START at the famous MAIN BEACH LIFEGUARD TOWER—which may not officially be a public art installation but is certainly treated like one. The tower is the city’s most oft-photographed icon and is often painted by plein air artists, sitting at their easels up at the Heisler Park Gazebo.
HEAD NORTH along the boardwalk to find GRACE, a public art piece by Terry Thornsley at the new lifeguard headquarters. The piece—made of bronze, copper, and steel—speaks to the inescapable connection that people living in a beach city have to the ocean.
WALK UP THE STEPS toward Heisler Park and take a quick breather by sitting on “SUPPORT”—a bench created by local sculptor Louis Longi. “Support” was designed to reference the commitment and care that the city of Laguna Beach has shown to artists for generations. Longi himself is also an outspoken arts supporter with an artist live/work project underway in Laguna Canyon and a yearly scholarship in his name at LCAD (Laguna College of Art and + Design). Besides being beautiful in its own right, the bench provides a stunning view of Main Beach.
CONTINUE further along the park path. From this point on, the park becomes veritable OUTDOOR GALLERY of public art pieces. The city is filled with art and once you begin to look for it, you’ll see it everywhere. Keep a keen eye out for the abstract “2001#1” by Jerry Rothman, watch the surf while seated at “Rockpile Carve” by George Stone, and take your photo beside “Breeching Whale”—a 1916-foot-tall sculpture made of stainless steel. Kids will love dashing around the park on an art-scavenger hunt and playing amongst the old, gnarled branches of the pink melaleuca tree that rests beside the path.
DISCOVER the HEISLER PARK SCULPTURE GARDEN. This garden was commissioned by the city and designed by sculptors Scott and Naomi Schoenherr. The garden includes four mosaics, a 6.5’ high bronze sculpture, stone slab benches, and a second work in bronze with ceramic inlays.
ARRIVE at the north end of Heisler Park. If you’re so inclined, Picnic Beach and Diver's Cove both make excellent spots for a swim. If the tide pools at Diver’s Cove are open (they are tide-dependent), you can find more public art there—brilliant anemones and darting rock crabs—provided courtesy of Mother Nature.
WANDER back through the park before crossing Pacific Coast Highway at Jasmine Street and continuing south. A series of galleries (dubbed “GALLERY ROW”) line the sidewalk, with more public artwork along the path. “Eucalyptus Bench” by Julia Klemek—the first artist-designed bench commissioned by the city—sits in front of MADISON SQUARE AND & GARDEN CAFÉ. The café’s shady outdoor dining area is a perfect place to appreciate beauty all around you while charging up for the next leg of your journey.
--Photo by Julia Kelemek
FOLLOW PCH south and back into the buzz of downtown Laguna Beach. Cross Broadway then make a left—soon you will pass a series of permanent WINDOW PAINTINGS commissioned by Whole Foods Market to show the diverse neighborhoods of the city. Woods Cove, Diver’s Cove, Laguna Canyon, and Top of the World are each given the travel poster treatment—displaying their diverse topography (and oceanography), along with iconic animals known to frequent each spot. If you made it this far without spontaneously stopping at DOLCE GELATO, you should probably backtrack a few steps and treat yourself. Chef Lindsay Nelson is an artist in her own right—with your palate acting as her palette. Inventive flavors like blackberry zinfandel have gained the shop wide acclaim; besides, what’s an art tour without some wine?
HANG A RIGHT and walk south on Beach Street, pausing where Beach meets Ocean to admire “The Shopper”—a bronze sculpture by LCAD graduate Andrew Myers. Head away from the beach to PETER BLAKE GALLERY. Blake is a visionary tastemaker and has built relationships with some of the most innovative, risk-taking artists working today. Across the street, Forest & Ocean Gallery shows fine art photography in an open, inviting, accessible atmosphere.
FOLLOW FOREST AVENUE to the right, then right again and take a stroll along Laguna’s most stylish street for shoppers. The eucalyptus trees that line the road have long been a favorite subject among the town’s populace of plein air painters. Soon you’ll come upon “Mother and Child” another of Laguna Beach’s public installations. Where Beach Street intersects with Forest, you’ll find “Waterman’s Wall”—a 3-d bronze mural that pays homage to Laguna’s spot in surfing history. Not coincidentally, the piece shares a wall with Hobie Surf Shop, whose founder, Hobie Alter, was an icon of surfing and of the city.
**BONUS ADVENTURE: If you’re walking during the summer months, hop aboard a free trolley on Broadway and head out to LAGUNA CANYON’S three art festivals FESTIVAL OF ARTS, ART-A-FAIR and SAWDUST ART FESTIVAL. Between the three of them, the festivals showcase more than 500 artists, 300 hands-on workshops, along with bands, and special exhibits. The PASSPORT TO THE ARTS allows guests to visit all three festivals for the entire summer for only $23.**
Dine at BROADWAY BY AMAR SANTANA, just a few steps off of Forest Avenue, on Glenneyre Street. At his flagship restaurant, Santana prepares some of the most unique, flavorful, and artfully plated dishes in the county. The restaurant is also a rotating gallery featuring the work of local artists like Baldemar Fierro, Eric Gerdau, and Andrew Myers.
REST your weary feet and let your mind process the wide-variety of art that you’ve witnessed, admired, and even tasted on your tour. Luckily, the Laguna Beach Arts Commission has peppered artist-designed benches around the city—offering plenty of opportunities for you to take a load off.
This piece was complied with help from LagunaBeachWalks.com