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Laguna's Steeped in Culture

February 27, 1993

It was surprising and most disappointing to learn from a recent article in The Times on the state of the arts in Orange County that Charles Desmarais, director of the Laguna Art Museum, apparently knows little if anything of Laguna's rich cultural history. ("Money Is Still Top Concern," Jan. 4).

On the 75th anniversary of Laguna's museum, Mr. Desmarais was quoted as saying: "I truly think that 75 years of history has a lot of respect in a community that doesn't have a lot of cultural history."

I am sure that there are many in Laguna who were deeply insulted by that opinion considering the yeoman efforts of so many who have contributed so much over that 75-year span to establish Laguna as the veritable fount of culture in Orange County.

Early California Impressionist and Plein Air schools were literally born in Laguna.

The Laguna Playhouse is not only the oldest continuously operating playhouse west of the Rockies (73 years young) but has been recognized for many years as one of the nation's best. . . . It can point proudly to such illustrious alumni as Harrison Ford, Mike Farrell and Terri Ralston.

With a rich history of its own, Laguna's Art Institute is still the only fully accredited college of art in Orange County.

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, now in its 63rd year, attracts visitors from around the world.

Orange County points with pride at Opera Pacific currently in its sixth season at the Performing Arts Center. We would remind Mr. Desmarais that the genesis of this opera company was right here in Laguna, where some 30 years ago Laguna's Opera Group presented full grand opera in the Irvine Bowl, replete with stars from the Metropolitan Opera. A number of Lagunans served on the founding board of Opera Pacific, and some continue to serve to this day.

Laguna-based Ballet Pacifica has earned an enviable reputation and can point to a long record of cultural enrichment to Laguna Beach and Orange County.

All of this rich history--and there is much, much more--is a glowing tribute to the volunteer efforts of many Laguna residents for well over 75 years.

No cultural history indeed! Mr. Desmarais, you owe this community an apology and a promise that you will do your homework before you feel qualified in the future to comment on the lack of cultural history in this community.

VERNON R. SPITALERI

Laguna Beach

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