Jane Hunt, accepting the Best in Show award
Jane Hunt, accepting the Best in Show award

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) invited 30 artists to spend the week painting Laguna Beach, and the surrounding landscapes and communities, for the 21st Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational in October. Hundreds of art collectors attended the Collectors Gala to see the unveiling of the original paintings.

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The annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational celebrates the tradition of plein air painting and carries on the landscape painting legacy that established Laguna Beach as an art colony more than 100 years ago. The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) is a nonprofit art organization dedicated to preserving Laguna’s artistic legacy while providing opportunities for today’s landscape painters, ensuring that the plein air painting tradition will continue to have a prominent place in Laguna’s history and future. LPAPA’s mission connects plein air painters from across the nation to each other and the Laguna Beach art colony.

On Saturday, October 12, LPAPA hosted its 21st Annual “Collectors Gala” at the Festival of Arts, under the stars in a magical outdoor setting nestled in the heart of Laguna’s arts district, a perfect setting to showcase the plein air fine art show with 300 original works of art available for purchase in support of nonprofit LPAPA. The Collectors Gala attracts fine art collectors from around the country who wish to be the first to view and purchase the paintings created by these nationally recognized contemporary masters.

"Back Bay Evening," oil, by Jane Hunt
“Back Bay Evening,” oil, by Jane Hunt

Over $40,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to the artists, with the top prize, the highly coveted $10,000 Best in Show awarded to Colorado artist Jane Hunt for her painting “Back Bay Evening.” The 2019 Best in Show judges were Janet Blake, curator of historical art for the Laguna Art Museum, Kim Kanatani, director of the University of California, Irvine, Institute and Museum of California Art, and Tim Newton, publisher of Western Art & Architecture Magazine and former board chair and CEO of the famed Salmagundi Club in New York City. LPAPA is grateful for the time and consideration given by our judges in sharing their expertise and taking on the task of choosing one Best of Show award winner out of 120 paintings presented for judging.

LPAPA artists and attendees

Montana-based artist Aaron Schuerr was a double award winner, receiving the $5,000 Award of Excellence for “Direct Hit” and the Dr. Edward H. Boseker Award for “Afternoon Glare.”

Northern California–based plein air painter Jim McVicker took home three awards that included the $2,500 Jean Stern Distinctive Merit Legacy Award for “Forest & Glenneyre,” the $1,000 Irvine Museum Award for “Late Glow on Main Beach,” and the $1,000 Spirit of Laguna Award for “Bob Francis in Heisler Park.”

Tennessee artist Kathie Odom received the Architectural Award for “Come Sit for a Spell.” The Artistic Palette Award, sponsored by the Joe Hanks Van Cleave Foundation for the Arts, was presented to Florida artist Vladislav Yeliseyev for his watercolor painting “Above the Sea.”

This year’s inaugural Ovation Award, sponsored by the Rahn family, was presented to Suzie Baker for “Last Light.” Local artist Michael Situ received the SouthwestArt Magazine Quick Draw Award for “Heisler Park.”

Magazine awards, judged by Mr. Jean Stern, included the PleinAir Magazine Award of Excellence to Texas-based plein air painter Suzie Baker for “I Love This Place,” the Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine Award of Excellence to Oregon artist Jennifer Diehl for “Break in the Afternoon,” and the OutdoorPainter Award of Excellence to Minnesota artist Dan Mondloch for “Sweet Spot.”

The Western Art & Architecture Magazine Award of Excellence was presented to Maryland-based artist and last year’s Best in Show winner Cindy Baron for “The Old Soul” and the American Art Collector Magazine Award of Excellence was presented to Dan Mondloch for his painting “Main Beach Magic.”

The coveted Collectors’ Choice Award, based on votes by collectors in attendance, and the Artists’ Choice Award, based on the votes cast by the participating artists, was presented to local favorite and 21-year consecutive participating artist Michael Obermeyer for his body of work exhibited.

Southern California artist John Budicin was recognized with LPAPA’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for his talent and life-long body of work, and his support of LPAPA and the greater art community. Last year’s 2018 Lifetime Member Award recipients, Madeline and Jim Swinden of the Irvine Museum, helped present this year’s 2019 Lifetime Member Award to Laguna Beach residents Linda and Garrett Pack, who have been supporters of LPAPA and collectors of Laguna Invitational artists for 21 years.

Funds raised during this event sustain LPAPA and its year-round mentoring and educational programs, including LPAPA’s Plein Air Project with art education programs designed to educate and inspire our youth, the future generation of plein air artists to carry on the tradition. LPAPA Mentor Artists — Judith Cameron, Mark Fehlman, Fernando Micheli, Lisa Mozzini-McDill, Erich Neubert, Joseph Sanabria, Lisa Skelly, and Wendy Wirth — worked outdoors with 48 local school kids in creating their own plein air masterpiece that was exhibited for sale on LPAPA’s gallery walls at the Forest & Ocean Gallery with 100 percent of the sale proceeds going to the participating schools. With the generous support of the Festival of Arts Foundation, the National Charity League, and Blick Art Supplies, each of the students received a painting kit that included an easel, canvas, brushes, and paints to take home and continue painting after the event.

With the support of the Laguna College of Art + Design, the Braselle family, and Randy Higbee King of Frames, LPAPA Mentor Artists — Mark Fehlman, Hilary McCarthy, Joseph Sanabria, Jeff Sewell, and Rick J. Delanty — worked with more than a dozen LCAD students who participated in LPAPA’s annual Next Generation Paint Out who were able to exhibit their plein air masterpieces alongside the Mentors’ and Invitational Artists’ artwork.

Scholarship Awards were presented to the award-winning students — $500 1st Place to Tayler Olivas, $300 2nd Place to Opal LeFey, and $200 3rd Place to Melanie LaMay. This annual event is designed to provide college students with a professional art career experience and cultivate the next generation of plein air painters; 100 percent of the students art sales supports the students and the LCAD scholarship fund.

During the gala, LPAPA acknowledged all of its artists, mentors, sponsors, patrons, volunteers, host families, and supporters who made this year’s 21st anniversary of the Laguna Plein Air Painting celebration possible. In particular, LPAPA is grateful for the local support and grant funding provided by the City and Lodging Establishments of Laguna Beach, the City of Laguna Beach Charitable Assistance Fund, the Laguna Board of Realtors/Charitable Assistance Fund, the Festival of Arts Foundation, and the Laguna Beach Chapter of the National Charity League, who also provide NCL Mother/Daughter volunteer support throughout the week. In addition, this event would not be possible if not for the generous support of LPAPA’s Sponsors that include Sandy Sewell, SeaWind Properties, the Boseker Family, the UCI Institute & Museum of California Art, the Irvine Museum, Kinsman & Kinsman CPAs, the Joe Hanks Van Cleave Foundation for the Arts, the Kinsman Family Foundation, Stifel | Hansen/Pierce Wealth Management, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Visit Laguna Beach, and LPAPA’s Invitational patrons, donors, and collectors. One hundred percent of all donations and 40 percent of art sales goes to support nonprofit LPAPA and further its mission.

Mark your calendar now for the 22nd Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational to be presented once again at the Festival of Arts grounds the week of October 3–11, 2020. To learn more about LPAPA visit lpapa.org.

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