The Roots of the Sawdust

In the mid 1960s, personal freedom of expression broke out and with it, a vibrant arts and crafts movement. In Laguna Beach, that creative energy brought together an influx of young artists and craftspeople, as well as talented local artists who had been juried out of the only summer art festival in town. Fueled by a passionate desire for artistic independence and wanting something fresh and exciting, the Sawdust Festival was born.

In 1965, the very first show was held in a vacant lot across the street from present day Laguna Beach Public Library, but it wasn’t until ’67 at another locale on PCH that sawdust was used along the grounds to help keep dust down. It was then, the press coined them the Sawdust Festival.
When the show reformed the following summer at what would be its permanent home, 935 Laguna Canyon Road, the founding artists erected the first official Sawdust Festival sign.

By the early seventies, word got around about a unique, funky art festival in Laguna with eclectic hand-built booths, artists making and creating onsite, and an electrifying energy the public could immerse themselves in.

Sawdust Art Festival remains true to its humble beginnings, with the intention to always to be different from other art venues, visualizing itself as an artists’ happening rather than an art gallery. To that end, each summer the artists themselves build a handcrafted village of 200 booths to reflect each individual style. The architectural designs are as varied and interesting as the work they showcase, providing guests with a unique experience within the world of the arts.

1980’s and 90’s

Some of our first booths ~1968~

Some of our first booths ~1968~

The growth of the Sawdust began to necessitate the need for staff and also permanent structures as the Sawdust moved forward into the 1980’s and 90’s. New city codes and regulations set parameters on booth building and grounds layout and the artists established By-Laws and Show Rules to govern themselves. By the end of the 80’s the present facade had been built. Classes, workshops and artist demonstrations continued to make sure the Sawdust adhered to its non-profit status by educating the public. Scholarships were awarded to high school art students. Then in 1991, after several years of discussion, Winter Fantasy was started, a holiday-themed art festival wonderland that has grown into a huge success. Currently the Winter Fantasy runs five weekends in November and December.