Art Beyond Laguna
WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Even though we love Laguna Beach, we know there's plenty of great art – and related activities – in Orange County just waiting to be explored.
If you’re an Orange County local, when you think about art, you probably think of Laguna Beach: images of coastal galleries flash through your mind, you picture quirky boutiques like Art for the Soul or visualize the ornate, glossy vases of Italian designer Fiori, located feet away from the sand.
But what about San Clemente? Or Santa Ana? Fullerton or Costa Mesa? No... it can’t be... is there more art in Orange County than what’s found on the streets of Laguna?
In Santa Ana there are two areas displaying high appreciation of the arts: the Artists Village in downtown Santa Ana and The Santiago Art District, just a few miles away, next to the train station.
The Artists Village is a neighborhood consisting of eight blocks of bursting creativity, including trendy restaurants, galleries, theaters, museums, apartments, and cafes. Every first Saturday of the month, the area holds an art walk where shops and galleries keep their doors open late into the night with live music and plenty of food and drink.
As for The Santiago Art District (or SAD), this art walk takes place every third Saturday and consists of about a dozen galleries.
So where should you start? Once in Santa Ana, head for the Grand Central Art Center at 125 N. Broadway. There, you might hear the roar of table saws from an on-site studio as you wander the BC Space art gallery. Over 40 artists are displayed there and famous artists like Mark Ryden were shown back when they were lesser known.
“A major museum would never touch most of the work we carry,” says Director Dennis Cubbage. “We’ll catch artists before they get big.”
After that, stop by the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art or the Santora Arts Building, also on North Broadway. If you're hungry, you can dine at one of the many popular spots like The Crosby, Memphis, Lola, or The Gypsy Den.
So yes, there is art beyond Laguna’s main beach. Venture over to Santa Ana for more underground, grungier artists and a refreshingly edgy experience.
Places to Go in Santa Ana
Grand Central Art Center
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art
Santora Arts Building
Discovery Science Center
The Gypsy Den
The Road Less Traveled Store
Downtown Fullerton is another historic district in Orange County where art is thriving. Fullerton was the hometown of Leo Fender – yes, as in Fender guitars – so maybe that’s why there are so many places to hear live music. The venues range from quirky and relaxed, like photography studio The Violethour to fancy and exclusive, like the distinguished Continental Room.
Fullerton hosted its very first art walk on March 5, 2010. Similar to Santa Ana, the galleries, museums and shops open their doors from 6-10 p.m., inviting the public in to enjoy exhibits with music, food and drink. Every Friday night the area is open to celebrate the arts.
Brian Prince, owner of Project Art School (PAS), a studio which hosts workshops and gallery exhibits, believes that Fullerton is a hidden gem. “Not many people know about its charming, deep culture and the diversity we have. I love that there isn’t a large chain restaurant in sight.” He describes the SOCO (South of Commonwealth) District as a melting pot of edgy, yet down-to-earth people. “It’s very old world meets new world,” says Prince. “You have the young, hip students mixing with families who have been living here for decades.” The result? A friendly, accessible scene with eclectic boutiques, great food, and of course, plenty of music and art.
Places to Go in Fullerton
Fullerton Museum Center
Project Art School
Village Art Center
Angelo's and Vinci’s
Max Blooms Cafe Noir
Heroes Bar & Grill
Out of Vogue
Blanquel Art on Wood
In Costa Mesa, the place to go is 2930 Bristol Street at The LAB Anti-Mall – a youth-driven shopping experience and very unique for Southern California. It was created in 1991 at the site of an abandoned factory. Today, the space is the creative heart of the Sobeca (acronym for South on Bristol Entertainment, Culture, Arts) arts district and an important outlet for musicians, artists and like-minded retail entrepreneurs. The CAMP, another non-traditional space located on Bristol Street, is similar to The LAB but with more focus on outdoor enthusiasts.
Places to Go in Costa Mesa’s LAB and CAMP
Gallery Latrine (entry wall into the public restrooms at The LAB, including various installations changing every six months)
The Hope Mural (in the promenade by The Gypsy Den)
Crew Salon At the Lab (rotating art shows/exhibits)
The Gypsy Den
Milk + Honey
Native Foods Cafe
Seed People’s Market
San Clemente has a Mayberry feeling to it – a perfect, hometown kind of place with, of course, deep-rooted surfing culture. You can ride a bike from one side of town to the other but if you’re looking for art, it’s best to stay on the west side, where you can find unique restaurants, small galleries, boutiques, and tons of art for sale. Gallery 104 is a dedicated gallery, but almost every store on Avenida del Mar hangs works by locally based artists. In Cafe del Sol, there’s an entire wall of it, totaling around 50 pieces. The BeachFire restaurant is another place with an extensive art collection to be enjoyed over eclectic Hawaiian cuisine. The restaurant also brings in local musicians on a weekly basis to perform live for diners.
Places to Go in San Clemente
Fired Up San Clemente
Cafe del Sol
Nick's San Clemente
Wild at Heart