Morris B. Squire was an administrative psychiatrist who loved to retreat to his contemporary vacation home, Villa Maria, in a residential neighborhood in the Santa Barbara foothills. Squire was a prolific and eclectic artist who created a vast body of work in various media—including paintings, drawings and sculptures—during a 50-year period. His themes in all media focused on the psychosocial profile of the human being in the world and amid community.
When Squire died in March 2014, he left his Santa Barbara home and his artworks to the Squire Foundation, a nonprofit creative empowerment organization. “Art was Morris Squire’s way of releasing all that was on his mind onto the canvas at the end of every day so that he could help get into other people’s minds and help them during the day,” explains Executive Director Ashley Woods Hollister. “And I think he really saw the power of creativity to heal and repair the world.”
Today Villa Maria houses Squire’s contemporary artworks and maintains a gorgeous sculpture garden on the property. The foundation loans the works to a wide range of public venues throughout the United States, including schools, parks and zoos. Villa Maria also hosts residency programs for established and emerging artists working in all media—anything from poetry, performing arts and visual arts to sculpture, ceramics, coding and graphic design. Public outreach is part of every residency—artists are encouraged to create new work at Villa Maria to show (along with earlier works) at a solo exhibition in the Santa Barbara area at the end of the stay, and are required to give a public lecture and/or workshop. Photographer Manjari Sharma will reside at Villa Maria in spring 2019.
“This is an artist’s retreat—a sanctuary in every sense of the word,” says Hollister. The grounds were specifically designed to
inspire creative exploration. Part of Hollister’s role as executive director involves hosting the artists in residence, writer salons, and local artists who come to use free studio space in four onsite bungalows. For more information, visit thesquirefoundation.org.
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.