Sawdust Art Festival

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Sawdust Art Festival Facade

The Sawdust Art Festival, also known as The Sawdust or The Sawdust Festival, is an art festival held annually from late June through August in Laguna Beach, California. The festival features handicrafts as well as traditional fine art. It is non-juried, but exhibitors are required to be Laguna Beach residents. About 200,000 visitors attend each year. The Sawdust also hosts an annual Winter Fantasy art fair in mid-November through December, which is open to non-resident exhibitors.


The Sawdust Art Festival is an annual art festival, held in Laguna Beach, California from the end of June to the end of August.[1][2][3] There is also a “Sawdust Winter Fantasy” festival, running weekends from mid-November through December, and open to non-resident exhibitors.[4][5]

As the only non-juried art festival in Laguna, the Sawdust displays paintings, sculpture, printmaking, photography, glass, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, furniture, textiles, clothing and mixed media.[6][7] The festival also features glassblowing demonstrations, ceramic center, art workshops, a children's art booth,[8] outdoor cafes, a saloon and a variety of live musical entertainment.[9][10][11]

As of 2014, the festival was drawing about 200,000 visitors each year.[12]


Sawdust booth construction

In 1965, a group of hippie-type artists were dissatisfied with the nearby Laguna Beach Festival of Arts (FOA) and its jury system, which they viewed as rigged and part of The Establishment.[13] This group held their first exhibit in 1965 on the vacant Peacock lot near Park Avenue in Laguna; it was called "The Rejects Festival" by some in the media and at the FOA.[14][15] The group held their second showing in 1967 on the Kronquist lot in north Laguna.[13][14]

In 1968, the festival moved to its present three-acre site on Laguna Canyon Road, across the street from the established FOA. At this location, Sawdust artists began building, "wildly conceived, mostly wood-built quasi-dwellings, which were heavy on the rustic theme, with no two alike." They also built a wooden, fort-like gate, and spread sawdust or wood chips onto the bare ground.[13]

While the festival in its early days had a carnival atmosphere, with streakers and religious fanatics preaching amid the booths, it was sparsely attended.[13][16] Admission was initially free; but it was raised to 25 cents in the early 1970s, “only after some locals came to chant and preach rather than look,” according to an early exhibitor.[17]

Sawdust facade, eastern end

Attendance grew and reached a peak of 350,000 in the early 1970s.[13] By the mid-1980s, the home-made booths, gate, and sawdust remained, but as the festival became more respectable, attendance fell to around 250,000.[13]

In 1985, the Sawdust spent $60,000 for a new front facade, a mock-up of the nearby Hotel Laguna and three other Laguna buildings.[13] Later, Sawdust management erected a permanent, Bavarian style facade.[15]

The Sawdust's “Benevolence Fund,” started in 1987, is a non-profit organization, assisting artists living in Laguna Beach who have, “suffered a catastrophic event, making them unable to work." This fund holds yearly fundraisers.[18][19][20]

By the late 1980s, the Sawdust was becoming a bigger tourist attraction than the Festival of Arts.[21]

By 2003, the festival had acquired professional management, was charging $5.50 for admission, had about 200,000 visitors a season, and new artists were only allowed to exhibit if they were Laguna Beach residents.[17]

By 2015, the Sawdust joined Laguna's other two festivals in offering one admission ticket for all three events.[22] Also, by 2015, several artist/exhibitors have been at the festival since its early days; they include Doug Miller,[23][24] Nikki Grant,[25] Dion Wright[17] and David Nelson.[15]

2020 & thereafter saw strict measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, including wearing masks and enforcing social distancing.


  1. ^ Richard Chang. “Laguna’s festivals a three-art circus” Orange County Register, 26 June 2013.
  2. ^ David Hansen. “Sawdust art never ceases to surprise” Coastline Pilot, 19 June 2015.
  3. ^ Gayle Anderson and Nancy Cruz. “49th Annual Sawdust Art Festival” KTLA 5, 2 July 2015.
  4. ^ Connie K. Ho. “Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy Opens” Orange County Register, 15 November 2012.
  5. ^ Michael Miller. “Winter is coming to Sawdust Festival” Coastline Pilot, 20 November 2014.
  6. ^ Richard Chang. “Festival season kicks off in Laguna Beach” Orange County Register, 23 June 2011.
  7. ^ Richard Chang. “Best Place to Buy Art” Orange County Register, 23 September 2011.
  8. ^ Michael Miller. “Sawdust Art Festival full of artistic wealth” Coastline Pilot, 1 August 2013.
  9. ^ Erika Chavez. “Laguna Leaves Muddy memories in the Sawdust” Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1998.
  10. ^ John Balzar. “There's a real art to their crafts” Los Angeles Times, 7 July 2005.
  11. ^ Michael Miller. “Sawdust Festival turns country” Coastline Pilot, 30 July 2014.
  12. ^ California Arts Council. "Sawdust Art Festival" Retrieved 7 May 2015
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Herman Wong. “Price Of Respect:Sawdust Festival Loses Rebel Image” Los Angeles Times, 26 July 1985.
  14. ^ a b Sawdust website “Sawdust Festival History”, Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Daniella Walsh. "A Storied Past : Laguna Art Festivals" Laguna Beach Magazine, May/June 2012.
  16. ^ Michael Miller. "Sawdust Festival lets the wood chips fall where they may" Coastline Pilot, 19 June 2014.
  17. ^ a b c Ashley Powers. “Sawdust Festival Sheds Hippie Daze” Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2003.
  18. ^ Sawdust website “Sawdust Festival Benevolence Fund”, Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  19. ^ " Auction to help artists" Orange County Register 2, August 2011.
  20. ^ Daniella Walsh. "Annual Artists’ Benevolence Fund Auction at Sawdust" Laguna Beach Independent, 12 August 2011.
  21. ^ Herman Wong. “3 Laguna Festivals : Art Shows Draw Bigger Crowds” Los Angeles Times, 4 September 1987.
  22. ^ Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts “Unlimited admission”, Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  23. ^ Richard Chang. "Prolific painter is a Sawdust Festival legend" Orange County Register, 25 August 2008.
  24. ^ Karlee Prazak . "A Triple Threat: Artist Doug Miller" Laguna Beach Magazine, 24 April 2015.
  25. ^ Rhea Mahbubani. “Anything Goes at Sawdust” Coastline Pilot, 26 June 2013.

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