Discover 101 Years of California Art at the Laguna Art Museum

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In 1918, there were no more than 300 people living in Laguna Beach. Not a group to sit back and let life happen without them, a few townspeople including Anna Hills, Edgar Payne, and a handful of other talented artists teamed up to form the Laguna Beach Art Association (LBAA). According to Laguna Art Museum’s website, the purpose of the group was to “advance the knowledge of and interest in art -- and to create a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between the painter and the public.”

And that they did. In 1929, the LBAA secured a location for their association and created what still stands today as the largest gallery in town, the Laguna Art Museum. Over the years the collection of art has grown to include donated works and loan exhibitions which has given Laguna Beach an impressive pedigree and reputation in the art realm, regularly drawing art connoisseurs from around the globe.

Marinta Skupin, Laguna Art Museum’s Curator of Education is in awe of the museums history. “It is wonderful to think that we have maintained the LBAA’s purpose for over 100 years and that the museum has continued to grow in professionalism and standard of excellence throughout this time,” she explains. “I’m very proud to work in a museum that today offers exhibitions and programming that are on par with the very best museums in the world.”

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Never one to blend in with the others, the Laguna Art Museum stands out in the fact that, unlike any other museum in the state, it collects only California art -- ranging across all periods and styles.

True to its Cali roots, Laguna Art Museum hasn’t let its fame get to its head, and is active in the community, hosting an impressive calendar of activities -- for everyone, not just for art’s elite. Every Thursday night the museum stays open until 9pm. With four Thursdays a month, the museum’s schedule includes:

First Thursdays: Art Walk.

Second Thursdays: music concerts in partnership with Laguna Beach Live.

Third Thursdays: a film screening.

Fourth Thursdays: featured talks from different artists, professors, and experts in the art space.

In 2013, the museum launched its Art & Nature Festival which features special exhibitions, a keynote speaker, film screenings, family activities, and a specially commissioned work of art, all on the theme of art’s engagement with the natural world. This year it will be held from November 7th-10th and will portray artwork from Los Angeles-based artist, Yorgo Alexopoulos.

It’s fun to imagine what Laguna as a town must have been like 101 years ago and what would have been discussed in those first LBAA meetings. I’d like to think the artists of Laguna’s past would be gratified in knowing how it all turned out. They were the ones who gave Laguna its artsy touch, and Laguna Art Museum over the years with all of its changes, are, collectively, the ones who have made it stick.

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Alexandra Mathieu is a freelance marketing strategist who likes to read, write, and draw. Find her on Instagram at @JustMissAlex.

Photos by: Tanner Chergosky