Laguna Beach has a very long and rich history associated with the arts. The area in general has been a camping destination since the late 1800s, and in the 1900s grew into a popular getaway for artists, too.
It started with some landscape painters falling in love with the local scenery but by 1918 the future of the area was already coming into view thanks to an artist named Edgar Payne, who opened an art gallery that would grow into what we know today as the Laguna Art Museum.
Laguna Beach Art: A Brief History
Painter Norman St. Clair visited Laguna Beach in 1903 and came back to his home in San Francisco raving about the beauty of the area, showing off paintings he had done there. Fellow artists including William Wendt would become interested in Laguna Beach; over time some 300 artists relocated there to work.
In 1918, Edgar Payne Payne became the very first leader of the Laguna Beach Art Association; he would move to Los Angeles two years later but remained active in the organization. Payne was also responsible for opening the facility that eventually morphed into The Laguna Art Museum; that facility opened its doors in 1918.
The phrase “art colony” has been used to describe the earliest gathering of painters in the area. There were struggles; some reports indicate the Depression era was complicated for residents there. In 1932 the first Festival of Arts debuted in hopes that more tourism and interest in the arts might boost the local economy.
World War Two
By the time World War Two arrived, Laguna Beach had grown popular with then-famous names including Mickey Rooney, Charles Chaplain, Judy Garland, and a host of silent-era film stars like Rudolph Valentino.
By the 1960s, there was a public beach and park operating in what we know today as the Main Beach, the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival and the Laguna Art-A-Fair both got started at a time when the arts were about to get a lot of attention through counterculture, protest, and political activism.
Laguna Beach Today
Today, Laguna Beach is not just an artistic community. It has grown into a resort destination featuring a number of hotels, dining, and shopping in addition to the many galleries and museums in the area.
There are many options in Laguna Beach to view art-there may be more than 100 galleries and museums in the area. Some are artist-run or artist-association run venues while others may be larger and feature donor funding. Laguna Beach Art Galleries include, but are not limited to:
- Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center
- Laguna Art Museum
- Kush Fine Art Gallery
- Posh Galleria
- Richard MacDonald Fine Art
- Peter Blake Gallery
- Cove Gallery
Laguna Beach Museums, Galleries, And Art Centers
Laguna Beach Cultural Art Center
235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach
The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center describes itself as a “creative epicenter” featuring a dedicated exhibition and event space promoting visual arts, music, photography, dance, poetry, and much more.
One of the country’s longest-running art spaces, the Laguna Beach Cultural Art Center features an art house cinema series, programs designed to support local artists, and even features a community television station, LBCAC TV. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to participate in art walks, monthly music showcases, and much more.
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach
Also formerly known as the Laguna Beach Art Association, as well as the Laguna Beach Museum of Art. This museum focuses on work by California artists and California-themed work. The collection here features work from the nineteenth-century onward in a variety of styles and approaches.
This facility seeks “a dynamic balance between the historical and the contemporary” as well as a goal of presenting California art to a wider audience. This is a very important part of the California arts landscape in general, and has been in existence in one form or another since 1918.
346 North Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
This is a commercial art gallery and studio featuring paintings, prints, installation opportunities, and more. Also known as Todd Kenyon Studio, the artist is known for his work with oil paint that resembles watercolor. COAST Magazine calls Kenyon’s work powerful and compelling.
National Gallery of Fine Art / National Geographic Fine Art Galleries Laguna Beach
218 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
This gallery features fine art photography, and is also home to the Festival of Fine Arts. Formerly known as the National Geographic Fine Art Galleries, this gallery is no longer affiliated with National Geographic but the spirit of that company is definitely captured with the nature photography on display here. Weekday hours are by appointment.
CAP Art Gallery
260 Ocean Ave. 2nd Floor, Laguna Beach
CAP, also known as Community Art Project, is a non-profit organization established in 1998. Founding members included former members of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission, and CAP was created in part to meet needs currently addressed by the city, private arts group, etc.
CAP partners with property owners in the downtown area to “install sculptures and murals in the public view”. There are installations in public spaces, but also opportunities to view work in the CAP Gallery in the Wells Fargo Building, 260 Ocean Avenue, 2nd floor.
Pacific Edge Gallery
540 South Coast Hwy., #112, Laguna Beach
If you enjoy impressionist landscapes like those by Maria Bertran or realist “oil lightscapes” by Tom Swimm, Pacific Edge Gallery may be worth a look. This facility also featured artwork by John Lennon.
577 North Pacific Coast Hwy., Suite E-5, Laguna Beach
Sculptures, abstract art, wildlife photography, even onyx lamps are available from around the world at Posh Galleria.
220 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
There are three locations for Signature Gallery including one in Laguna Beach. Each location features the oil paintings of Charles Pabst, potter Randy O’Brien, and sculptor Paige Bradley.
Steve Adam Gallery
760 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
This gallery features surfboard art and abstract art by Steve Adam. His work is beach-inspired and represents all aspects of the sea and sky.
Kush Fine Art
210A Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
Kush Fine Art was established by the artist Vladimir Kush and showcases the work Kush has done in a genre known as Metaphorical Realism. This facility is directly across from Main and sells paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and artist books by Vladimir Kush. If you visit here, you’ll also want to drop in on the nearby Laguna Art Museum, some 1500 feet away.
Peter Blake Gallery
435 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach
Peter Blake Gallery was founded in 1993 and is said to be “the longest standing and leading exhibitor” of West Coast minimalism. Artists represented and/or shown by the gallery have included Joe Goode, Larry Bell, Mary Corse, Peter Alexander, Lita Albuquerque, Tony Delap, Helen Pashgian & DeWain Valentine.
550 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
Located in downtown Laguna Beach, Thomas Studios describes itself as “a coastal inspired experiential home showroom” featuring wood art. This is more of a commercial gallery/retail space, but for those who love California wood art, Thomas Studios may be worth a look.
333 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
This contemporary gallery on South Coast Highway features originals and limited editions from popular artists like Dr. Seuss, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Tom Everhart, and Mackenzie Thorpe. The focus here is to share visual arts with unique narratives that encourage seeing the world from a less traditional perspective.
509 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
Quite possibly the most well-known name in marine life art, the Wyland Galleries features paintings, sculptures, and photography. The art here connects those who are passionate about marine life, and raises awareness about environmental conservation.
More Art Galleries in Laguna Beach
- Artist Eye Gallery: 1294 S. Coast Hwy
- Avran Fine Art: 540 S. Coast Hwy., Suite 106
- Brasa Gallery: 490 S. Coast Hwy. #1
- Cast Of Crowns Art Collective: 412 N. Coast Hwy.
- Coast Gallery: 540 S. Coast Hwy., Suite 100
- Coastal Eddy A Gallery: 1417 S. Coast Hwy
- Dawson Cole Fine Art & Sculpture Garden: 326 Glenneyre St.
- Debilzan Gallery: 224 Forest Ave.
- Elena Fine Art Gallery: 481 North Coast Hwy.
- Fabio Napoleoni Gallery: 540 S. Coast Hwy., #110
- Faux Paw Petique: 611 S. Coast Hwy.
- five3 Gallery: 1540 S. Coast Hwy., #101
- Floating Cloud Studio Gallery: 1999 S. Coast Hwy., Suite E
- foaSOUTH: 1006 S. Coast Hwy.
- Forest & Ocean Gallery: 480 Ocean Ave.
- The Grace Galleries: 347 S. Coast Hwy.
- Hugo Rivera Gallery: 550 S. Coast Hwy., Suite 3
- Joanne Artman Gallery: 326 N. Coast Hwy. & 346 N. Coast Hwy.
- John Barber Glass Designs: 21062 Laguna Canyon Rd.
- Kelsey Michaels Fine Art: 354 N. Coast Hwy.
- La Bottega Gallery: 376 N. Coast Hwy.
- Laguna Art Lounge: 1951 S. Coast Hwy.
- Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art: 611 S. Coast Hwy.
- LANG Fine Art: 1450 S. Coast Hwy.
- LAS Laguna Gallery: 577 S. Coast Hwy. A-1
- Lu Martin Galleries: 372 N. Coast Hwy.
- Mark Timothy Gallery: 805 Laguna Canyon Rd.
- Martin Roberts Gallery: 310 Forest Avenue
- Miche McClendon Jewelry: 384 Forest Ave., 1A
- Ning Zhou Gallery: 357 S. Coast Hwy.
- Pacific Gallery: 228 Forest Ave.
- Patrick Guyton Gallery: 266 Forest Ave.
- Quorum Gallery: 374 N. Coast Hwy.
- The Redfern Gallery: 1540 S. Coast Hwy.
- Ruth Mayer Gallery: 380 S. Coast Hwy.
- Saltfineart: 346 N. Coast Hwy.
- Sandstone Gallery: 384-A N. Coast Hwy.
- Sanzi Gallery: S. Coast Hwy. #110
- Sheila Olsen Gallery: 784 S. Coast Hwy.
- The Signature Gallery: 220 Forest Ave.
- Studio 7 Gallery: 384 N. Coast Hwy., Unit B
- Sue Greenwood Fine Art: 330 N. Coast Hwy.
- Unleashed Art Gallery: 570 S. Coast Hwy.
- Village Gallery: 502 S. Coast Hwy.
- Viszolay Gallery: 577 S. Coast Hwy.
- Wax & Wood Gallery: 899 S. Coast Hwy., #1
- Whitney Gallery: 305 Forest Ave.
- Wood’s Cove Art Studio & Gallery: 1963 Coast Hwy.
Check out all the free museum days in Southern California and how to get free and discounted museum admission.
|City of Laguna Beach||Orange County Museum Of Art|
|Museums in Orange County||Free Museums Days|
|Sawdust Art Festival||Festival of Arts – Pageant of the Masters|