Fifteen months ago, the Laguna Art Museum closed its doors for a face-lift.
Thursday night, and only three months behind schedule, the Board of Trustees celebrated the reopening with a black-tie, sit-down dinner.
The "Grand Premiere" dinner, chaired by Anne Cusic, attracted 150 of the museum's staunchest supporters to add $55,000 toward the building fund. The new 19,000-square-foot structure, designed by architect Paul Barnard, combines new architecture while retaining its old charm.
Couples paid $1,000 apiece for the first look at the new structure (painted pink a la the Beverly Hills Hotel) that cost about $2.1 million to rebuild and refurbish. The general public won't get a look until Sept. 23.
Sizing up the structure with a builder's eye, Gus Owen of Laguna Beach, attending with Kathryn Thompson, said, "Let's see if it warrants the cost."
So what if on opening night the carpeting was missing in some areas or that the name was misspelled in one gallery?
It didn't ruffle Marla Bird, the development chairwoman whom philanthropist Charlie Hester describes as being "responsible for all of this."
"It wouldn't be us if it was perfect," laughed Bird as she surveyed the success of the evening. Bird, who plans to retire from the board this year, added: "It's more than we hoped for--our dreams expanded, our goals expanded and we made it! We really did!"
Attending were honorary event chairmen Sharon and Boyd Jefferies, benefactors who have two galleries named in their honor.
Drinks in hand, the crowd roamed freely among the nine galleries and viewed the mixture of art which, according to Bird, was "a special collection put together just for the reopening."
One of the permanent works at the new museum is Michael Davis' "Remnant," a $40,000 sculpture underwritten by Cynthia and Eric Wittenberg.
Made of materials such as marble, terrazzo, copper, bronze and aluminum, its uniqueness lies in the "fragments" of the sculpture that are actually incorporated into the interior and exterior of the rebuilt museum.
Scene stealer of the evening was 9-year-old Carrera Jefferies, granddaughter of Sharon and Boyd Jefferies. Mother Betsy and her husband, Terry Brennan, attended the opening event with Carrera.
Poised and eloquent, the Lake Forest fourth-grader made her brief speech: "Welcome to the reopening of the Laguna Art Museum and thank you for coming."
To which Tom Tierney, president of the Board of Trustees, quipped, "The speeches before dessert will be much longer than that." They weren't.
After the catered dinner, Tierney acknowledged the growth of the museum under the leadership of Director Bill Otton, his staff and the volunteers.
Tierney also announced that the entire lower level directly below the Steele Gallery will be named the Segerstrom Family Gallery.
The Segerstroms made it possible for Laguna Art Museum to continue exhibitions and programs by providing free space for a storefront museum at the Segerstrom-owned South Coast Plaza while the Laguna site was closed.