Surf and Art

Nick Rodionoff, who is the head coach for Pepperdine University's women's diving and swim team, started taking photos when he was a coach at UCLA. The ocean is one of his favorite subjects. Photo byNick Rodionoff

Swim and dive coach Nick Rodionoff is the featured artist at the 36th Annual Malibu Arts Festival this weekend.

By Vicki Talbot / Special to the Malibu Times

Malibu, though sophisticated, is still a small beach community, with a relaxed atmosphere and a kind of laidback approach. In keeping with that spirit, the theme of the 36th Annual Malibu Arts Festival, which takes place this weekend, is artistic expression and surfers.

“Together, they epitomize the freedom of spirit that has always been central to the Malibu lifestyle and community,” said Ken Fasola, committee chair of the festival.

That theme ultimately comes together in this year’s featured artist, Nick Rodionoff. When he isn’t practicing photography or out surfing, Rodionoff works as the head coach of Pepperdine University’s women’s swimming and diving team as well as the Masters swim groups.

Rodionoff has participated in all but the first Malibu Arts Festival. At that time, he was a coach at UCLA and a spectator.

“I started with [taking] action photos for my diving team,” he said.

Taking photos was a natural expression for Rodionoff. “Photography was a great stress reliever for me,” he explained. “When things get difficult, you get into a different world; it’s a great way to relax for me. And it’s so interesting, it changes daily. One day you can shoot at Topanga Canyon and the next day at County Line.”

Rodionoff’s photography displays an eye for capturing a unique, single moment. “I keep my gear in the car so I can get out and shoot when I see something,” he said.

The diving coach has a great fondness for photographing the ocean, keeping an eye out for just the sort of moment that makes him want to shoot. “You look at the sky and pick up reflections; pink, orange, yellow to slate blue,” he said. “At low tide, all kinds of different effects can happen. Sometimes the sand is brighter and actually enhances the reflection from the sky. The object is, this is reality, it’s all right here; all you got to do is be more aware of the moment. It’s not a painting, it’s reality.”

Rodionoff collaborated with longtime Malibu resident and author Marian Hall to produce a photographic history called “Malibu: California’s Most Famous Seaside Community.” The book features photographs by Rodionoff illustrating a history of Malibu from a local’s point of view. He used photos from his own 34-year archive as well as going out and photographing scenes for the book at Hall’s request. The latter proved a challenge for the coach. “Shooting on demand is not my style,” he said.

Vintage historical photos are also incorporated as the book seeks to tell the tale of the Malibu the residents know, not the one chronicled in the sensation-hungry press. The book, he said, “is a work of love.”

Besides the images by Rodionoff, several other photographers are listed in the arts festival program, and a total of 170 artists from Malibu and throughout the West will show their work.

The exhibits consist of everything from textiles, wood and stone to watercolor and oils. There will also be artistic jewelry, clothes, furniture, graphics and glass works.

Produced by the Chamber of Commerce, the arts festival is supported by the pro bono efforts of many local businesses. In all, there are 18 businesses providing services for the festival free of charge. The festival will host more than 10,000 visitors in two days, and it is one of Malibu’s biggest community events. This year is the largest in festival history with 272 booths, including the Chamber Village, which will house more than 70 Malibu chamber member businesses who will showcase their products and services. Sponsored by Hughes Research Laboratories, visitors will receive a “passport,” and then can visit businesses listed on the card, have it signed, and when full, it can be entered into a drawing for prizes, including a trip for two to Carmel valued at $1,200.

Saturday evening, Malibu Cross Creek Plaza is hosting a special artists’ reception with wine, food and entertainment, and a chance to mingle with chamber members and artists.

Children will be able to create their own art at the Children’s Workshop, which is sponsored by KidzArt. They will have a hands-on opportunity to work and create with supervision and instruction, and then to enjoy entertainment especially for kids at the children’s stage.

Like Malibu itself, the art festival has come into its own. The art selection process is, by all accounts, a rigorous process that affirms the festival’s dedication to choosing the most appropriate creations for this venue.

“The jury met for hours over every single application,” said Rebekah Evans, executive director of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.

This year, jurors deliberated more than 400 applicants. All the artists are carefully selected on several merits, including originality, quality and limiting the number of gicleƩ reproductions to ensure exclusivity. All the artists will be present at their booths so they can interact with visitors.

There will also be some music for festival goers with eight bands slated to attend.

Admission to the 36th Annual Malibu Arts Festival is free; there is a charge, however, of $7 for parking. The Artists Reception, which takes place Saturday evening between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., costs $35 per person. The festival runs Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be obtained by calling 310.456.9025