By OCinSite At-Large | June 15, 2011 3:18 PM
1941 Roy Ropp dedication, Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters.
Early 1900s: The natural beauty of Laguna Beach attracts hundreds of artists, who flourish in the small village. The area gains a reputation as an art colony.
1932: Laguna artists struggle as the Great Depression keeps tourists from visiting. In order to draw much-needed business back to the art colony, a summer festival is created to draw visitors from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics south to Laguna Beach. Artists hang paintings on fences, trees and buildings along Main Street, effectively transforming the town into one enormous art gallery for the week. The Festival of Arts is born.
1933: The artists stage a publicity stunt to draw people to the second annual Festival of Arts. A parade of local volunteers costumed as famous artworks march downtown along Coast Highway to the festival, where they later appear inside a tiny curtained set, holding their poses as “living pictures.” The event is called “The Spirit of the Masters Pageant.” It’s a smash hit.
1935: Roy Ropp expands the “living pictures” show into a full production with music, narration and painted backdrops. Ropp renames the new-and-improved event The Spirit of the Masters.
1936: The Spirit of the Masters is renamed the Pageant of the Masters. It concludes with Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” its traditional finale ever since.
1941: After moving from location to location between 1933 and 1940, the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters find their permanent home at the new community central park at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.
1942 - 1945: World War II halts Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters for four years. It returns in 1946 with a new pageant director and the introduction of the junior art gallery.
1963: The popular festival tram service, precursor to today’s free shuttle service, is begun.
1965: Fed up with the so-called “politics” of the Festival of Arts, a small group of artists break away and form their own art show, which consists of hanging their paintings on fences along Glenneyre Street at Park Avenue. It’s a hit. The 30 to 50 exhibitors call themselves the “Splinters.” The press calls them the “Reject Festival.”
1968 Sawdust Festival (pictured: Julie Kahn on tower/Joe Miller at the pottery wheel.)
1967: The Splinters hold their second juried art show in a lot along North Coast Highway. They spread sawdust on the ground to combat the dust and mud and the media now calls it the “Sawdust Festival.” Growing unrest between those who want a traditional juried show and those who prefer a less structured venue causes the group to split. The artists who want a non-juried show move up the canyon and form what is known today as the Sawdust Festival. The remaining artists form Art-A-Fair.
1968: The Sawdust Festival premiers at its new permanent home at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd. The artists continue the tradition of spreading sawdust on the ground and keep the nickname, which they legally change in the early 1970s.
1972: For the first time, the Sawdust Festival starts charging admission—25 cents a head.
1973: Art-A-Fair moves to a large property adjacent to Hotel Laguna and doubles in size to 110 artists.
1988: After a couple more moves, Art-A-Fair finally finds its permanent home at 777 Laguna Canyon Rd., in the heart of the festival district. It now features approximately 130 exhibiting members.
2000: An attempt to move the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters away from Laguna Beach is met with swift and widespread resistance, and a board recall election. The festival signs a 40-year lease with the City of Laguna Beach two years later.
For more about the festivals and what’s in store this summer, read A Summer of Art
(Photos courtesy Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters)