FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS - PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS
From "75 Works, 75 Years, Collecting the Art of California: The Years 1918 - 1955" by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure See http://www.tfaoi.org/aa/7aa/7aa904.htm "An important source of income for the Association through the 1930s was the Festival of Arts, the last and most successful of several festivals sponsored by Laguna Beach to lure tourists to the village. The Festival of Arts was proposed at a meeting of the Laguna Beach Art Association on April 11, 1932, by Sumner Crosby, former editor of the South Coast News, at the urging of John Hinchman. The two saw it as an "intellectual" carnival, with art exhibitions at various sites and a street art market."
“Pioneer Days in Laguna Beach” by Merle and Mabel Ramsey
See page 156 - 159
"Festival of Arts
In the depths of the great depression when many were hungry, not for food only, but for many things that were unobtainable, all praise must go to the little band of artists, players, and the business people who would not lay dormant, waiting for some magic solution.
In 1932, they began to stir themselves with ideas of how to develop a movement that had never been tried before. It was a crusade, and new methods of display of their wares. Ideas were presented, locations were discussed. How and when would be the most profitable time of the year for the event?
It was John Hinchman and Gaelan Doss who became the fire that lit up the idea of an Art Festival. All were now in the peak, or, should we say, the depth of the depression. Hinchman and Doss knew something had to be done to bring the artists, as well as others, out of their doldrums. They soon had the interest in motion, to advertise the event to be known as the Festival of Arts, the City entered into having a float in the Newport Tournament of Lights, bearing a pallette advertising the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. In the first adventure the business men donated to the cost of the event, which was $380, and the donations were promptly paid.
It was now 1932, when the dream and vision of the artists were first put into action. Anxious to set their work before the public they came up with the idea of a free display. To get their art work centralized, they chose the little street, EI Paseo, one block long with its trees and fences making a suitable background for the hangings of the paintings and other art work. They must have a title for the event. They arrived at MARCHE AUX CROUTES. (Market of the Crusts). It was here that the first "living pictures" came into being in Laguna Beach. Lolita Perine presented "Mona Lisa" with Hilda Mackey posing.
There were two men who also exhibited some "living pictures" at the festival, Howard Sheridan and Roy Grimes. It was the little street display that inspired the artists to a wider field of endeavor.
Came 1933, and the Festival of Arts was again displayed on the little street, El Paseo, also on the lot north of the Sandwich Mill [northeast corner of Forest Avenue and Coast Boulevard]. We have found some who deny the EI Paseo location for 1933.
EL PASEO WHERE FIRST FESTIVAL OF ARTS WAS HELD.
To verify our facts that El Paseo was the 1933 location, we have had access to the scrapbook of John Jehle, in which he kept all the newspaper clippings in Southern California, up to, and including 1934.
These clippings of 1933 definitely name EI Paseo as the location, and, including the lot north of the Sandwich Mill, at which place the paintings were hung on the fence around the property.
One exhibit is worthy of mention. At the far corner of the lot sat a little man, very primitive in dress, wearing sandals made from auto tires cut to fit his feet and tied on with cords.
He was wearing short pants that were really ragged, and was showing the children how to make ornaments of old tin cans by cutting them into odd shapes. He was really good at it and his work had merit. He was a stranger to the village and many wondered who he was and where he came from. He named himself Capt. Kidd, but many called him "screw loose". There were times he would run along the beach for hours before the people to exhibit his endurance.
It finally was discovered, he was one of the marathon runners from New York to Los Angeles in 1929. He was one who ran the entire distance.
It was now 1934, and the artists had germinated a desire to exhibit each succeeding year. To have more space, Ocean Avenue was selected, providing the owners were favorable to the closing off of the street for the week. It was here a new name appeared, "Spirit Of The Masters".
Laguna's fame as the Art Colony was beginning to lead up to the event that would later make it famous. For the latter years the little village had been in the throes of the depression and its gloom. Not only did painters, but the craftsmen, actors and writers, band together with a definite idea to pay tribute to the early residents to express their appreciation for the advancement of Laguna Beach as an art colony. The street was closed off with a stage for the back and about 40 booths for the displays along the curbs. It took on a Bohemian atmosphere and they brought in a group of Slavic dancers and musicians.
The program was interesting as well as unusual for the little village. The arrangements were in the hands of John B. Hughs, the well known theatrical producer who was the former director of the Community Players of Laguna Beach, who was at this time director of the Theater Arts Players of Long Beach. Mr. Hughs had charge of the seven days and nights of the colorful performances of the festival of nations with the Slavic and other national dances."
From "100 Years of Laguna Beach"
Laguna Beach Historical Society
Assembled and written by
Margaret Roley, Isabelle Ziegler, Virginia Oakley and Genevieve Daniels
"A SMALL ACORN: THE FIRST FESTIVAL OF ARTS
As it came to the rest of the country, the depression came to Laguna. . . striking workers and artists alike.
People with little money to buy food were hardly in the market for works of art. So the resourceful artists of Laguna took their work to the people, displaying their wares in a vacant lot on Forest Avenue, hoping to snag some passersby who would find their low prices irresistible. Some did - and the Festival of Arts was born. This was April 11 ,1932.
The next year the artists found a larger lot and hesitantly charged a dime admission. Ceramics, hand loomed material, and hand crafted jewelry were exhibited with the paintings.
Totally new to the art exhibit scene was the addition of "living pictures"- human models who created in tableau famous works of art. The originator was the late Roy Ropp, an artist himself who, in'1936, gave the "pictures" the name, "Pageant of the Masters." It was he, also, who first staged "The Last Supper" as the Pageant finale and which has since become a tradition."
From Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters-Roger W Jones
Pages 165 – 174 book “Laguna Beach An Illustrated and Narrative History” by Roger W Jones
B. Festival of Arts - 1932
Besides its natural beauty and reputation as an art center, Laguna Beach is probably best known for The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. The 1953 Souvenir Edition of The Laguna Beach Post, which centered around the Festival of Arts, briefly describes the humble beginning of the Laguna Beach artists and first Festival of Arts:
Pioneer of the Palette
The story of Laguna Beach artists begins with Norman St. Clair, whose exhibit of water colors attracted the attention of art circles in the early 1900's. Following St. Clair came Gardner Symons, noted for snow scenes and William Wendt, both of whom were National Academy artists.
The first Festival of Arts in 1932 was designed to lift depression. The idea was conceived by John Hinchman, artist and lecturer on art. It was located on El Paseo with the stage facing the ocean. The second Festival was held on the Heisler property adjoining the Art Gallery. One was held on a small lot, part of which is now occupied by the Bank of America. For three years prior to the advent of the Festival into its own home, it was held at the Woman's Clubhouse on Third Street.
An article entitled How Idea was Born, elaborating on the background of The Festival of Arts was featured in the same 1953 Laguna Beach Post issue:
The Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach was born in 1932, one year out of the many years of the depression. On El Paseo Street, and spilling into private property on each side, an area was roped off with canvas and boards and the beginning of a now great cultural institution of California took its first breath of life.
The original idea behind the move was to afford Laguna Beach artists, once a year, a place to display their work in a group to (hoped for) crowds attracted by the art itself and the gaiety of a Festival. The carnival spirit which entered into this open air affair helped throw off the depressive effect of the then economic state of the nation; there was colorful celebration, entertainment which was frequently spontaneous, dancing, and music. But mainly there were paintings - paintings hung from the trunks of towering eucalyptus trees, paintings propped against fences or supported by make-shift easels, and others suspended by wires strung between trees or posts.
The Second Year, 1933, Living Pictures were introduced as part of the Festival of Arts, but because of a budget so small and so thinly spread to cover all necessary expenses, the pictures were, by comparison, crudely done. There was no money for lighting or building of frames to create the illusions sought after. But, with all their inadequacies, the Living Pictures - there were only about a half dozen reproduced that year - attracted attention and drew comment. The program then was called 'The Spirit of the Masters."
The first comprehensive program covering a Festival of Arts to be printed in booklet form came out in 1934 for the third annual pageant. Articles were contributed by John Hinchman, Brayton Norton, Nellie Hills, Marion Munson Forest, and George Dunham:
It was in 1935 that the Festival began taking longer strides. The organization had taken good shape and the officials realized the possibilities of the Living Pictures.
The talents of a local artist were solicited, budgets were extended for proper framing and lighting and background work. That year produced the first truly glorious reproduction of paintings. It was renamed "Pageant of the Masters" and became the heart of the Festival of Arts.
In 1938 The Pageant came indoors for three years. From its various locations on streets and in parks it moved into the Women's Club, then located where the City Hall now stands on Third Street [actually Forest Avenue]. But its fame had grown and the Clubhouse bulged with the crowds attending. Grounds and buildings to accommodate this ever increasing patronage were needed.
In 1941 the Festival of Arts moved into Irvine Bowl Park which had been built for it and presented its first season in its own permanent home.
But following this initial opening the bowl echoed emptily for five years while the world went to war. It was not until 1946 that the Festival picked up where it had left off five years before. Reorganization, the securing of new props, searches for old and new faces for the Pageant of the Masters, property men, carpenters, wardrobe workers - literally thousands of details to set in motion were the tasks facing this revival of what is closest to Laguna's heart. And almost everyone offered help. The 1946 presentation of the Festival received more glory than ever before, and since then, year after year, it attracts greater throngs to see greater things done by the Artists of Laguna.
C. Controversial Beginning for the Festival of Arts
Contrary to popular belief, the City of Laguna Beach did not initially embrace the Festival of Arts. Wilber Tolerton, the builder of the Heisler building, was an active participant in the first Festival of Arts. In a letter to his daughter, Virginia Tolerton, dated August 16, 1962 he explains how the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts got off the ground:
You asked about the starting of the Laguna Art Show. It was early 30's. I was down there designing some building or house, I am not sure which one, and living in a Mr. Hinchman's Studio. Mr. Hinchman was a very good artist. Things were very bad, and Mr. Hinchman in talking about it one night suggested a "Flea Circus". When I found out what he meant by that, it was simply to exhibit the artist's work along the fences and sidewalks downtown. No one had any money but we went ahead. All the merchants in town and the mayor and city engineer did everything they could to stop us. I knew quite well some of the reporters on the Los Angeles Times and Examiner and I went up to see them and got them to give us lots of free advertising. Plywood had just come in and in the local mill at Laguna Beach with my own lily-white hands, I cut out dozens of wooden palettes which Mr.Hinchman and his two daughters, who were in their teens, helped me varnish and put dabs of paint on. We made brushes from round wood with colored cotton covered with cellophane on the ends and stuck them through the palettes. When they were dry, we lettered them "Laguna Art Show" and with the help of a truck, nailed them up to dozens of telegraph poles on the highway from Los Angeles to San Diego, which at that time ran through Irvine. I cannot remember if we received, if any, very little, help from anyone else in Laguna. There was no Laguna Art Association at that time and I don't think more than a dozen lived there all year, others coming down in the summer, such as Benjamin Brown. We wanted a booth but the City Engineer told me that they would not allow us to put one up unless we could find a place that would neither take out the normal width of the sidewalk or street. There was a road running south at that time but no road running north, as the Irvine Ranch had everything closed beyond Heisler Point. As luck would have it, I found a triangular bulge in the sidewalk right opposite where Irvine and Laguna came down, which at that time was the only road to Laguna from the north. A carpenter and myself built a very amusing triangular booth which with the help of Hinchman's daughters we stocked with pretty girls. One beauty at a time was all the booth had room for. Anyway, with all the help from the advertising that the Los Angeles Times and Examiner gave us and with the palettes that we had put up and a big sign at Irvine marking the road to Laguna, we had a great many people and the artists were able to sell most of their stuff. The merchants all had an enormous business but still didn't like it and were furious that it had been a success. Somebody in Laguna got his sister to come up from Mexico, who was a Mexican dancer and a very good one. She danced on a hay-wagon down in the center of town. There were a few other things.
A few weeks later they had a Water Festival at Newport with floats lit up by floodlights at night. Mr. Hinchman's daughters and myself thought it would be a good idea to put a float in for Laguna. We got permission from Irvine to use the dirt road that ran from Heisler Point to Newport and ride up there. There were other people to follow us bringing our equipment and stuff and some money, but they got cold feet and never showed up. We were given a barge to use and I went in a little grocery store and got a good many boxes, which were wood at that time, and Mr. Hinchman and his daughters dug up a lot of burlap. We covered the boxes with burlap to make them look like rocks and painted them with some cheap paint and brushes we got from a little hardware store. Finally, just before the floats were hooked together for the night exhibit, the girl that we were going to use for the model showed up with the boy who was to be the artist. She was in a white bathing suit. We had her posed on the rocks with the artist painting her, from Laguna. Strange to say that our rocks were so crude but under the artificial light they looked much better than the more expensive floats and we won first prize, much to our astonishment. We tried to get the girl to put something on the box-rock that she sat on but she didn't do it and spoiled her bathing suit, which had been borrowed from some shop in Laguna and they were furious and wanted Mr. Hinchman and myself to pay $40.00 for it. Not being complete fools, we did nothing. I believe the city finally made some settlement.
I hope this is the information you wanted. I do not imagine either the City of Laguna or the merchants or the present leaders of the Festival are going to like it much, but that is what happened. Great things have small beginnings! Mr. Hinchman, his wife and daughters were the main workers on this. They were a very charming family.
see LA Times article:
Beginning in 1938, [Greeter Eiler] Larsen was cast for several years as Judas in "The Last Supper," Da Vinci's painting featured in the Pageant of the Masters
From "A Short History of Laguna Beach and South Laguna by Karen Wilson Turnbull
"Laguna Beach is also home to the internationally-known Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. The first pageant ever held in Laguna was an Indian pageant promoted by Isaac Frazee, in 1923. It was called Kitshi Manido and was held in the large eucalyptus grove in Sleepy Hollow (corner of Catalina and Arroyo Chico streets). The second Kitshi was held in 1927 in Laguna Canyon on the Boys Club property. In 1932, Roy M. Ropp conceived of the idea of a pageant and art festival.
The first Festival of Arts was started by the artists of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and supported by the City of Laguna Beach. That was 1932, and it was held on El Paseo (a little street by Hotel Laguna, and behind the Isch Building). Booths were set up and as just one of the entertainments, there were people posing as famous paintings in a small box that was wheeled out on stage. In 1935, Roy M. Ropp took over the presentation of the “old masters” and designed and directed what is now the Pageant of the Masters.
The citizens of Laguna Beach passed a park tax in 1940 and bought the Irvine Bowl Park, and the Festival of Arts asked to rent the City Park to hold their 2 week show."
From "HISTORY OF LAGUNA CANYON" article written by: Belinda Blacketer May 2001:
"In 1932, the artist’s of the Art Association planned a festival to take advantage of the end of the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. In hopes that the visitors would travel south to Laguna Beach.
With the full support of the City Council, the original Festival of Arts was a 1 week long community festival, which featured a variety of art forms all over the community.
The first organized, outdoor display of art for the Festival of arts was held during that week in the parking lot of the Sandwich Mill Restaurant, and the lot was on Forest Avenue, behind the bank on the corner of South Coast Highway and Forest Avenue.
In 1935, local builder, and artist, Roy Ropp took over the “living pictures” and developed them into the “Pageant of the Masters”, which he designed and produced until 1941. Roy Ropp was the father of the Pageant."
"Today the Festival of Arts is located where Laguna Canyon meets the downtown basin are the Art Festivals and the Pageant of the Masters, which run for approximately 8 weeks every summer."
"The residents of Laguna prided itself on the fact that it was not a beach side, honky-tonk town, but one of cultural refinement, with drama groups, reading clubs, and literary groups. The year round residents were proud of the fact that their town attracted a different class of people, and worked to preserve that ambiance.
The site of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters was to be a community park, which was chosen in 1938. In April 1940, the citizen’s of Laguna Beach passed a “Park, Music and Advertising Tax” of 10 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation to purchase and develop the Irvine property.
The area that is now the festival grounds was shown on a map of the proposed park site as the “play area”, the canyon where the police firing range is now was to be used for “rustic trails” and the Amphitheater the Festival wanted to build was to use a very small portion of the park land.
The original deed stated that the City “shall use said real property for the following purposes only, and for no others, to wit: for the construction, enlargement, improvement, maintenance and operation of the outdoor amphitheater now situated thereon and known as Irvine Bowl, for the production and holding of public concerts, theatrical performances, festivals, exhibits and any all forms of public entertainment and recreation.”
The Pageant of the Masters was to use the park (Irvine Bowl Park) only 2 weeks of each year for the pageant and Festival of Arts. In exchange, the Festival of Arts agreed to pay the City of Laguna Beach rent of $1,000 and 50% of the net income."
The article at http://foapom.com/site/history.asp on the Festival of Arts - Pageant of the Masters web site was written by Belinda Blacketer, the President Emeritus of the Laguna Beach Historical Society.
I am attaching some photos that we have; if used we'd appreciate noting "Photograph courtesy of the Laguna Beach Historical Society from the Tom Pulley Postcard Collection."
Here's some information from Merle and Mabel Ramsey's book “The First 100 Years in Laguna Beach 1876 - 1976”:
THE PAGEANT BEGINS-THE BEGINNING OF FAME - THE FIRST ACTIVITY
"The Indian Pageant "Kitshi Manido" was promoted in 1921 by Isaac Frazee, who had lived among the Indians for a number of years. The pageant was located in the eucalyptus grove in Sleepy Hollow at the intersection of Catalina Street. The fire dancer was Thelma Farman who is Mrs. Lynn Aufdenkamp and now lives in Laguna Hills. The Pageant was a forerunner of the Festival of Arts.
The second Indian Pageant was held in 1927 where the Boy's Club stands today in the Laguna Canyon. This site was considered for the permanent location of future pageants.
As the August moon appeared over the hill, Yowlacae, the famous Indian singer, could be seen upon a high rock between the audience and the rising moon. Yowlacae had appeared before the crowned heads of Europe many times."
FESTIVAL of ARTS LOCATIONS
"Following are the locations of the Festival of Arts for the first ten years of its existence. It was closed between 1942 and 1946 due to World War II. Since its reopening the Pageant has been held every year in the Irvine Bowl.
1932 EI Paseo
1933 EI Paseo
1934 Ocean Avenue
1935 Art Gallery
1936 EI Paseo- The 1st showing of the Last Supper
1937 Woman's Club
1938 Woman's Club
1939 Water Company Property
1940 Water Company Property
1941 New Irvine Bowl
1942 World War II-No Festival of Arts until 1946
The approximate attendance each year has been 250,000. In 1975 there was an attendance of over 300,000.
The only year that it rained during the Festival was in 1966, except for a slight sprinkle in 1973.
The people who pose in the Pageant receive no remuneration. The Pageant involves about 300 people each year, and those posing, alternate nights. While the living pictures are being shown, the performers have to take short breaths to prevent any movement for approximately two minutes."
Labels: Laguna History