Malibu Arts Festival celebrates 35 years

"Oceana 5," by Yolanda Adra. Five panels; opalescent and dichroic fused glass wall sculptures. Created for Children's Hospital, Boston, Mass. Adra is this year's Malibu Arts Festival's featured artist.

This year’s featured artist is Yolanda M. Adra, who works with stained glass, and whose work is found in private collections across the U.S. and internationally.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to the Malibu Times

Thirty-five years ago, when Malibu was a still a quiet seaside town and the Chamber of Commerce was just taking baby steps before incorporation, residents Julie and Fred May decided to throw a party. The idea was to showcase the many artists who had been attracted to the Pacific coast town and maybe even raise some funds for the struggling chamber. The Malibu Arts Festival was born and, while not particularly successful financially at the time, it was met with great favor by the participating artists and residents of the community. The early years of the festival included surfing competitions and pancake dinners and featured a wide variety of events.

Jump forward a generation and the Malibu Arts Festival, taking place this weekend, is now one of the signature community events of the year. Produced by the Malibu Optimist Club and promoted by the Chamber of Commerce, the festival has honed its message into one of homage to artists of all persuasion, with more than 10,000 visitors expected during the two-day festival. While the pancake breakfast is still part of the festivities, the surfing competition has been dropped and hundreds of submitting artists are juried before settling on 160 to show their work. Artwork presented this year includes mediums such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, ceramics, glass, jewelry and photography.

Janet Laird, who is on the festival’s art screening committee, said, “Throughout the entire screening process, we ensure that the art finally presented will be one of the highest quality.”

The Arts Festival screening committee requires that all work presented be original and only a limited number of giclée prints (high quality, signed and authenticated reproductions) are permitted. All artists must be in attendance at their booths each day to represent their work and to interact with the Malibu community.

A new feature at this year’s festival is the KidzArt Children’s Workshop booth, sponsored by Malibu resident Steven Kunes and his daughter, Melanie. Children will be able to participate in a free, one-hour art workshop led by community artists at the booth. Local artist David Legaspi, who has painted more than a dozen murals in the last six years on every campus in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, will be showing and speaking about his work at the festival.

The Malibu Arts Festival selects one artist to feature each year, and several notable names have appeared in the past, including Malibu resident Jane Seymour and Pierce Brosnan. This year’s featured artist is Yolanda M. Adra. A San Francisco native, Adra was a sculptor by instinct and worked with heavy metals such as bronze and iron. However, a move to a small apartment in the Los Angeles area 11 years ago temporarily deprived her of studio space. With time on her hands, she took a weekend workshop at a Venice studio for stained glass.

“I was hooked,” Adra said. “Working with glass fits my personality. I can physically cut and manipulate it. And then there is the color.”

Adra liberally indulges her love of bright colors in wall sculptures that contain distinct combinations of intensely colorful, iridescent, opalescent and dichroic glass.

“Color is an emotion; it moves us,” Adra said. “What I love in working with glass is that it has such paradoxical qualities. It can be brittle or strong, translucent or opaque, smooth or jagged. It has a linear quality to it and I influence the texture of the glass by controlling the temperature at which it is fired.”

Adra’s work is found in private collections across the U.S. and internationally. Corporate collectors include Mercedes Benz, Simon and Schuster, Paramount Corporation, Marriott Hotel, Boston’s Children’s Hospital and the Georgia World Congress Center.

“I love doing juried shows,” Adra said, “and I am so honored to be chosen from a field of truly gifted artists to be featured here at the Malibu Arts Fest.”

The artist said she is especially pleased that she will have the opportunity to interact with her viewers in a personal manner at the festival.

“Allowing the artist’s and the viewer’s interpretations to converge creates a truly unique experience for each piece,” she said.

The featured artist’s booth can be found next to the Chamber of Commerce booth at the festival.

The Malibu Arts Festival also supports ongoing fundraising efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Ken Fasola, chairman of this year’s festival, said they “hooked up” with the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi after last year’s devastation to contribute to the Katrina Relief Fund. A portion of funds from the sale of 2006 Malibu Arts Festival T-shirts will go to the ongoing relief efforts.

The pancake breakfast will be served Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-11 a.m., sponsored by the Optimist Club of Malibu. Also available will be seven food stations offering Sunset Restaurant’s seafood bruschetta to D’Amore’s famous New York style pizza to Roy’s baby back ribs and sushi. Other options include the best menu items from Mort’s Mobile Gourmet, Mike’s Food Fest, Paradise Cove Outrigger and the Booster Club.

District 41 State Assemblymember Fran Pavley will also be present at the Chamber of Commerce booth between 10:30 a.m. and 12: 30 p.m. on Saturday, July 29. She will offer informative brochures and other literature describing her legislative efforts, but said she “mostly wants to answer any questions that you have and to hear what’s important to you.”

This year’s Malibu Arts Festival’s Presenting Sponsor is Villa Malibu and entrance is free. The festival will take place in front of the Malibu Courthouse, 23555 Civic Centre Way, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Parking is available for $7. More information about the festival can be obtained by calling 310.456.9025.