The Plein Air Scene

by Sarah Beserra

Scott Burdick, Sarah in Catalina, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches


Laguna PAPA Riding Wave of Success


The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association was founded in 1996 by painters Saim Caglayan, John Cosby, Cynthia Britain, Ken Auster and Jacobus Bass. Their motivation was to link the strong plein air movement of the early California painters to the present ones and to create a bond amongst the contemporary plein air painters throughout the nation. The link has been made, the bond has been created. Today LAPAPA has 300-plus members and growing.

On March 1, 2003 they moved into their new headquarters, a former girls' gym located just up the street from the Laguna Art Festival grounds on historic Laguna Canyon Road. Christened "The Studio" the new space is large enough to meet a variety of LAPAPA's activity needs -- an airy gallery space, a figure and still-life working studio, meeting rooms, and the association's administrative office. To manage all of this, the five board members recently hired a part-time executive director -- Theresa Marino -- who will probably ease into full-time status, if LAPAPA continue to grow at its current pace.

The Studio

The jewel in LAPAPA's crown is the new working studio with live models and still-life set ups. "A special Studio membership offer was extended to LAPAPA members at $250 the first of March, and we got 100 responses immediately," said Marino. "We were overwhelmed with the response and may have to hire another model, to accommodate all of the painters who want to participate." Included in the membership fee is access to three-hour sessions with a live model and still life set-ups three day per week. Marino culled through an extensive list of professional models to select those that would feed the muse. Models' costumes range from flamenco dancers, and traditional Japanese kimonos with parasols to birthday suits and everything in between.

Regular Studio Membership is now $350/year which includes unlimited time in session, access to rent the space to one person or group shows, use of library demos, lectures, free parking, use of meeting space along with all LAPAPA benefits for one year, LAPAPA is looking for volunteers to man/woman the studio. They are also interested in acquiring a variety of costumes for the models. Female models are favored by the painters, although male models are also made available.

Plein Air Invitational at the Museum

The link that LAPAPA sought between historic Laguna Colony painters and contemporary painters was made six years ago when Laguna Art Museum Executive Director Bolton Colburn changed the course of the Museum. The institution, founded by early California Impressionists Anna Hills and Edgar Payne, had gotten away from its original mission and drifted into modern art. Colburn redefined the Museum's mission, and sought out LAPAPA painters to collaborate in a major show at the Museum. The result was the annual Laguna Plein Air Invitational which is scheduled this year (2003) for July 12-13. LAPAPA recognized early on that a dynamic and growing membership, not limited to local or even regional artists, was the key to a successful show.

The Invitational lost their primary sponsor this year when Lincoln moved from the vicinity. Rethinking their format they have made a number of changes for this year's show. Painting boundaries have been expanded hem Laguna Beach to Southern Orange County, thereby giving the artist and collectors a wider selection of subject matter. The awards program will be pared down from a full panoply of awards to two -- "Collector's Choice" and "Artists Choice." Invitations are not a slam dunk for LAPAPA members. Painters from all over the country vie for the 50 coveted spots that guarantee nation-wide exposure, a week-long experience with a host family, special events and private dinners. "We seek out the best plein air painters in the country," said Marino. Even Signature Members are rotated out every other year to accommodate out-of-area talent.

Signature and Membership Shows

The yearly LAPAPA Signature Show which was previously held in the Esther Wells Gallery in Laguna Beach will now be housed in The Studio, as well. Tentative dates for that show are November 15-December 7, 2003. Works of an 29 Signature members will be shown and offered for sale. New this year is the "LAPAPA Membership Show" -- open to all member levels. Gallery owner Ray Redfern will act as juror and select 100 paintings to hang in the show/sale which is tentatively scheduled for May 31 through June 15, 2003.

Resource Library

Plans are in the works for the Resource Library and meeting place to discuss art related topics. LAPAPA plans to model the library after the Pallet and Chisel Club in Chicago, a decades old institution that continues to grow and thrive. They will acquire and seek donations of all relevant publications including a complete set of all new publications.

Executive Director Marino is a 25-year veteran in the arts. Her resume includes Director of both the Vorpal Gallery and the Diane Nelson Gallery in Laguna Beach, working as a private art consultant, public relations and Marketing Director for the Sawdust Festival, membership on a variety of museum committees and community arts projects and co-founder of the Laguna Community Concert Band.

Last year the organization added nine new Signature members .Jean Stern, Executive Director of the Irvine Museum, acted as juror, viewing hundreds of slides. The Association plans to open new Signature spots sometime next year.

For more on LAPAPA and member pages go to:


© Sarah Beserra, 2003

Read more of The Plein Air Scene by Sarah Beserra in Resource Library Magazine

Sarah Beserra is Editor and Publisher of The Plein Air Scene - a monthly newsletter on plein air painting in California. Please see the website for The Plein Air Scene for email address and phone number.

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