LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. – Annual traditions have had to pivot in 2020. And for one of Orange County's most endearing and anticipated traditions, the Sawdust Art Festival, which is in its 54th year, 2020 has meant finding a modified format to support its local artists.
The festival's board of directors worked to create a safe and intimate environment called the Outdoor Marketplace where patrons can shop for art, dine outdoors, and enjoy live music.
Laguna Beach artist Robert Holton said he is looking forward to patrons seeing how the festival has adapted.
“It’s incredible what they’ve created. And it’s going to be more low-key, [fewer] artists, but I think those who make [the] trip down to Laguna or come down and see us, they’re going to be very surprised at what has been created,” Holton said.
It’s Holton’s sixth year at Sawdust selling his iconic pop art in the historic three-acre eucalyptus grove.
In the past month, he was one of 40 artists to receive a grant from the nearly $20,000 Sawdust Artist Fund. For artists like him, who’ve struggled through the pandemic, the chance to do in-person business again is a welcome sign.
“For me at the Sawdust Festival, it probably generates over 60-70 percent of my income. Of course with this summer not happening, that’s really been a hardship for, I think, all of us. The lockdown has been incredible so we’re ready.” Holton said.
The festival typically runs 66 consecutive days between June and August and features 200 artists.
But this year Laguna Beach jeweler Beau Donnan, who’s in his third year at Sawdust, is one of the 100 local artists who will be rotating through the Outdoor Marketplace’s 48 spaces.
And while the pandemic has been hard on his business too, the silver lining has been being able to re-tool and work on more intricate inlays.
“It has been good for me in the sense that I was able to take the time time to re-evaluate what I’m doing and to progress, to work on new skills, to work on new techniques that otherwise may have taken me years to really dive into,” Donnan said.
The marketplace will only be open on weekends but he’s happy he’ll be able to reconnect with his community.
“I can’t wait to just get it open and see the reactions from people, get the feedback. As an artist, we live off of that, we feed off of that,” Donnan said.
As Roberts looks to get back to business, he said he hopes the hundreds of thousands of people who typically visit the festival will make their way back to Laguna.
“Throw your mask on and come down to the Sawdust, the marketplace," Holton said. "Like I said it’s going to be epic.”