The Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn. was founded in 1996 by local artists Ken Auster, Jacobus Bass, Cynthia Britain, Saim Caglayan and John Cosby to restore landscapes to artistic prominence.
It has grown beyond their wildest dreams, with 300 members and the presentation this year of the 14th annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational, in which 40 artists from across the country participated.
"What really pleases me is that one visiting artist said Laguna's invitational is one of the two top plein air events in Northern America," said invitational President Greg Vail.
"Plein air" is a derivation of the French phrase for open air, which is where public events in the weeklong annual invitational were held.
Artists pick their sites in the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Society, founded in 1918, which established Laguna as an art colony.
The week also featured outdoor demonstrations by artists and paint-outs for children in Heisler Park, students at Laguna College of Art & Design and one sponsored by the Crystal Cove Alliance Art Council.
Paint-outs are groups of artists painting or drawing together in myriad styles.
Other highlights of the week included a fine art lecture by Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum, and a private tour by the Laguna Canyon Foundation.
Work created during the week were displayed Saturday on the walls of Laguna Art Museum, which evolved from a sales gallery for the Laguna Beach Art Assn., which was founded in 1918 and claims to be the oldest cultural institution in Orange County.
The museum's permanent collection contains works by the early Laguna Beach painters such as plein air luminaries Edgar Payne and Frank Cuprien.
The invitational adds to Laguna's artistic reputation, according to City Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, an early and enthusiastic supporter of LPAPA.
"This event brings national recognition to our city," Pearson said.
Pearson was among the guests at the Collectors' Soiree, held Saturday night at the museum that culminated the invitational.
The soiree, which included dinner, was organized by Sarah Strozza and Rosemary Swimm, assisted by committee members Lyn Burke, past museum President Robert Hayden III, Jan Kaplan, Linda Stern, Mary Linda Strotkamp and Vail.
Laguna Art Museum Executive Director Malcolm Warner welcomed guests and expressed his thanks to host families, which included Sande and Richard Schwarzstein, Mary and Joe Ferguson, Bill and Carol Hanke, Katie and Kirk Milette and Nancy Bushnell.
He also said thanks to the artists' sponsors and event sponsors and collaborators, such as Laguna Nursery, which provided the floral centerpieces, 14 Hands for the wine and the St. Regis for the raffle prize.
The Dan Rechard Trio entertained.
The soiree was an opportunity for admirers to peruse the works, buy them and applaud the award winners.
Rick Delanty was the winner of the Surfrider Foundation Award.