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Bringing Art to Life: Festival of Arts & Pageant of the Masters

We attended a media preview


Toyohara Chikanobu’s “Cherry Blossom Viewing” greets guests to The Pageant

For 82 years, Laguna Beach’s The Festival of the Arts has played host to the world famous Pageant of the Masters, delighting audiences with awe inspiring realistic recreations of both classical and contemporary art works casting real people within each living picture. Set to a score performed live by The Pageant’s own orchestra, with each picture narrated outdoors in the Irvine Bowl set amidst the trees, The Pageant is one of Orange County’s most anticipated events by both attendees and the hundreds of volunteers that create the magic each night during the summer.

This summer’s theme, The Pursuit of Happiness will bring an international feel with art works from American artists as well as other countries and cultures. Says Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy, “The desire for happiness, is integral to being human. Today we share the same basic wants and face the same struggles as our distant ancestors. The need to be ‘happy’ is a trait that unites us across all nationalities, races, and religions.”

Last week we were able to go behind the scenes to learn about the almost completed award wining facelift for the Festival of the Arts, this season’s special events, meet several of the artists from this year’s Fine Arts Show, and see how the Pageant’s volunteers bring art to life for its appreciative audiences.

Join us on a photo tour of this season!


Artist rendering of the new Festival of the Arts Facade courtesy of Festival of Arts

Guests will be greeted by a new facade this year by Newport based Bauer Architects. The facade features patinated laser-cut metal panels and boulders reflecting both modern and natural elements to blend with its surroundings and will be completed by the opening of The Festival.


Nightly wine and chocolate pairings


Artist and woodturner Larry Marley at work


“Must have” blowfish kettle by artist Larry Marley


Painter Susan Hoehn excited for her first Festival of Arts exhibit


Painter Susan Hoehn’s exhibit


Pencil/charcoal artist, Ray C. Brown, Jr. at work


Work by exhibitor Ray C. Brown, Jr.

Talk about pursuing happiness! Enjoy live jazz and wine and chocolate pairings while you explore the works of some of the area’s most talented artists and ponder which pieces you’d like to own. July 9 – August 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ($15). This and many other special events are planned for this season.


Rows and rows of headpieces in the making for The Pageant


A team of makeup artists get the cast ready


“Models” for each cast member’s makeup


A peek into the studios of The Pageant artists putting finishing touches on sets


Completed set before the cast is positioned


The cast


Positioning the cast back stage


Cast is in place


Waiting for the curtain to open…

With approximately 40 living pieces to be shown at The Pageant of the Masters the work begins months in advance by a dedicated team of local volunteers made up of artists, cast members, musicians, backstage and lighting crew members, and many other dedicated contributors. It is a labor of love and very much appreciated by the thousands of fans who enjoy the show, many each and every year. If you have never attended, it is truly a breathtaking event that will amaze and delight you.

If you have young children and would like to take them to The Pageant, out of respect for the cast members and fellow audience members you will want to consider if they can sit patiently for a couple of hours without growing restless. Flash photography during The Pageant is not allowed.

The Festival of Arts Art Show is open daily from July 5 through August 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., with early closings on July 5 at 6:00 p.m. and August 29 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets for The Festival can be purchased at the door. The Pageant begins, July 8 with tickets available on-line.

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