The first Festival of Arts, produced by local artist John H. Hinchman, was held in downtown Laguna, August 13-20, 1932. Los Angeles Olympic Games were also held that summer, July 30-August 14. The Festival was held on El Paseo, near Hotel Laguna. With no permanent location, the Festival was held at various venues during the next seven years.
The sixth annual Festival of Arts, held in a eucalyptus grove adja to the Woman’s Club (near the present site of City Hall), is dedicated to the “spirit of Laguna expressed in beauty, service, hospitality, friendliness, recreation, the arts and crafts.”
With Frank Cuprien serving as Master of Ceremonies once more, the 1938 Festival was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Roy Ropp considered the setting next to the Woman’s Club to be his favorite Festival location and negotiations between the City, the Festival and the Woman’s Club intensified, in hopes that this might become the permanent home of the Festival.
The Festival is held for the final time in the grove next to the Woman’s Club, following extensive efforts by the Festival and City to purchase the site. When no agreement could be reached, attention was focused on the present Festival location in Laguna Canyon, but a purchase agreement was not completed in time for the 1940 Festival.
For its final year prior to the successful purchase of its permanent home, the Festival was held at a new site near the bottom of the hill on Third Street. Up until this year, the Festivals had lasted no more than nine days. This year, it extends its run to fifteen days.
Irvine Bowl Recreation Park was dedicated as the permanent home of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Record attendance and ticket sales created intense anticipation for the 1942 Festival.
Festival exhibitor and future board member Russell Iredell is credited with the inauguration in 1947 of the Junior Art Exhibit, a perennial favorite of Festival visitors, featuring the works of student from Orange County schools (K-12) selected by a jury of public school art teachers.
In 1957, the Festival of Arts Scholarship Program was established to provide financial assistance for Laguna Beach High Schools students preparing for careers in various disciplines in the arts. Sally Dunn Reed, a senior graduating from Laguna Beach High, was awarded the very first scholarship of $1,000.
The Festival of Arts with a $1.5 million donation established the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Foundation, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation, in order to guarantee annual financial support for the arts in Laguna Beach.