Last Friday,  Laguna Art Museum (LAM) Executive Director Malcolm Warner offered me a rare walking tour of the museum.

Since his arrival at LAM in 2012, the man has been so busy that I’ve only seen bits of him from afar, either walking briskly from here to there or playing gracious host to packs of interested art lovers.

Proud Papa (and with good reason)

As we wander the Museum’s various exhibits, the proud papa emerges. Noting the Museum’s generous benefactors and fabulous board, Warner points to a number of significant improvements and expansive exhibits. Last year, many large improvements were made in preparation for the Museum’s centennial celebration, but the happy churn of “new” and “better” continues without pause.

Two of my favorite additions are nods to the Museum’s historical roots. Last year, the Museum added paneling and viewing benches in the Steele Gallery that echoed the original design and placement of the same in 1935.

And, with help from architect Anders Lasater the “basement” is now a stunning gallery with the original flooring uncovered and polished to honor the long-ago carved names of original donors. It only takes a bit of a hunt to find the two stone slabs bearing the names of the museum’s 1929 Co-Founders, Anna Hills and William Wendt.

The Laguna Art Museum has come a long way since its 1929 founding. At that time, the next closest art museum was the San Diego Museum of Art, established in 1926. Today, even with more than two dozen art museums in Orange County and L.A., the Laguna Art Museum continues to shine as a rare coastal gem.


Gala Returns to Festival Grounds on Sept 21st

LAM’s history and future is being celebrated again on Saturday, Sept. 21st, when the Laguna Art Museum Gala takes place at the Festival of Arts grounds. Some individual and table tickets are still available at:

“Last year for our Centennial celebration, we moved our gala to the Festival of Arts, and it was so spectacular that we simply had to return this year,” says Warner.

One of Warner’s best memories of last year’s event was the surprise comedic act from KNBC’s Weatherman Fritz Coleman. Popular demand has the man returning again this year as Co-Master of Ceremonies with fellow KNBC Anchor Chuck Henry.

“You know, you don’t really see a lot of personality when weather people are doing their thing on TV,” says Warner in his droll English accent. “Fritz got up on stage and it was like being at a stand-up comedy act. He was hilarious.”

Quick Highlights

This year’s gala is so packed with fun details that I’ll be doing a “Part 2” on this grand event, but in brief mention:

  • The Gala will be honoring Jane and Joe Hanauer. In my next article, Warner tells me what he personally appreciates most about these longtime Laguna favorites.
  • The Wendt Award will be going to renowned artist and great support of LAM, Lita Albuquerque. Lita will also be doing an “installation performance” with her daughter, Jasmine.
  • During dinner, the event’s background music is a curated collection from none other than Warner. In “part 2” of this series, I’ll give you a peek into this groovy dude’s playlist.
  • One of my all-time favorites, Chef Craig Strong of Ocean at Main, is returning this year to serve dinner to the 300 guests. Upcoming, a peek into that menu, too.
  • This year’s swag bag contents have both Director of Advancement Bernadette Clemens and Events Manager Sara Gale grinning. I’ll fill you in on one of their favorite additions next.
  • Only three live auction items will be in play, one of which has Warner feeling a bit “nervy.” I’ll explain in “part 2.”

All said, the LAM Gala is a decadent, fun event that truly supports one of the best things we have going in this city of ours. Again, some tickets are still available at:

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