Santa Barbara’s Vibrant Community-Driven Art Scene

Along with Santa Barbara’s beautiful luxury real estate opportunities, our scenic oceanside city offers a beautifully rich and active culture of arts and entertainment – and we enjoy it in style.  On the first Thursday of every month, downtown Santa Barbara transforms into a cultural epicenter.  The aptly named “1st Thursday” events provide an in-depth look into the Santa Barbara arts scene in a fun, social environment. 

With its numerous exclusive art gallery openings, artists’ receptions, lectures, special performances,  hands-on activities, and wine tastings highlighting local vintners, there’s no shortage of ways to experience Santa Barbara’s vibrant culture from every angle.  Many of the participating galleries and venues provide free admission, creating an easily accessible and stress-free way to take part in our inspiring arts scene.  In addition, many partnering local retailers and restaurants transform into galleries and venues of their own for the night, hosting the works of local artists, musicians, and performers.  When it comes to Santa Barbara arts and culture, the entire community gets involved in a truly impressive display of appreciation, enrichment, and support. 

imageThis month’s 1st Thursday events included a very important milestone for Santa Barbara’s own Contemporary Arts Forum, a non-profit organization that promotes education, critical awareness, and appreciation of the arts.  Featuring the works of local, regional, and international artists, CAF has grown from a grassroots artist-run operation into a leading organization for contemporary art in Central California.  A special inaugural event at the brand new Hotel Indigo on Santa Barbara’s waterfront appropriately named “Open House” was held to celebrate the opening of a satellite gallery within the sleek, modern luxury lodging venue.  A tour led by CAF’s Executive Director Miki Garcia led attendees through the entire hotel, providing insightful commentary about each piece and the artists behind them. Bold paintings directly on the hotel walls stretch down entire hallways (such as in the photo on the left, a mural by Nathan Hayden), and installation pieces pop out from the walls into 3D space – such as the vertical wall of live plants in the upstairs lounge.  Also in the lounge is a piece by Kirsten Stoltmann that stole the show, an 8 foot long composition made with some 37,000 rhinestones covering the entire surface and forming the words “I AM SO HAPPY”.  This unique business/museum partnership is a testament to Santa Barbara’s commitment to supporting our ever-growing arts community.  Its unique location inside the hotel provides a one-of-a-kind immersive experience that allows visitors and locals alike to experience the creative side of Santa Barbara.  

Another great way to enjoy art in Santa Barbara is to attend the Art Walk held on Sundays since 1966 at the base of Stearns Wharf.  Visitors can stroll along the beachfront sidewalks and view and purchase paintings, sculptures, crafts, and many more varieties of handcrafted artwork.  The informal atmosphere of this event combined with the incredible views of the waterfront with the beach just steps away is a relaxing way to appreciate and support talented local artists.

Santa Barbara is a fantastic destination for an immersive arts and culture experience on both the local and international levels.  Whether you’re treating yourself to an afternoon visiting any of our excellent museums, attending an exclusive gallery soiree, or simply enjoying local art featured in a restaurant or coffee shop, prepare to be wowed by the community-driven abundance of art in all its forms in Santa Barbara!