Thanks to good friends, I was recently lucky enough to visit the city of Laguna Beach, CA . It’s a wonderful arts city, crowded with tourists and locals alike, just as Jackson is during our high summer season. We went to an art fair I’ll never forget: the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival on Laguna Canyon Road. Set against a cliff in a eucalyptus grove, Sawdust is a world unto itself, wildly creative, funky and welcoming. A waterfall splashes off the cliff into a rocky pool.
Sawdust is open two full months during the summer, late June through early September. Participating artists must be from Laguna. Close to 200 artists build their own booths each year. Booths must be constructed of wood frame and roofs, built strictly to code, and they can be as imaginative as artists wish, resulting in a fair that feels like a pop-up fantasy art village. Booth spaces differ in size, so Sawdust artists must scale to fit. Artists are responsible for taking booths down and restoring the three acre grove to its original natural state. Booths come down after Sawdust’s Winter Fantasy Show; a holiday-themed show taking place the last two weekends in November and the first two in December. Offices, meeting rooms, a glass-blowing center and arts education “classrooms” remain up year-round.
A very broad array of price points means there’s affordable art for everyone.
Sawdust blew me away! From the moment I walked in (entry fees for adults are in the $7-$8 range) I wondered how Laguna pulls this fair off; it’s 47 years old. I made a note to contact Sawdust, ask pesky questions about its structure and history, and report to you! Tom Klingenmeier, Sawdust’s general manager sent a generous response. I’ve edited my questions and Tom’s replies for length.
Tammy Christel: How did Laguna Beach galleries initially respond to Sawdust? Was there trepidation? How do galleries feel about Sawdust today?
Tom Klingenmeier: When we began only about a third of the galleries Laguna currently has existed, and there was some resentment. Soon, though, gallery owners, hotels and restaurants realized that Sawdust generated over a half-million visitors in a short time. They quickly adapted and embraced the shows. They now rely heavily on the traffic we generate. Some of our galleries collaborate, featuring local artists in Laguna’s three summer festivals. Some artists conduct co-ops, taking turns being in their space to cut down on sales personnel. It also affords the artists more time to share art experiences with visitors, leading to more affordable art and knowledge for the buyer.
TC: How is Sawdust paid for?
TK: We sell tickets, and if you saw all three shows you had the chance to buy our “Passport to the Arts” ticket for all those shows, all summer long; it includes one-time parking in a large lot served by free tram service that goes all over town. We charge very nominal booth fees, have a retail shop that sells only Sawdust T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, and we charge rent for the five food concessions we lease. We have a saloon, selling wine and beer.
We also write grants for our art-education programs (currently amounting approximately $45,000/year), and we are reaching out to secure endowments, estate-planning donations and e-blast/emails for smaller donations—all to aid in expanding our year-round art education programs.
Our sales booth takes a small percentage of each sale to cover operating costs, a convenience for artists who may be temporarily away from their booths or have no merchant account devices. We are lucky to have a 9-member board focusing on promotion of the show and arts education, soliciting donations, creating fundraisers and “governing” staff. The board is comprised from our “exhibitor-ship” and elected by the exhibitors.
TC to Blog Readers: This conversation continues soon! We’ll talk about the Festival’s origins. Stay tuned!
He’s got a nice smile and he’s a rocket scientist artist! Ed Belbruno plans on sticking around Jackson Hole for two weeks, sharing his knowledge about art’s influence on science. Belbruno is leading a plein air painting workshop at the Art Association on October 6th. Come and experience his “dynamic, intuition-based” painting style, suggests the arts non-profit.
Belbruno says, “When you stop over-thinking the creative process, real creativity occurs. Spontaneity always carries with it the power of the Universe.” Class happens Sunday, October 6th, 3-6:00 pm. $35 for members, $50 for non-members. You must register by phone—call 307.733.6379. Space & plein Air. Makes sense to me!
The public also has the chance to meet TEDx Jackson Hole speaker Belbruno on Thursday, October 3rd, 6:30 pm, at INTENCIONS Gallery. View his work, and talk with the artist about everything from “tuning in” to astrophysics. For info, call 307.733.7525 www.Belbrunoart.com
“Photography at the Summit” takes place at the National Museum of Wildlife Art September 29 – October 4, 2013. Serious students of photography get the chance to learn with some of the world’s most successful photographers. It’s not cheap—tuition is $2,250 for the week, but by every account I’ve heard the experience is unforgettable for those looking to improve their digital photographic skills; attendees receive plenty of individual attention. During workshop week evening lectures open to the public are held; particpating teaching photographers discuss related topics important to their work. Lectures are free for museum members, and for non-members costs are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for young folks aged 5-18, and, finally, free for kids under 5. www.wildlifeart.org