Here in Southern California, summertime is marked by any number of occasions – nighttime concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, visits to the beach, Angels and Dodgers baseball, and no shortage of locally grown fruit such as strawberries galore. The return of the annual Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach also marks a rite of summer passage.

For nine weeks, the Sawdust Festival draws more than 200,000 visitors to its eclectic village of hand-crafted fine arts and crafts, all created by local artisans. Strolling along its winding pathways, visitors can see a variety of mediums for sale, such as ceramics, glass, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, and woodwork. It’s an impressive array of hand-made items featured in a village-like setting in Laguna Canyon.

Recently, teens from Hermosa Village Apartments in Anaheim (Adopted by Union Bank) had the opportunity to visit the Sawdust Festival, exposing them to many examples of the physical arts. When they arrived at the festival, it was evident that the teens were in for a treat. Their faces lit up excitedly as they entered this new world, bursting with creativity and color.

This wasn’t just any ordinary visit to the festival. Our Hermosa teens had the opportunity to participate in something extraordinary, thanks to Project Access and the Sawdust Art Enrichment Fund (SAEF). SAEF is the philanthropic arm of the Sawdust Art Festival, dedicated to supporting arts education and providing hands-on art experiences to underserved communities.

Project Access was fortunate to receive an invitation from SAEF, and together, they have been making art accessible to at-risk students, seniors in public housing, military families, and individuals in rehabilitation and recovery programs. This partnership has been going strong for a decade, impacting countless lives through the power of art.

This was a first-time experience at the Sawdust Festival for many Hermosa Teens. But this event held a more profound significance for Mariana Ortiz (Associate Resident Services Coordinator). As a child, Mariana was part of the first group of kids invited to a class with the talented artist Ora Spalding. “Those summer days spent at Sawdust were etched in my memory as the highlight of my entire summer,” says Ortiz.

Now, years later, Mariana had the incredible opportunity to offer this field trip to the Hermosa Teens and share with them something that had meant so much to her. And as if the stars had aligned, Ora, the first artist to ever hold a class at Sawdust, was present that day. Her warm smile and genuine passion for art inspired the teens as she guided them through the festival. 

The teens had the chance to explore the many booths, admire captivating sculptures, and even engage in conversations with various artists. The sense of wonder in their eyes was genuinely heartwarming, and one even remarked that they felt like “royalty” in how they were so wonderfully treated.

The day at the Sawdust Festival was magical – filled with creativity, inspiration, and a genuine appreciation for the power of art. It was a reminder that art can transcend boundaries and bring joy to the hearts of everyone, regardless of their background or age. As Mariana states: “I hope this story inspires you all to explore the world of art and embrace the joy it brings. Until next time, keep spreading creativity and embracing the beauty of art in all its forms!”


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