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Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters Celebrates 90th Anniversary




DANCING GIRLS AT CAIRO: Can you tell who is real and who is a painting?


June 14, 2022~Join the Festival of Arts in celebrating 90 years of art. Set in a beautiful open-air gallery, this highly acclaimed juried fine art show features the work of over 100 award-winning Orange County artists.

From paintings, glass, ceramics, photography and more, the Festival showcases a variety of mediums and artwork styles for avid collectors and festivalgoers to browse and purchase directly from the artists. In addition to the artwork on display, visitors can enjoy art demonstrations, live music performances on select days, opportunities to meet the artists and more.

Ninety years ago, the United States and the world were suffering from the tight finances, scarce resources, and emotional turmoil of the Great Depression. Even so, artists arriving in Laguna Beach were inspired by the coastline, the rambling hills, the vibrant and ever-changing ocean, and the freedom to follow their dreams. And in 1932, a group of those artists banded together to find a way to raise spirits and, they hoped, sell some of their art.

Elaborating on newspaper editor Sumner Crosby’s idea for an “Intellectual Carnival,” local artist John Hinchman presented plans for a weeklong “Festival of the Arts.” The Laguna Beach Art Association and City Council supported Hinchman’s idea.

That summer, while around two dozen artists hung their paintings on fences, trees, and buildings along Laguna’s main street, hoping to lure tourists to the first Festival of Arts, other artists opened their home-studios to the public. Music, colorful signs and banners, parades and entertainment added to the celebratory ambiance of the event, which turned Laguna Beach into one enormous art gallery. Many artists happily arranged their easels and chairs and painted throughout the festival. And, yes, some even sold their paintings. It was an auspicious start to the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts.



OUTSIDE THE THEATER Are there two or three models?



Opening day was on August 13, 1932 and Flower Market by Virginia Woolley, was one of the first paintings sold. It is now in the Festival of Arts’ permanent collection and was featured as the 1999 Festival of Arts poster.

Today, the Festival of Arts Permanent Collection, expanded annually through purchases made from the exhibiting artists’ work, contains more than 1,000 pieces of fine art: paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, even furniture and jewelry – a collection as eclectic as the festival itself. In the collection’s trust is the Lorna Mills Collection; upon her death, bank president Mills entrusted her entire collection of paintings to the Festival of Arts.

The Festival’s Collection is housed at foaNORTH and occasionally loaned to local institutions like the Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Beach City Hall and others.



FIRST BOARD OF DIRECTORS pose in front of the festival entrance.



In 1933, the artists staged a publicity stunt (the first of many) to draw attention to the exhibit.  A parade of local volunteers costumed as characters in famous works of art – Whistler’s Mother, Mona Lisa and Atlas, among others – marched downtown along the Coast Highway to the location of the 2nd Festival of Arts, where they later appeared, one at a time, inside a tiny, booth-like set, holding their poses as tableaux vivants — “living pictures.” Together, the parade and show were entitled “The Spirit of the Masters Pageant.”

The show was so brief that the audience didn’t even sit down to enjoy the spectacle; they merely took a break from viewing the artists’ displays to peek at the “living pictures.” Local vaudevillian Lolita Perine, and businessmen Howard Sheridan and Roy Ropp all had a hand in that first, inauspicious presentation. This effort brought volunteers and artists together; the sense of spirit and community prevailed, and organizers felt the Festival was worth trying again the next year.

In 1935, Roy Ropp took charge of the “living pictures” and transformed their presentation, with help from his wife Marie, into a full production with music, narration and painted backdrops. Ropp also rechristened the performance, “The Pageant of the Masters.”

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters were transient at first, moving around Laguna from one location to another between 1933 and 1940. In 1941, the City of Laguna Beach agreed to purchase the present six-acre Festival site from the Irvine Company with funds including monies “gifted” to the city by the Festival of Arts.

The Festival of Arts Fine Art Show is one of the longest-running art exhibitions in the state; it has exhibited artworks by hundreds of Southern California artists every year since 1932, except during World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Festival and Pageant were dark.

From its humble beginnings, the Festival of Arts has grown into a world-famous cultural institution, awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships and grants to art and cultural organizations. And yet the mission of the event remains the same: to promote, produce and sponsor events and activities that encourage the appreciation, study and performance of the arts. The juried fine art exhibition is one means of fulfilling its mission – providing local artists with a venue where they can display and sell their art. Media include, but are not limited to, paintings, mixed-media, sculpture, pastels, drawings, serigraphs, photographs, ceramics, jewelry, fiber arts, etched and stained glass, hand-crafted furniture, and even scrimshaw.

“The Festival of Arts is truly fortunate to count among its exhibitors some of the most talented artists in Orange County,” says Festival of Arts president David Perry. “It’s not only our mission but our privilege to provide them with a forum in which to share their creativity with hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer. And since their works are available for purchase, patrons have the opportunity to bring home amazing, original pieces to be enjoyed for a lifetime.”

The spirit of the founders remains strong after 90 years, summed up by: “Excellence in art, entertainment and community support since 1932.”

And John Hinchman’s goal is realized year after year.

General Admission: Weekdays $10, Weekends $15; Students/Seniors: Weekdays $7, Weekends $11; Children 6-12: $5; Free Admission for Children 5 and under, Military, and Laguna Beach Residents.