, the 19th annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational Collectors Gala is set to take place. Each year the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) transforms the town into an outdoor painting studio with the West Coast’s most prestigious plein air fine art event. The gala goes from 7 - 10:30 p.m. and will be located at Tivoli Too at 777 Laguna Canyon Rd. 

Click on photo for a larger image

2016 Best in Show:  Jim McVicker’s “Morning at Main Beach”

Purchase tickets early and receive the early bird special lasting through Aug 31 when tickets will be the cheapest at $125. Starting Sept 1, they go up to $150, and on day of event (if available), tickets will be $175. 

For more information on event details, purchasing of tickets, or questions, visit Support from the Gala will help the Laguna Plein Air Painters continue their mission, present world class art exhibitions, create opportunities for working artists, and provide education programs.

LPAPA art is on show at City Hall

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association has installed an exhibition of its members’ new paintings on the first floor of City Hall located at 505 Forest Avenue. 

Photo from City website

The exhibition can be viewed Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and alternative Fridays 7:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. through October 6.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Don’t miss the star-studded FOA/POM Celebrity Gala – so says celeb Joe Mantegna, a huge fan


For actor Joe Mantegna, the Pageant of the Masters seems to have been life changing. The well-known, popular, and award-winning actor, writer, and director, best known for his current starring role as FBI Supervisory Special Agent, David Rossi, on the hit CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, has been a huge supporter of the Pageant of Masters and Festival of Arts for 34 years. He said he looks forward to the Celebrity Gala every year.  

“I first went to the Pageant of the Masters in the summer of 1983. I was getting ready to direct a play about Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Tucci, the play’s producer, said they do this thing in Laguna Beach called the Pageant of the Masters, it has Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” we have to go see it,” Mantegna said. “We had our minds blown.”  

Although Tucci was well known, he said he (Joe) wasn’t back then. But Joe Mantegna has never been an ordinary Joe, that’s for sure.

“Just a few weeks later, I got a call from David Mamet who said I would love for you to be in my play Glengarry Glen Ross. The play wonaPulitzer and I won a Tony,” Mantegna said. “It was important to me, very significant; the Pageant was one of the last events before my life and career changed dramatically. The play toured and I didn’t get to see the Pageant again until 1986. And I have been coming ever since, whenever I can.”

Mantegna said he always looks forward to attending his favorite summer event every year, usually accompanied by his wife Arlene and his two daughters Mia and Gia, who are also ardent supporters.

“Ever since, I have become dear friends with Sharbie, the writer Dan, and the director Dee, and some of the people on the board. It’s really become a family, like my extended family in Laguna Beach,” said Montagne. “I actually wanted to buy a place there and had offers on three different houses, but none of them went through. And while I didn’t buy a home in Laguna, I go to the Pageant every year my work schedule allows me to.”

He even introduced the cast of Criminal Minds to the event and ever since they have been loyal supporters as well.  

Mantegna has hosted the Gala as has the cast of Criminal Minds. He called the experience a thrill. I too was thrilled as I am a huge fan of the show. Most every year cast members come, and most faithfully Mantegna is there. It was wonderful to have my pictures taken with cast members Matthew Gray Gubler and JJ Cook. The entire cast is absolutely delightful, caring, and kind and went out of their way to make everyone feel special.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Festival photographer

One of the benefits of being the arts reporter at Stu News is hanging out with the lovely cast of Criminal Minds at The FOA/POM Celebrity Gala

“I think the Pageant is one of the treasured jewels of the U.S. and Southern California. I am so thankful that I have been able to go to the Pageant Gala almost every year. It’s really special to us. My kids have grown up going,” Mantegna said.

His daughter Mia, who is 30, will be attending with him this year. His wife and other daughter are out of town. Mantegna explained that Mia is autistic and very much fell in love with the arts. 

“She’s literally seen the Pageant since she was born. For her, it’s so special. There is no doubt that it has been an influence because she has pursued a career in art and as a make-up artist. She is the first autistic student to graduate from the Mudd School, a professional makeup school,” said Mantegna. “And now she is the makeup artist for Inclusion Films. So there’s this whole personal connection.”

He lauds Pageant Director Dee Challis Davy and Dan Duling, the Script writer, for the fabulous job they do every year and enjoys the creative themes each year.

“The Gala this year, well, I look forward to it every year. I look forward to all of it. I look forward to seeing my dear, dear friend Sharbie and her family. I’ve seen her children grow up,” Mantegna said. “From the minute I am walking up the Laguna red carpet, to going inside and seeing different artists, listening to music, to the lovely dinner in the garden, and the Pageant; I look forward to all of it. And I love all the people there.” 

He reminisced about the fact that it’s been such an important part of his summers since that magical summer in 1983, and how his life has changed. But one thing that has remained the same is his passion for the Pageant and the people that he calls his Laguna Beach family.

“I’m all in for the Pageant - it will always have a warm spot in my heart. It’s one of the greatest places,” Mantegna said.

His said one of the hardest things to do is to explain what the Pageant is like. He tried to describe it to actor Esai Morales before she attended. He said it’s impossible, to put into words; it’s something you need to experience. One thing he can say, “I can tell you it’s going to blow your mind,” Mantegna said.

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Maters Celebrity Benefit is on Saturday, Aug 26, starting with a celebrity red carpet arrival at 5 p.m. Many celebrities will be attending in addition to Mantegna. The Pageant will be introduced by actor Bryan Cranston with a special music performance by the legendary, platinum-selling musician and song writer, Herb Alpert, and his wife Lani Hall, at 6 p.m., followed by a special performance of this summer’s popular Pageant of the Masters, “The Grand Tour.”

Tickets are $50 to $250. For tickets, a list of celebrity attendees, or more information, call 1-800-487-3378 or visit The Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters is at 650 Laguna canyon Road.

Until next time…so much fun at the FOA/POM celebrity Gala, so little time!

Dianne’s Creature Feature

A wild day at the Sawdust

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

What a crazy month. Only a few short weeks ago the circus came to town with acrobats, hula hoopers and stiltwalkers, and then last week, wild animals arrived at The Sawdust Festival. The appearance, aptly, was hosted by renowned wildlife artist Chris Hoy, a guest exhibitor at this year’s Sawdust. 

Captivated (in a good way), a huge crowd of both children and adults had the opportunity to get up close (very close) and personal with five amazing Conservation Ambassador animals from Zoo to You, which currently houses 200 animals in their Paso Robles sanctuary. 

And, in line with this strange summer, unexpectedly, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream of meeting a lemur (and feeding it a snack). What’s next, an eclipse? Oops, no, that was on Monday.

Founded 28 years ago by animal expert David Jackson (who is also a veterinarian), the Zoo to You mission is to give a worldwide voice to wildlife by providing a permanent loving home for displaced, abused, abandoned, or permanently injured wild and exotic animals. They share these animal ambassadors through Zoo to You outreach programs to educate children in school and the public of all ages about conservation. 

Before the show, I met David’s wife Lisa, who’s in charge of Media Relations. She immediately handed me a baby kangaroo (yet unnamed, but they’re leaning toward Matilda) in a cloth pouch for me to hold. Wow! Not everyone gets to come nose to nose with a six-month-old kangaroo. This baby was kicked out by its mother when a new baby turned up. 

Click on photo for larger image

Tallulah delights the crowd

The crowd was first introduced to the gorgeous Tallulah, a West African Crowned Crane, a diva who strutted and honked to our delight and was fed beetle larvae by a gaggle of children. 

Then, Peeve, a Black and White Ruffed Lemur, arrived on the scene, and stayed for a long time, climbing on people’s shoulders and heads, licking necks, hanging from a rope, and endearing himself to everyone with his antics. No one was exempt. If Peeve were a kid, he’d be the class clown. He later returned for another go at the crowd, and they loved it, and him. 

Lisa said, “Many of our exotic animals (such as lemurs) are confiscated because they’re illegal to own in California. People buy them as babies in Nevada and smuggle them here. They’re either confiscated or when the animals get larger, or sick because if they can’t take them to the vet, they’re abandoned.” 

Click on photo for larger image

Lisa Jackson holding Peeve

I was surprised at how calm and comfortable the animals were while interacting with the crowd. Lisa explained, “First, after they’re confiscated, we try to get them healthy, and then we have to teach them to trust people.” And they must be calm enough to travel and appear on shows such as Good Morning America. Most of the animals Jack Hanna, David’s mentor and close friend, would take on television shows were from David’s sanctuary.

But not all their animals become ambassadors. The sanctuary has one of only three Slow Loris, a venomous mammal, in the country. And even though they knew a mountain lion rescued from one of California’s largest forest fires wouldn’t be suitable for school programs, they took it in. 

Click on the photo for larger image

David Jackson looks on as Devin meets the baby kangaroo 

A spider monkey rescued 25 years ago became one of their greatest ambassadors. Maya was found by animal control in an LA garbage dumpster very sick and nearly dead. It took six months, but once she was healthy and strong enough, they introduced her to new friends at the zoo. Maya visits schools almost daily so Zoo to You can share her story. 

David said, “There is no better way to inspire children to protect wildlife than to connect then with our animal ambassadors.”

Next we were treated to the company of a beautiful Kookaburra from Australia, who entertained us (while perched on Lisa’s hand) with a litany of laugh-like sounds, her large sharp beak evidence of the fact that she catches and eats rodents.

David saved the biggest surprise for the end. The crowd backed away and gasped as he brought in Spike, an American Alligator, who was confiscated from a crack house drug raid. Lisa told me earlier in the day that drug dealers get alligators to scare customers. Spike is a veteran ambassador, and presided over us like an old monarch, with only an occasional blink of his eyelids, patiently letting every finger and hand stroke his armor-like skin. 

Click on photo for larger image

David brings in Spike to meet the crowd

But let’s backtrack to what led these animals and Lisa and David, to our Sawdust Festival.  Well, of course, the wildlife connection is Chris, whose love for exotic animals began in 1979 when he traveled to his aunt and uncle’s zoo in Oregon. He interacted with lions, tigers, and bears, became instantly obsessed, and began drawing wild animals. For him, it was the defining moment that sent him in a certain trajectory in his life.  

Chris’ combined love of adventure (as a boy, he was a huge fan of Tom Sawyer) and animals has led him to all seven continents (one more trip to Antarctica and he’ll have been to all continents twice). At 19, he was accepted into the FOA, one of the youngest artists in its history, and has participated in Laguna’s art festivals for 40 years.

He considers himself very fortunate to be able to do what he loves for a living, which then provides the means to travel. He’s seen a pink dolphin in the Amazon, frolicked with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic, and in his long career, met countless celebrities such as, Jack Hanna, Jane Goodall, and Mrs. Disney. However, of all the places he’s visited, his favorite is the wilderness of Yosemite.

Click on photo for larger image

Wildlife Artist Chris Hoy gets a helping hand from Peeve

That brings us to Chris’ encounter with David at Zoo to You. After more than two decades of traveling, he wanted to hold a bald eagle, and discovered that David had some at his sanctuary. Chris visited, and their shared passion for animals resulted in a lasting friendship, and led to Thursday’s show. Lucky for Laguna. 

Thank you, David and Lisa for bringing your critters to the Sawdust and for the extraordinary work you do for animals. And thanks, Chris for hosting their visit. It was a wild day.

More of Chris’ stories (and he has a lot of them) will appear in a future Creature Feature.

For further information on Zoo to You, visit,, or for Chris’ info.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” ― Martin Buber


Here’s a gallery with more of Mary Hurlbut’s amazing photos:

A Night with Janis Joplin sets the Playhouse ablaze, with one standing ovation after another


One night wasn’t enough, let me say that right now. I’ll be going back.

Before Sunday evening, the closest I’d gotten to Janis Joplin was seeing the stage where she performed at The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. 

But on Sunday, it only took one look at the Laguna Playhouse stage to realize this was going to be a special night, a “happening,” as we used to call them. Yes, it involved the most lighting ever used at the Playhouse, but something else shone brighter…an aura, mysterious and mythical and drenched in nostalgia, that enveloped the audience throughout the evening. 

This concert style revue was created, written and directed by Randy Johnson. It was brought to the Laguna Playhouse under the leadership of Executive Director Ellen Richard and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham, and they are to be applauded for this dazzling choice.

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted Photo

Kelly McIntyre as Janis Joplin in A Night with Janis Joplin

Even though Kelly McIntyre looks and stunningly sounds like Joplin, it isn’t an impersonation or a re-creation, it’s as if Kelly channels Joplin’s raw emotion and pain in her electrifying performance. Her hair swinging, her voice raspy, the rendition of Piece of My Heart brought the audience to their feet. She punctuates her singing with dialogue about her childhood in Texas, occasionally sipping from a bottle of Southern Comfort.

The show also pays homage to Joplin’s musical influences. Masterfully interwoven in the revue are unforgettable performances by the singers who comprise the Joplinaires/Chantels; Sharon Catherine Brown as Blues Singer, Tawny Dolley as Etta James, Carol Hatchett as Odetta and Bessie Smith, and Amma Osei as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. 

And eight blazing hot musicians create a formidable presence on stage; Todd Olson, Mark Chosak, Michael Praisler, Aiden Moore, Aaron O. Smith, Patrick Lenertz, David Catalan, and Shannon Ford. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dianne

Plenty of attendees choose to dress appropriately: here’s Joy Vansell

The behind the scene people should also be commended: Scenic Designer, Brian Prather; Costume Designer, Amy Clark; Lighting Designer, Ryan O’Gara; Sound Designer, Rafe Carlotto, Production Stage Manager, Hethyr Verhoef, Associate Director, Grady McLeod Bowman; Music Director, Todd Olson; Original Music Arrangements, Len Rhodes; Operations Manager, Jim Prodger. 

The brilliant performances by Kelly McIntyre and the other singers, the band, lighting, sets, the clothes, all blend together to cast a magic and musical spell on the audience.

If you’re lucky enough to experience A Night with Janis Joplin at Laguna Playhouse, do not, I repeat, do not take a pair of the earplugs from the container on the bar.  You will want to hear every note. And every note will haunt you.

The show runs through Sept. 10. 

The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.

        For tickets, go to or by calling 949-497-2787.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

A mentorship program that really clicks, part 2


I feel so blessed to cover the arts for Stu News. I feel even more blessed when I have the opportunity to cover a story like this one, about the Festival of Arts mentorship program with the young photographers in the Boys & Girls Club’ Photo Club. 

Watching budding photographers Sade, Alexy, Fatima, Joanna, Kimberly, and Alex being mentored by Laguna’s best at the Festival of Arts, I felt like I was seeing future Festival artists in the making. 

What a privilege to witness something so special, especially under the guidance of FOA photographer mentors, Tom Lamb, Jeff Rovner, Mitch Ridder, Jacques Garnier, Rick Ferncase, and Gar Cropser. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alex I., 8,

Coin, Alex, 8: “The settings on the camera allowed me to get such a focused and sharp image of my professional and his coin. It’s one of the first photos I took, and I am so proud of it.”

LCAD alum Isaac Sanchez is the art specialist at the Boys & Girls’ and oversees their Photo Club. He and volunteer Mary Church, who was integral in starting the mentorship program, introduced the young photographers. 

“This is my photo club and I am really proud of these guys. And I am really stoked to see what you can get out of them, and see where they can go with it, because I really think that this group of kids we’ve got right now, they’ve got an eye for it,” Sanchez said. “I realized that as soon as I took them off automatic to manual. It just started coming natural. You can see it in some of the photos. I think it’s a great start of their age.”

The Photo Critique – learning from the best

The day started with a critique of the Club’s work with photos spread out on the table so the mentors could see them and provide constructive feedback. 

“Each of them kind of have a different feel to it and I think they did a good job as you can tell,” Sanchez said.

Immediately upon seeing their photography work, collective words of praise were heard from the mentors.

Sade kicked off the session.

“This one, we were focusing on portraits so we took a couple of models at the Boys & Girls Club and we took pictures of them,” Sade said. “And I took pictures of him because I like the lighting. I like how half of his face is dark and how half of his face is light.”

“What is the motivation for the light?” asked Ferncase. “Is that an actual source or is that a light simply for effect?” 

Sade said she liked the effect.

Sanchez asked Sade what she liked about it. He asked her for the word she had used when she described it to him earlier at the Club.

Sade said, “Dramatic. I like that it’s dramatic.”

“I think that is very beautiful. And there is so much emotion in his hand gesture and his eyes,” Rovner said, about a second photo Sade shared. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Sade M., 9,

Balance, Sade, 9: “It felt like she was struggling to balance on her feet, the rocks are smooth and she’s just strong enough to stay up, I love focusing on the little details.”

Joanna was up next. It was exciting to see everyone leaning in, getting close to the work, and being so engaged.

Joanna said of her subject, “We tried to put half of her face in the lighting and the other half on the dark side.”

“It’s got a nice kick. It’s like film lighting where you have your key light here, which looks like it’s motivated from a window and then you have this kick, which is sort of a warm source, as opposed to a cooler one, and it’s a really nice effect,” Ferncase said.

“I like the location. Often the photographers who have not had a lot of experience will put their subject right in the middle of the frame. And the fact that you placed her over there, it just offers a little visual excitement that you don’t get when the person is right there in the middle,” Cropser said.

Kimberly shared a shot that she thought worked well. “I like the angle of it and the background. It’s kind of blurry and it focuses on this part,” said Kimberly.

“I think it’s good because if you have to tell a story with a photograph, which I think was the assignment, I think that one does a very good job of it. And I like the fact that the main model was in the corner looking out toward the rest of them, which is talking about the eyes,” Garnier said. “See the eyes are pointing toward that negative space in the background. And I think that’s really important.”

Fatima talked about a piece she chose. “What I like about this picture is the camera, but I think it would be better if it was more visible,” Fatima said. 

Lamb suggested the idea of an assignment with a frame within a frame. 

“You could do that with mirrors or you could do that with the camera itself. You could have a mirror that’s reflecting everything backward too,” said Lamb.

Alexy talked about the photo she chose. “I actually adopted this photo. I thought it was cool because of the motion, like the way her hair is blowing that way. I would probably focus her face more, but I really like the motion.”

The mentors concurred, commenting how impressed they were with their work and talent, especially for their young age. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Kimberly O., 11,

Floral Composition, Kimberley, 11: “A tight restricted composition of a flower that shows off color and shape language.”

Tour of Art, viewing the mentor photographers’ work at their booths

The mentees were eager to see the work of their great mentors, imaging what it would be like to be a professional photographer exhibiting at the FOA. 

Jeff Rovner was first the first stop on the tour de talent. His 16-year-old daughter Haley was on hand for the day, volunteering as the model for the shoot that followed the tour. 

“I am a circus performer and my dad takes pictures of my circus. I am a hula hoop dancer,” said Haley, who is a member of Le PeTiT CiRqUe, a nonprofit group of youngsters who perform acrobatics and circus acts.

She is the source of inspiration for Rovner’s work. 

“I got a chance to travel with and be with the circus group during their rehearsals and their performances,” Rovner said. “These are portraits really, but they are portraits in action.” 

The group marveled at his work and were in awe of Haley’s talent, punctuating both with a resounding, “Wow!” They were very curious and asked a lot of questions, including about how he could get such a close-up view. 

“I did the shoot from 20 feet up, and I was on a great big crane that got me up to her height, so I could take a picture straight on. But she’s very high above the ground,” Rovner said. That ignited more wows.

Lamb showed his work, explaining that all his photos were taken from a helicopter.

“Look at this picture here, it’s an aerial photograph and someone said it looked like a drawing on a legal pad. But it’s really way up in the air. What else do you see there?” asked Lamb. 

One of them saw a bicycle, others saw a figure, a balloon, and a bowling pin.

“It’s amazing, it’s kind of like the ink blot test. You just don’t know,” said Lamb.

Ferncase’s work was next on the tour. 

“If your work is about depth of field my work is almost the opposite. I’ve taken the depth of field out of all of this. All this is about trying to eliminate the clutter and distractions from our lives,” Ferncase said. “Because I feel like we’re too busy all the time and we don’t focus on things well enough. So this is a message to myself to stop and smell the roses and focus. So I have chosen buildings around Orange County and Los Angeles. I’ve taken everything out of the photograph – blacked out everything that I didn’t think was important.”

“I like how it looks like it’s a sketch,” said Sade.

Ridder shared work that he’s exhibiting in the year’s Festival, photos he took in Cuba, a year and a half ago, when the country first started letting American tourists in.

“I shoot what is going on in the streets. It’s called street photography. I wanted to go down and take pictures before things kind of shift and change,” said Ridder. “So it’s taking pictures of the old buildings, some are 500 years old, a lot of old American cars, street vendors; there’s a lot of fun things to shoot.” 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Joanna R., 11,

Tiny House, Joanna, 11: “I chose this photo because of how the small house feels real, and how it feels like a real place in a real time, even though it isn’t.”

He explained that his work is printed on canvas instead of paper to avoid reflection and glare and to make it more accessible and durable. 

When they visited Garnier’s booth he asked, “Can you tell me what makes these different than all the different photographs?” They answered that the photos are all black and white.

  “I used to shoot with infrared film for years. Now you can modify your camera. So what I wanted to do was take pictures of ordinary things in Orange County that I thought were interesting,” Garnier said. “So the filter does the work of making the leaves white. I like to juxtapose the nature with the things that were put there by people. I like to contrast textures and things like that.”

The young photographers were particularly taken with the bright and vibrant colors in Cropser’s landscapes. 

“Instead of just providing all the details, I would rather have you take a look at some the pictures and ask me some of the questions of how they speak to you,” said Cropser.

Sade said she liked the way the sun was coming down.

“Because I am interested in having vibrant colors, look at the dimensional field. I want the sun low,” Cropser said. “In terms of light, people say all the time how do you get those vibrant colors. So it really goes back to the time of day. And the sun’s position.” His wife Geraldine was present too, she was a great source of information for the inquisitive group. 

Strike a pose – model shoot with Haley

After being inspired by seeing the work of their mentors, the Club members couldn’t wait to start shooting their own masterpieces. They put the straps of their newly donated Rebel Canon cameras around their neck, while carefully holding them with both hands.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alexy T., 10,

Secrets, Alexy, 10: “I liked this photo, mainly because of how the wall draws your eye to the model, but because she’s so whimsical, as if she has a secret to tell. She knows something about you, and you don’t even know it yet.”

Lamb asked the group to think about how they wanted Haley to pose, telling them it was their job to give her direction. It was obvious that they were having a blast shooting Haley in myriad poses and places. 

They moved around to capture the best shot, exploring the right angle, some from overhead, others shot from the ground up. 

“It’s like we’re paparazzi,” they said laughing, loving every minute of it. 

Pairing up with the pros for photo adventures

Next, they were each paired up with a Festival mentor to explore what subjects they wanted to shoot.

Fatima paired up with Ferncase. He asked what she liked to photograph.

“I like shooting nature because it’s so green,” Fatima said. 

As she shot various trees, plants, and flowers, Ferncase suggested that succulents make nice pictures. He also stressed the importance of having the right light, pointing 

to various spots, from dappled to bright.

Sade ventured out with Ridder. She was mesmerized by Tom Swimm, as he was painting on the grounds. “I liked how he mixed the colors, how careful and how amazing his painting is,” she said.

“There’s really warm afternoon light, so he’s probably painting this just like he is starting that one,” Ridder said as they visited Swimm’s booth. “With the bright colors underneath and the darker colors over, that’s how he gets that feeling that it’s late afternoon, just before sunset. That’s what you want to think about with photography, think about quality of light.” 

Alexy scouted the grounds with Garnier. “We shot abstract shapes and lines, whatever we thought was interesting. I probably found the nature most interesting, there’s a lot of different colors and shapes around here,” Alexy said. “I like to shoot nature because it’s really beautiful. I love going out in nature to take pictures.” 

Joanne and Kimberly explored the grounds with Cropser. He said they talked about color and shadows and took pictures focusing on pieces with a lot of colors, pattern, and design. “We have some really neat perspectives,” Cropser said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Fatima R., 10,

Trash Horse, Fatima, 10: “This horse was beautiful, so seeing it beside trash was interesting, it felt very surreal. Like a statement.”

Tour of the Junior Art Exhibit

The young photographers enjoyed looking at work in the Junior Art Exhibit.

“Looking at the work, it looks like a trail to some place mysterious, Kimberly said of one entry. “I like the different colors it has and how in the distance it’s like a cooler blue color, so it looks like it might be cold over there.”

Sade pointed out to a piece and said, “I like the cool angles.”

Kimberly and Joanne both said, “My favorite part of today is when we walked around and started taking pictures of the paintings.”

Alexy agreed and said she liked the tips and skills she learned from the Festival mentors.

Before they left, the Photo Club members thanked their mentors profusely, glowing from their priceless experience. 

Some of the mentees said they would like to be professional photographers when they grow up. I believe with their talents they all can.

Until next time…so much exciting photography mentoring, so little time!


Take a look at more Jeff Rovner pics in this gallery…

G Ray Kerciu’s Historical Art Show proves timely after the events in Charlottesville

Nationally renowned artist G. Ray Kerciu opened his temporary Pop Up Art Show ‘Five Decades of Art’ to a big crowd in Laguna Beach last weekend. The exhibit, which runs until August 31, showcases artwork ranging from 1960s historical paintings supporting civil rights and anti-segregation to lithography, sculptures and more recent landscape paintings.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Debra Oakland

G Ray Kerciu

Kerciu’s opening reception highlighted and discussed his painting Never, which caused controversy in 1963 during his exhibit at the University of Mississippi because of controversy over the depiction of the confederate flag (the word ‘never’ was superimposed over the flag). The painting drew attention again last weekend as the Charlottesville, Virginia events unfolded on the same day as the art show opening. 

During the tumultuous times in the 1960s, Kerciu was arrested over a violation of state law prohibiting desecration of the confederate flag – under circumstances that are now eerily reflected in recent events. 

Kerciu documented in his paintings what he experienced on campus during that period. Charges were later dropped, as chronicled in Kerciu’s book ‘Radical Retrospective’. This ushered in a period of intense media attention, and Kerciu was featured in publications such as Artnews, Artforum, Time Magazine and World Book Encyclopedia, raising awareness of his work in the art world.

In the years following, several other pieces of Kerciu’s art work became popular and are featured in selected public collections across the country today including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Michigan State University Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum; the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and locally at the Laguna Art Museum.

The Pop Up Art Show is still available for viewing by appointment at 2894 S Coast Hwy until August 31 by contacting 949-433-8712. The viewing includes discussions with the artist about his five decades of art and how it has evolved since his first historical paintings were featured. 

A venerated member of the community, G. Ray Kerciu has lived in Laguna Beach for more than fifty years. He is a past President of Laguna Art Museum. Surprisingly, this is his first solo exhibition in Laguna Beach. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Debra Oakland

Opening night crowd at G Ray Kerciu’s August art show

Kerciu rose to prominence in the art world in 1963 after his controversial solo exhibition at the University of Mississippi where Kerciu was arrested, and charged with violating a state law prohibiting desecration of the confederate flag.  

The following year Kerciu accepted a teaching post at what is now known as California State University, Fullerton where he taught until his retirement in 2002. He was also featured as a guest artist in prestigious print houses such as Tamarind in Los Angeles and the William Hayter Atelier in Paris. 

More than a decade after his retirement from teaching and fifty years after his whirlwind introduction into the art world, Kerciu remains committed to his art.

G. Ray Kerciu’s book Radical Perspective is available on Amazon.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Young photographers enjoy a mentorship program that really clicks


It was a picture-perfect day at the Festival of Arts, which was rather fitting for the exciting Festival of Arts Mentorship Program with the Laguna Beach Boys & Girls Club’s Photo Club about to take place.

The six young photographers from the Photo Club were in for a real treat. And so were we as we enjoyed exploring the talents of Alex, Joanna, Kimberly, Sade, Alexy, and Fatima

“The Boys and Girls Club has a Photo Club, an Art Club, and they have art shows and photo shows that we sometimes jury at the Festival,” said Tom Lamb. “But in the summer, they have a Summer Photo Club and we mentor them.” 

The day consisted of different learning sessions working with Festival photographers Tom Lamb, Jacques Garnier, Jeff Rovner, Gar Cropser, Rick Ferncase, and Mitch Ridder.

 It started with a critique of the young photographers’ work, followed by a tour of the Festival photographers’ work, a photo session with a model, pairing with a Festival photographer to take pictures on the grounds, and a visit to the Junior Art Exhibit. I had the pleasure of spending the day with them and will be writing a two-part story about it. 

Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Mary Church, and the Art Specialist who runs the photography program at the Boys & Girls Club Isaac Sanchez were excited about the day.

Click on photo for a larger image

Group of Boys and Girls

Church got acquainted with the Boys & Girls Club through her volunteering efforts with the Hearts of Montage. She told me the told the heartfelt story of how the mentorship program got started.

 “How it all came to fruition is my fiancé, who used to exhibit in the FOA in 2008, passed away. I presented the idea to Tom Lamb and Pam Estes to have a photography mentoring program at the FOA as a living legacy. We sat down and worked out the details and everything clicked,” Church said. “We’ve been doing it ever since 2009; it’s a whole organic thing.” 

Through the generosity of a donor the young photographers now have new digital cameras to work with. She said they really rely on donors for the program to keep it going and urged anyone if they to donate to please do so.

“The most important part is seeing the joy of these kids. They had been working with point and shoot cameras up until this year’s program,” Church said. “Thanks to the generosity of a donor they could move up to the next level with these Canon Rebel cameras. It just makes my heart so happy.”

Church explained how the program works.

They’ve had some portraiture sessions and part of the program is to go through and critique the works with the professional Festival photographers. 

“The children are going to share an image and we’re going to go through and critique their work,” said Church. “Then they’ll go on a tour of the Festival photographer’s work and show them their source of inspiration. And then, we’re going to break up into teams, so they can take them over to the Festival photographer’s booths and show them what they do and what their inspiration is.” 

Next, they worked with Hayley Rovner as a model, the young daughter of Jeff Rovner, one of the outstanding photographers who have booths at the Festival She generously volunteered for the day. Then they broke into groups and each child was given a mentor and picked a focus they wanted to work on that day with the guidance of a Festival photographer, Church explained.

Fun! Fun! Fun! Read all the amazing details of the mentorship in part two of my story.

Until next time…so much exciting photography mentoring, so little time!

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster.

Katie Ford is our Ad Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Instagram Manager.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: for questions about advertising


Email: with news releases, letters, etc.