Laguna Art Museum is proud to continue the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by the early California artists who discovered the town and fostered a vibrant arts community. The gallery that the association built in 1929 is part of today’s Laguna Art Museum.
Laguna Art Museum is the museum of California art. It collects, cares for, and exhibits works of art that were created by California artists or represent the life and history of the state. Through its permanent collection, its special exhibitions, its educational programs, and its library and archive, the museum enhances the public’s knowledge and enjoyment of California art and encourages art-historical scholarship in this field. Unlike any other museum in the state, it collects California art and only California art, and ranges across all periods and styles, nineteenth-century to present-day.
Laguna Art Museum seeks to develop a permanent collection that represents the rich history of California art; stage serious exhibitions of high artistic quality that complement the collection; offer a robust education program for children, students, and adults alike; serve the community as a cultural and social center; and achieve the level of financial stability needed to realize these aims.
The vision of Laguna Art Museum is to be the premier museum of California art, financially stable and managed according to the highest professional standards—both an artistic destination and a relevant, respected center of culture for Laguna Beach.
The museum traces its origins to the Laguna Beach Art Association, formed by local artists in 1918 and incorporated in 1920 with artist Edgar Payne as president. At first the members met and showed their works in a converted board-and-batten cottage. But in 1929, following a successful fundraising drive headed by another early Laguna Beach painter, Anna Hills, they opened a grand, custom-built gallery designed by the well known Los Angeles architect Myron Hunt. This survives as the Steele Gallery within the present museum building. The LBAA used the gallery essentially as a way of showing and selling the members’ own works. With the growth of a permanent collection of donated works and the beginnings of a program of loan exhibitions, however, the gallery took on some of the characteristics of a museum. In 1972 it became the Laguna Beach Museum of Art. It changed its name to Laguna Art Museum in 1986 with the physical expansion that completed the building as it stands today. In 1996 Laguna Art Museum and Newport Harbor Art Museum merged as the Orange County Museum of Art. There was a public outcry, and Laguna Art Museum was re-established as an independent entity in the following year. Today the museum showcases works from its collection, special exhibitions, and an array of events, including artist talks, concerts, family days, and more.