The Sawdust was originally called the Laguna Artists and Gallery Owners Association after breaking away from the Festival of Arts in 1965, in protest of that show’s jurying system. That first festival was located on a vacant lot at the bottom of Park Avenue (on the Peacock lot) with only a few dozen exhibitors. It was called the ‘Rejects Festival’ by the media.
There was absolutely no show in 1966, but the show did reappear, with more exhibitors, in 1967 on an empty lot on North Coast Highway (The Kronquist lot). That show was a great success and led to the artists moving to its current location on Laguna Canyon Road, leasing the property from Walter and Dorothy Funk, and when the artists spread sawdust on the ground to combat the dust and mud, the media called it the ‘Sawdust Festival,’ and that name has identified the show for decades.
Looking for room to expand, in 1968 the show moved to its present three-acre site at 935 Laguna Canyon Road, welcoming one and all with the promise to educate the public as well as provide a sales outlet for unrestricted art. Today, artists demonstrate their art in designated "demo" booths where the public is invited to participate, as well as working in their own booths. The lovely eucalyptus grove with its rippling waterfall provides an irresistible background.
The Sawdust Art Festival is truly a local event. All artists exhibiting in the festival are residents of Laguna Beach. Unlike some other non-profit organizations dedicated to the arts, the Sawdust Art Festival's administration is made up of exhibiting members. Each year, exhibiting artists are elected as members of the Board of Directors. In addition, booth locations are determined by an annual lottery, usually held in February. Because the show is non-juried, enthusiastic amateurs display their work along with accomplished veteran artists, providing the spice and variety that make every show different from the last.
In keeping with the spirit of its beginnings, the Sawdust Art Festival intends to be different from other art shows, visualizing itself as an artists' "happening" rather than a stuffy exhibit. To that end, the artists themselves build a unique village of individual booths from the ground up each summer. The architectural designs are as varied and interesting as the work they showcase. Once the booths are finished, the sawdust goes down, the landscaping goes in, music fills the air and once again the Sawdust Art Festival magically returns for another summer. It is truly a unique experience in the arts that brings visitors back year after year.