Summer Tradition at the Sawdust Festival

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It isn’t truly summer until the Sawdust Art Festival opens its massive wooden doors in Laguna Canyon. For 53 years, the festival has showcased the work of dozens of Laguna Beach-based artists in one location. For those who have never been, in short, it’s an outdoor destination for artists and art enthusiasts paired with a sort of mini Downtown Disney-like experience for creative and natural immersion. 

Nestled behind a charming facade (currently adorned with a vibrant poppy mural by Cliff Wassmann), Sawdust occupies 3.5 acres in a grove of eucalyptus trees. With dozens of booths, all built and maintained by the artists themselves, it creates quite the meandering path of art galleries. While live music plays, art classes enlighten, and delicious food and refreshments fuel the spirits of both young and old. 

Part exhibition, part gathering place, the festival enchants visitors all day -- but at night, the festival really comes alive and takes on the mystic feel of an illuminated fairy village. 

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It’s perfect for meeting friends, discovering new art, listening to music, and sipping an ice cold beer. 

Roving through the stalls, guests can’t help but be amazed by the diversity and variety of art, much of which is made right there on the festival grounds. Booths serve as working studios for the artists, who sell and create there all summer long, their stalls becoming their summer office.

“I look forward to getting back into the rhythm of day-to-day studio work,” says Cindy Stalnaker, an artist making her 14th appearance at the festival this summer. She says she’s debuting new earring styles with multiple components of differing media, new hand-dyed silk scarves with brilliant, saturated colors, and whimsically painted lampshades. Stalnaker specializes in a technique called water-marbling in colors that are unique to her collections. 

Photographer Mark Sanderson, whose pigment-rich panoramic landscapes are a big hit with visitors and locals alike, says this summer (his eighth time at the festival) is unlike previous years already. “This is the first year that I’ve repeated building my booth in the same spot,” he says. “I will be in booth #329, right across from Studio One art classes.” 

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Studio One joins the Art Spot, Ceramics Center, and glass demonstration booth as four of the permanent art class locations. If you have visitors coming to town this summer, take a break from the beach and enroll in a fun, hands-on art class. Offerings range from creating jewelry like glass pendants to the always popular paint and sip classes that come with an inspirational glass of wine. Daytime classes and workshops are also available for kids of all ages. 

Whether you go every year or have yet to see what all the fuss is about, check out the Sawdust Festival this year. It harkens back to another time, and you’re bound to run into someone you know. And really, is there anything more Laguna Beach than an art festival? 

Sawdust Art Festival

June 28 - September 1, 2019

10am-10pm. Daily

935 Laguna Canyon Road

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Tickets: $9.00 adults, $7.00 seniors, $4.00 children 6-12.

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Victoria Kertz is a journalist and the co-founder of Third Street Writers in Laguna Beach. She loves local theatre, traveling, and dining out. Follow her on Instagram at @victoriakertz.