Local Lowdown: Collaborative Effort Helps Craft Santa Barbara a Creative Center

Posted on Mar 15 by SEASONS Magazine

Matt Rodriguez paints a mural as part of a Youth Interactive project at the Community Arts Workshop last year, courtesy photo.

Matt Rodriguez paints a mural as part of a Youth Interactive project at the Community Arts Workshop last year, courtesy photo.

Nothing exemplifies Santa Barbara’s collaborative creative spirit quite like the annual Summer Solstice Parade where artisans of all ilks come together for a vibrant and imaginative celebration. It seems fitting that the workshop space that has been the recent home of parade preparations should now become a year-round creative hub.

In April 2014, the City of Santa Barbara leased the old city motor pool property at 631 Garden St. to Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative to create Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop (SBCAW). The facility will feature two large buildings and four separate spaces for performances, rehearsals, painting, sculpture and exhibitions while also providing a permanent home for Santa Barbara Solstice Parade.

The concept’s history stretches back to the 1980s when the City and County of Santa Barbara jointly devised a Regional Arts Master Plan. The report identified the need for a communal creative space where people could gather to make and see great work and spread inspiration.

“The master plan that was done in the 1980s recommended a space that would be affordable for local arts organizations, which the report actually called a community arts workshop,” explains Casey Caldwell, SBCAW’s site manager.

“Even back then, Santa Barbara was becoming increasingly difficult for artists. The light industrial spaces that artists could use as studios were being lost, so the report called for a community space that artists could use.”

Thirty years later, that Community Arts Workshop is a reality thanks to the enduring vision of local artists and arts supporters.

The Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative’s five-year lease of the property came with a $300,000 grant from the City of Santa Barbara and an understanding that a long-term lease would be forthcoming after the arts facility is established. With further funding coming through private donations, renovation of the site is well underway.

“A whole lot of work has already been done on the smaller south building on the site, and that space is largely done,” Caldwell says.

The site has not been creatively idle in the midst of its transformation. Ironwork artist David Shelton has designed gates that pay homage to winter and summer solstice while groups like Youth Interactive, Pianos on State and Santa Barbara Revels have already used the space.

“Now we need more funds to finish renovating the rest of the site,” Caldwell says. “That includes installing bathrooms and gates on the site and some basic electrical work on the north building. That will accomplish everything the city has asked us to do, and then we’ll be able to go back to the city and ask for a longer lease—that’s an important goal for us.”  

For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop, visit sbcaw.org. For more ways to donate, including naming opportunities, contact Marianne Clark at donate@sbcaw.org or 805/455-4521.

Brett Leigh Dicks

Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

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