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Mailbag: City's plein air heritage imperiled

October 28, 2010

City's plein air heritage imperiled

If you were out and about the week of Oct. 15, you probably saw some 50 artists from 13 states painting Laguna's landscape in town and in the canyons and hills. All this activity was part of the 12th Annual Plein Air Invitational sponsored by the Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn. (LPAPA). You may have even taken the opportunity to see the fruits of their labor at the Saturday night soiree and auction and public sale on Sunday.

While we were delighted at the quality and beauty of this year's efforts and the artists clearly enjoyed Laguna hospitality and atmosphere, our artist members and LPAPA face tough challenges in these trying times. These challenges threaten the plein air painting heritage that created and made Laguna Beach the community it is today.

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Maintaining our artists' financial balance is more challenging than ever. The cliché "starving artist" has never been so apt for many of our members. As art sustains and nurtures community, especially the heart and soul of Laguna Beach, the diminution or loss of a vibrant arts scene would be a tragedy of major proportions. This must be avoided. LPAPA is addressing this head-on.

Several months ago, I wrote that LPAPA was embarking upon a number of new initiatives set forth in our strategic plan to increase our financial strength, acquire a permanent exhibition space and to increase our visibility in the art world in order to better serve our artists and enrich our cultural life.

We have set plans in motion to videotape our popular artists' Paint Outs and post them on our website as an education and artist showcase tool. Look for the first of these in 2011. Through generous grants from the City and the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, we now have the financial resources to acquire display and lighting equipment for our artist events.

In addition, we are exploring alliances with other community organizations for shared exhibition space. We have reached agreement with the Pacific Art Foundation and The Irvine Museum for a high-profile artist event in 2011. This will allow our artists to increase their high-capability patron base.

But despite these positive steps forward, LPAPA still operates on a shoestring budget financed by member dues and proceeds from events.

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