A real Steal for young artists

Annual Laguna Beach fundraiser aims to benefit drawing, painting classes for underprivileged youths.

June 20, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Fatemeh Burnes' "Breach" is one of the items for Saturday's "The Conspiracy to Steal Art" auction at Saltfineart.
Fatemeh Burnes' "Breach" is one of the… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Diane Brigham customarily encounters youth eager to pursue their interests.

In her 33 years as an arts educator, she has found them thirsty for big dreams. A staggering number fall short, though, in resources and access to necessary opportunities.

"So many students have talent and motivation, but are not getting instruction and encouragement," she said. "They are devoted to making art, but have no chances at home or school to pursue advanced instruction."

That's where Ryman Arts — established 23 years ago by friends and family of Herbert Ryman, an artist famed for creating an illustration of Disneyland for Walt Disney — steps in.

This Los Angeles-based nonprofit offers free drawing and painting classes, as well as college and career guidance, to young art aficionados. It will be front and center as the charity of choice at the Conspiracy to Steal Art Auction in Laguna Beach on Saturday.


In its fourth year, this event reflects a first-time collaboration between three galleries: Saltfineart, Sue Greenwood Fine Art and the George Gallery.

Saltfineart owner Carla Tesak, who spent her childhood hanging art pieces with her "obsessive art collecting father," as she called him, previously hosted yearly auctions by herself.

Tesak, a Laguna Beach resident, places a high value on supporting local businesses.

"I think Laguna is unique and one of the few places in modern-day America where mom-and-pop stores have a chance," she said. "I think they add vibrancy, diversity and personality to a community. You have someone that actually knows you and the population thinking of what we might need — not some buyer in Minnesota."

For Lisa Aslanian, who owns the George Galley, Ryman Arts was the final piece of the puzzle.

"The event is about art, and we want to give to a school that invests in adding art to the world and helping kids with big talent and little means get proper art educations," she said.

Toward this end, 43 items — from musical sculptures to overflowing teacups and hyper-realism to abstraction — are up for grabs. Each one is valued at half the retail price or with size, medium and the artist's background in mind.

The name, Tesak said, comes from the idea that the deals on the table are good enough to be considered "steals." In keeping with the theme, guests will be greeted by auctioneers in cop outfits, handcuffs and "big heist" tickets, alongside brick-oven pizzas, salad and wine.

The auction represents strength in numbers.

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