Artists Jerry Burchfield (1948–2009) and Mark Chamberlain (born 1942) considered Laguna Canyon to be crucial to the identity of their hometown of Laguna Beach. In 1980, aware that the canyon was being threatened by development, the two artists committed to a long-term project to rally the cause to protect the canyon through activism. The project slowly evolved into sixteen different phases over thirty years, during which Burchfield and Chamberlain were assisted by thousands of volunteers. BC Space, the artists’ gallery and photo production studio in downtown Laguna Beach, served as the headquarters for the project. The eighth and paramount phase was The Tell, a 636-foot long photographic mural that was mounted in the canyon. It was covered with more than 100,000 personal photographs donated by concerned individuals.
The Canyon Project examined, considered, and lobbied for the very existence of Laguna Canyon. It was both art and activism, or “artivism”—the tongue-in-cheek portmanteau that the artists coined to describe it. The exhibition features actual portions of The Tell and other objects that relate to the project, including documents, ephemera, and photographs.
The guest curator of the exhibition is Mike McGee, director of the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Gallery at California State University Fullerton. The written material was collaboratively prepared by Chamberlain and McGee. Laguna Wilderness Press will publish a book about the project in late 2015 or early 2016.