Santa Barbara

Around the Counties: Santa Barbara Art Venues and More with Charles Donelan

Granada Theatre by Still Burning

Santa Barbara County may be known for its nice climate but it also has a long history of art.

For this edition of Around the Counties, Artbound columnist Charles Donelan answers five questions that describe the art scene and life in Santa Barbara.

The creative director of the Santa Barbara Independent, also suggests that you attend a festive 3-day event this weekend. Learn more about this annual, underground tradition, below.

Charles Donelan

What makes Santa Barbara County attractive?

We have generations of working artists living here in Santa Barbara.

There's this incredibly close connection to the art community with the history and with the natural resources from the area. There's other places that have other kinds of claims to the relationship between art and the environment ... but Santa Barbara has a real tradition of art production that's very old. We also have a great support system in terms of people who are willing to invest in the arts. Its disproportionately well funded because there's so many people of means that have moved here from elsewhere.

What are some of your favorite art venues in Santa Barbara? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

We have an incredible wealth of gorgeous theaters in Santa Barbara. It's one of our unnatural resources here. The Granada Theatre was recently renovated and its a Broadway theater but it happens to be in Santa Barbara.

UC Santa Barbara's Arts & Lectures series is just this unbelievable machine for creating opportunities for people to meet world class artists or world class lecturers too.

There's a very good rock n' roll venue. The Santa Barbara Bowl is smaller than the Greek Theater and it typically has, some of the people who play the Hollywood Bowl. You're seeing somebody in a venue that is typically half the size, or less.

Santa Barbara. | Photo: ramtam/Flickr/Creative Commons License

What was the last art event that you attended?

The last art event is probably among my top 3 favorite things of the whole year. The Ojai Music Festival is incredible. It's among the world's premiere venues for contemporary classical music.

As a music critic and writer... it's an incredible privilege to be able to enjoy a press pass to the festival. There's no difference between you and the artists if you're press. You can just walk up to Philip Glass, Steve Reich or any major composer and say, "How's it hanging?"

I love it. Every year it's different. The quality is incredibly high. And the total experience is ... you're combining good company, an intellectual audience, great programing, a beautiful venue and a sense of occasion all into one weekend.

One of its most distinguishing characteristics, is the loyalty of its audience. Also, the fact that it's so international. It's almost funny because you look around, and three quarters of the people here are from out of town, like (from) Zurich or Berlin ... and L.A.

What art trends do you see in Santa Barbara County?

I see two trends: one is long standing and one is more recent.

  • There's this mass of people who understand the language of assemblage or collage. Who speak it, and practice it. There's this organization Art From Scrap, where kids learn to make sculptures out of stuff that's left over from other things. ...In the art community it's called salvage utopia because its a reuse, recycle, aesthetic here. Its really impressive. People find ways to remake, remodel and renovate for the community.
  • The other thing that I think is beautiful and emerging in Santa Barbara is the one that is based on the idea that theater can happen anywhere. And there's a lot of really cool people here who are interested in the idea of mobile, almost guerilla... there's just a lot of interesting theater that's happening in non traditional spaces. It's also just really unexpected and cool and there's a lot, it's not just a few people (involved.)

What's going on this weekend in Santa Barbara? What do you recommend to the Artbound audience?

Easy. Simple choice.

I don't care where you are. If you're in driving distance, leave Friday afternoon or wake up Saturday morning and come here for the (Summer) Solstice Celebration. It's our signature underground event in Santa Barbara. And it's totally authentic. It used to be the Naked and Hippie Solstice Parade. It's just so hippie-Santa Barbara.

It's one of biggest weekends actually, in terms of people from out of town coming in. We'll probably get 100,000 people. It's cool because you can't wear just anything. Not only can you not wear a logo, you can't wear a letter or a number. There are rules. It ends up being really cool, funky, with burning man-style floats and amazing brazilian dance crews. It'll look like Mardi Gras in Rio, on a Saturday morning, at 10 o'clock, on State Street. In Santa Barbara. Not the whole Mardi Gras in Rio, you know, but a decent piece of it.

Summer Solstice Celebration in Santa Barbara (June 22- June 24)

Santa Barbara Solstice by Cassie

This weekend event begins today at Alameda Park and continues Saturday at noon with a fantasy-themed parade.

Various Locations, Santa Barbara, CA 93121 805-965-3396

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Top Image: "Granada Theatre" by Still Burning

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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