Summer Fun at the Laguna Beach Art Festivals in California

The charming little beach side artist’s colony of Laguna Beach, in Southern California, is the perfect summer vacation destination for people who love art festivals.  In addition to all the popular activities you can find at any Southern California beach town, including swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, hiking and more, you can also enjoy four delightfully different art experiences.  Learn more about the festivals and decide which one might be right for you!

Festival of the Arts - Laguna Beach art festivals

Enjoy art under the stars at the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts, featuring artists from Orange County, California. (Photo taken by author.)

Festival of the Arts

The 84th year of the Festival of the Arts Fine Art Show runs each year from the weekend after July 4th until the end of August.  It is ranked as one of the top rated art festivals in the United States and each year features the work of 140 of Orange County’s most talented artists.   USA Today readers voted it one of the Top Five art festivals in the country.

The outdoor festival features live music in the evenings, hands-on art activities, and an exhibition of artwork submitted by local students, in addition to displays of work by local artists from Orange County.

Like the other nearby art festivals, visitors can purchase art from any of the artists who are exhibiting and selling their work.  Items include paintings, sculptures, photographs and jewelry.

Festival tickets are $8 during the week, $12 on weekends and $5 for seniors and students.  Visitors also have the option of buy a Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts for $24. It provides admission to the Festival of the Arts, as well as the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair.

Below is a photo taken during the Festival of the Arts four years ago.

Pageant of the Masters

During the Festival of the Arts, local volunteers put on an unbelievable performance in which real people take their places inside oversized frames and recreate famous works of art.  The works are so realistic that it is not unusual for members of the audience to believe they are looking at painted murals.

These “living pictures” are designed with painted backgrounds so that they recreate both classical and contemporary works of art.  The characters wear costumes and pose to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.

This event is one that is not to be missed by any art lover who visits Laguna Beach in the summer.

What if you didn’t purchase advance tickets?  Each morning around 6:00 a.m., people line up at the ticket window in front of the Festival of the Arts (where the Pageant of the Masters is held) to purchase the tickets that have been turned back in.  The volunteer performers are given free tickets to each of their performances during the summer.  They give these tickets out to their friends and family.  However, most of them do not need their allotted tickets every night of the summer, so they turn them back in and visitors can purchase them at the ticket window the morning of the performance.

Depending on the night of the week and location of your seats, ticket prices range from $20 to $172.  You can rent binoculars and seat cushions outside the doors to the performance area.  The binoculars are especially popular with people who want to watch the people in the paintings to see if they blink!

In the Tweet below, you can see an example of a couple setting up a scene for a “living picture” during the Pageant of the Masters.

Laguna Art-A-Fair

Almost directly across Laguna Canyon Road from the Festival of the Arts is the site of Laguna Art-A-Fair.  It has been a part of the Laguna Beach art festivals for the past 50 years.

While the submissions to the Festival of the Arts is limited to Orange County artists, Art-A-Fair features works from around the world and across the United States.  Works include paintings, sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, glass and wood.

Admission prices range from $5.50 to $7.50, or visitors can purchase a Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts for $24. It provides admission to the Festival of the Arts, as well as the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair.

Below is a photo showing the beautiful setting of Art-A-Fair.

Sawdust Art & Craft Festival

Just east of Laguna Art-A-Fair along Laguna Canyon Road is the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival.  This is the 50th year of this popular festival, as well.  The theme this year is “Celebrating the Soul of Art for 50 Years.”

The Sawdust Festival features the works of local Laguna Beach artists, only.  They exhibit and sell their original art and handcrafted items during the festival.  In addition, visitors can enjoy live entertainment on one of the three stages, watch artist demonstrations, and participate in art workshops.

One of the workshops which will take place will be at the ceramic center on the festival grounds.  During the free workshop visitors will get one-on-one instructions at the potter’s wheel.  After the class, the students can take home the greenware they created for free, or there will be an additional charge to glaze and fire their creation.  Later, students can either pick up their projects after they are finished or have the item shipped to their home.

There will also be classes in painting, printmaking, collages and other art forms.  The classes themselves are free, although some of them require a materials fee.

Admission prices range from $4 to $9 and, as mentioned above, visitors can purchase a Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts for $24.   The passport provides admission to the Festival of the Arts, as well as the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair.

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  1. Deb Jones
  2. Lin Jenkinson

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