Community Heroes

Alice Baum

by Donna Klaasen, Laguna Niguel, CA

How many people do you personally know who have made a splash in life? You know, really made a difference. We hear about these individuals daily in the media, their faces pop up on our televisions, selfless acts of kindness fill the front page of newspapers. But how often do these individuals affect us personally?

Alice Baum and husband Don Burnes relocated from Washington, D.C. to South Orange County, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of two fast-paced careers helping the homeless.

Don served as the Executive Director of the Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington (SMGW), while Alice was their Alcohol/Drug Counselor from 1986 to 1988. Becoming experts on the nationwide problem, they published a book in 1993 entitled, A Nation in Denial: The Truth About Homelessness.

Then in 1995, they surprised family and friends by retiring to Southern California. Swapping business suits for flip-flops, they quickly acclimated to laid back Capistrano Beach.

First on the priority list was to restore their historic Doheny home to its original condition. In the midst of refurbishing the estate, located across from the bluff on Camino Capistrano, Alice and Don frequented local galleries. Discovering several South County artistic talents, they began to fill their home with abstract art. Within two years, they were well on their way to earning a reputation as serious patrons of the local artist. Helping to support a number of artisans through their growing collection, the pair educated themselves about their purchases as well as about the creators.

Regularly hosting get-togethers for artist types in Baum-Burnes’ lavish home, first-timers could count on a fact-filled guided tour of the two-story estate. As guests casually strolled throughout the maze of rooms, Alice stopped long enough to comment on every piece of art and offer personal anecdotes about the artists’ backgrounds. Tours usually culminated on the dimly lit patio where they would dine on an exquisitely catered meal under a star-filled sky.

In 1998, Alice and Don replaced their dated swimming pool with guest quarters and, bent on historical accuracy, they once again dug deep to research the history of the builder of their home, the Dohenys, and the seaside communities of Dana Point and Capistrano Beach. Alice and Don became so fascinated with their findings, they interviewed anyone who could give them a glimpse into the past.

Through their journey, the couple inadvertently became involved in local groups — Don held the position of Treasurer of the Dana Point Historical Society for two years, before being elected President in 2001, and Alice was by his side as Recording Secretary, as well as Membership Chair, the last term of their four-year involvement.

Alice was also asked to head Art Splash in 2000, a floundering juried art competition sponsored by Dana Point Coastal Arts. Given the reins, Alice was hard to keep up with. She gathered a close-knit group of doers together and kick-started the competition right into gear. For five months out of every year, Alice’s long gray braid and thin frame could be seen flitting about from one side of town to the other, making new connections to help the cause or promoting Dana Point Coastal Arts. Within three years, Alice turned Art Splash into a stylish event that was beginning to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, Alice swept through our lives too quickly. She passed away from lung cancer on September 23, 2003, without seeing her long-term plan come to fruition: uniting the art community of South Orange County.

For those of us who knew and worked alongside Alice Baum, she was a vital force. Because of her contagious passion and contribution to the local community beginning this year, Dana Point Coastal Arts will host the Alice Baum 5th Annual Art Splash. With her spirit embedded deep in our souls, DPCA has high hopes of making this year’s event the best yet.

So, join Art Splash and Dana Point Coastal Arts in helping to keep Alice Baum’s memory alive through the art and hearts of Dana Point.

Page created on 9/6/2006 3:55:18 PM

Last edited 10/21/2018 3:27:46 PM

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Related Links

Dana Point Historical Society - Celebrating and Preserving the History of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and Monarch Beach.

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