Get Yer Fresh, Hot Art at the OC Fair


There’s more to the OC Fair than carnival rides, games for stuffed animals, giant barbecue turkey legs, the petting zoo and Chicken Charlies’ Kool-Aid chicken sandwiches.

Tucked away in the southeast corner of the Main Mall is the Los Alamitos building, which houses the Visual Arts Gallery, a longstanding tradition at the OC Fair. FYI: It’s next to the “sweet and delicious” churros stand. This year, the air-conditioned gallery also includes all of woodworking for just the second time. (Last year was the first time.)

In previous years, woodworking was located in the Anaheim building on the northeast end of the Main Mall. The live woodworking demonstrations, a kind of treat in the old setup, are gone this time around.

Visual Art at the OC Fair

Where: OC Fair, Los Alamitos building, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Aug. 14

Tickets: $7-$14, included in fair admission; must be purchased in advance

Information: (714) 708-1624 or

Exactly 1,300 works are on display this year, compared to 1,067 last year, when pieces were more spaced out due to COVID precautions. There are 504 fine art works, 674 photographs, and 122 pieces of woodworking, according to exhibitions and education coordinator Stephen Anderson.

This used to be a bigger and more jam-packed show. Pre-COVID, 1,700 works were on display in 2019, and more than 1,800 pieces were on view in 2018.

Also missing this year are featured artists, which were a nice touch, a display from Laguna College of Art + Design students, and live artists’ demonstrations. The latter was nixed from last year’s show because of COVID precautions.

Judges’ works are displayed on the east end of the gallery, where the LCAD display used to be. There are also some judges’ works, including paintings by Evalynn Alu, on walls near the information desk.

The Breakdown

The show is divided into three sections: photography on the north side, woodworking and sculpture in the middle, and fine art (mostly painting) on the south side. There are fewer sculptures compared to previous years, a trend that also started last year.

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Anyone living in California can submit work, although the majority of artists reside in Orange County. About 25% of photography submissions were accepted by the jurors, and about 60% of fine art submissions were admitted, according to Anderson. Last year, it was 20% for photography and 40% for fine art, so the chances of getting accepted have been improving, for all of you aspiring photographers and artists.

Many works are for sale; interested buyers can inquire at the information desk.

While there are many fine contributions in all divisions, and a few duds, here are the best-in-show winners:

  • PHOTOGRAPHY: Leagh Sachs, “Lone But Not Lonesome Tree,” a winter scene of a snow-covered tree in Yellowstone National Park;
  • PROFESSIONAL FINE ARTS: Tony Podue, “Bayou Bling,” a painting that gives meaning to the expression, “down on the Bayou”;
  • WOODWORKING: Jim Peel, African mahogany credenza made of African mahogany, natural and ebonized with wenge accents;
  • YOUNG ADULT (YA) PHOTOGRAPHY: Gram Nylen, “Siberia, CA,” an empty intermodal train flies west through the Mojave desert;
  • YA FINE ARTS: Alison Lee, “Framed Modernity,” a mixed media work featuring a watercolor painting with a surrounding frame of various jeans.

An awards ceremony for the best-of-show winners in all major categories will be held at noon Sunday, Aug. 14 on the OC Promenade stage, in the Culinary Arts/Explorium area next door to the arts gallery.

For more information about division and ribbon winners and honorable mentions, check out the visual arts competition website. Or click through the slideshow below to see division winners:  

More Visual Stuff

The Crafters Village at the fair features some original and hand-crafted works by visiting vendors. This year, spacing precautions due to COVID do not seem to be in effect anymore. So there seem to be more booths, and therefore more stuff to check out.

Also, the reggae guy selling reggae-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, bracelets and accessories is back! Although the “One Love” bracelet I bought broke within a couple of days. Can I exchange it for one that won’t fall off?

Last but not least, Heroes Hall Museum is located just south of the Pacific Amphitheatre. On display through Sept. 18 is “Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II.” It’s mostly photographs and text, with a couple of stations that provide videos and oral histories.

“The SAAAB Story” is an interesting permanent exhibition on the second floor of Heroes Hall. Through photographs, artifacts, letters and some video, it tells the story of the Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB), which was a flight training center.

Among the highlights are letters sent from eighth graders who were held in incarceration camps to their white classmates in Westminster; stories about women, Latino, LGBTQ and Chinese service members in the military during World War II; and an anecdote about Joseph Heller, the author of the classic novel “Catch 22,” who once trained at SAAAB.

So consider checking out the arts, crafts and exhibitions at the OC Fair. You might learn something new, or have an unexpected aesthetic experience.

Richard Chang is senior editor for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at [email protected].

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