Tom and Patti Klingenmeier look at art work during Lagua College of Art & Design's 50th anniversary celebration.

Tom and Patti Klingenmeier look at art work during Lagua College of Art & Design's 50th anniversary celebration. (Courtesy Laguna College of Art & Design)

In 1961, the Festival of Arts and the Art Assn. united to give birth to an offspring that no one could have predicted would become an international star in art education.

Fifty years later, the result of that union has matured from a community art school into the Laguna College of Art & Design, with an enrollment of students coming from 50 states and 20 foreign countries to study with an enthusiastic faculty in surroundings that inspire both pupils and teachers.

The school's 50th anniversary was celebrated Sept. 15 at [seven-degrees].

"As we pass this milestone, let's take a moment to give thanks for all of those who have contributed to the college's growth and success over the years," said new LCAD President Jonathan Burke.

The late David Young, perennial FOA board member, scraped together $5,000 to get the school started. Classes were held adjacent to the festival grounds, about where the office is now, FOA President Fred Sattler said.

"Success takes vision as well as action," he said. "[LCAD] is an important thread in the art design of Laguna Beach."

Laguna Art Museum Treasurer Marshall Eichenaur spoke about the contributions of the Art Assn., formed in 1918 to evolve into the museum.

"From that one organization, you can trace almost all art organizations in town," he said. "How can one group be so influential?"

Mayor Toni Iseman added her congratulations on the breadth of achievements of the past 50 years, which saw enrollment swell, the long-sought accreditation certified and bachelor's and a master's degree programs begun.

It wasn't all beer and Skittles.

Ruth Salyer was appointed the school's founding director in 1962 and was called upon frequently in subsequent years to act as college president when one administrator or another bailed. The office had a swinging door for years.

The school moved to 2222 Laguna Canyon Road in 1977, reluctantly agreed to by local environmentalists with the understanding that no expansion would take place on that side of the road.

Chris Abel designed the building, with instructions to make the campus as invisible as possible. The late and revered Fred Lang landscaped the front with native plants, to which he brought his students until Patricia Caldwell, president from 1984-86, decided to dig up the garden and put in grass. She also decided the building would look better pink, which made Young see red.

His actions resulted in Caldwell ousting him from the board and it was years before he again stepped foot on the campus, but the buildings stayed their natural wood color.

Other presidents included William Otton, who moved from the Laguna Art Museum, the popular Alan Barkley and Dennis Power, who retired in June of this year.

Power and his wife, Leslie, attended the anniversary party, where Burke announced that the expanded college library has been named in their honor.

"The Power Library is the first of several campus improvements planned and made possible by contributions from generous individuals that believe LCAD can stand among the finest art colleges in America," Burke said. "We have our sights set on that."

Burke has been at the college for 30 years, serving as faculty department chairman and dean before succeeding Power as president.

"During that time, my purpose was to help art students of all ages realize their dreams to become artists and designers," Burke said. "Now, as president, of this wonderful art college, I have another responsibility. It is to ensure the vision of the founders — to produce an art education of the highest quality — continues to thrive.

"It shouldn't be that difficult. I have a talented, hardworking and dedicated staff — and the college is in Laguna Beach, a community with extraordinary natural beauty where creative and complex people meet and inspire one another.