The Making of a Laguna Beach Masterpiece

A fantastic look at the Festival of Arts, the Pageant of the Masters and Laguna Beach through the eye of a 1958 camera.

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Looking Back: 85 Years at the Festival of Arts 1932-2017

A History Timeline

1932

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.
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1933

“Living pictures” were presented at 2nd annual Festival of Arts in “Spirit of the Masters Pageant.”
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1934

The Festival of Arts incorporated, September 29, 1934. Local businessman George A. Portus was elected the first Festival Board President.
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1935

Roy Ropp, having assumed direction of the “living pictures,” added a larger stage, painted backdrops, music and narration. He called his new and very popular program the Pageant of the Masters.
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1936

After building a bigger stage to accommodate his expanded Pageant, Roy Ropp concludes his second presentation with “The Last Supper,” its traditional finale ever since.
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1937

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.”
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1938

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.
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1939

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.
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1940

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.
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1941

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.
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1942-45

World War II halts Festival and Pageant for four years.
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1946

Festival and Pageant return with first of a series of new Pageant directors replacing Roy Ropp.
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1947

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.
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1953

A New Stage built and dedicated for the Irvine Bowl
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1955

Pan Am Airlines creates controversy and publicity bonanza by censoring visitor's guide with Pageant's re-creation of Venus de Milo on the cover
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1957

Donald Williamson designed the Festival of Arts dining pavilion, now known as Tivoli Terrace, which featured a dramatic paraboloid roof.
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1957

Pageant guest-star and volunteer Bette Davis "almost" appears in the Pageant.
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1957

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.
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1960

First Photography Exhibit
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1962

Festival Helps Found Laguna Beach School of Art, later renamed Laguna College of Art and Design.
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1963

Popular Festival Tram Service Begins
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1964

Architect, innovator and former Festival Board president Don Williamson appointed Pageant Director, serves 1964-1978.
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1966

The Sawdust Art Festival is established as an alternative festival without a jurying system
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1969

Festival Completes Forum Theater on Festival grounds
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1973

Thurl Ravenscroft serves as Narrator ("The Voice of the Pageant") 1973 - 1992
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1974

"Window to the Sea" Main Beach Dedication
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1978

New administrative building constructed on Festival grounds
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1979

Glen Eytchinson becomes new Pageant of the Master Director from 1979-1995
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1981

Dan Duling becomes Pageant Script Writer
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1989

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.
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1993

Fire and Flood cause $500,000 damage to Irvine Bowl and Festival grounds. Show still goes on summer 1994.
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1994

Skip Conover becomes Pageant narrator from 1994 - 2010
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1996

Diane Challis Davy appointed Pageant Director.
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1999

Wells Fargo Gallery, First Gala and Special Events
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2000

Attempt to move Festival and Pageant out of Laguna leads to board recall election.
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2002

Festival signs 40-Year Lease with City of Laguna, effective through 2041
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2003-2004

A Time Capsule is buried as part of festivities for 70th Anniversaries of the Festival and Pageant and to be opened in 2041.
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2005

New Pageant Workshops are dedicated.
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2007/2008 75th Anniversary

Two-year celebration honors the Diamond Jubilee 75th Anniversary of the Festival and Pageant.
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2008

$1 million Endowment for the establishment of a year-round gallery for artists.
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2010

foaSOUTH gallery is opened and dedicated.
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2011

SCR Award-winning actor Richard Doyle debuts as Pageant narrator
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2011

foaNORTH research and preservation facility becomes home to FOA Permanent Art Collection and Festival archives
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2011-2012 Improvements

Ongoing improvements to the facilities and grounds of the Festival of Arts.
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2013

The Festival board hires BAUER Architects of Newport Beach based on their stellar reputation and portfolio for design of the new facade and Festival grounds.
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2015

Designed by BAUER Architects, the new facade incorporates Laguna's artistic heritage with the Festival's location in the cliffs of Laguna Canyon.
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2016

Artist residency requirements expanded to included all of Orange County
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2017

A brand new facility will be debuted in 2017 to coincide with the Festival of Arts 85th anniversary celebration!
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