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Arts & Community Promotion

The City of Santa Barbara has steadily built a cultural arts economy and increased community arts participation. Cultural arts activities and programs are an important part of the City’s economic vitality. The economic impact of the arts and cultural tourism provides valued revenue for local businesses. It estimated that arts-related spending from ticket sales, services, supplies, and employee salaries provides approximately $41 million annually to the local economy.

Committees and Staffing
The City provides half of the funding for salaries and program expenses for the County Arts Commission to administer arts programs, distribute funding to arts organizations, and provide staff support to the Arts Advisory Committee.

The Arts Advisory Committee and Visual Art in Public Places (VAPP) Committee reviews and makes recommendations on placement of art in public places or in City facilities. The Committee meets on a monthly basis. The Community Events and Festivals Committee reviews proposals from arts organizations and makes recommendations to the City Council for funding.

Historic Arts District
The City partnered with community leaders to create and implement a vision for a Historic Arts District downtown. The long-standing vision of a Historic Arts District was completed with the successful renovation of aging performing arts facilities. The City contributed $6 million in funding and played a leadership role with local philanthropists to renovate the 80-year old Victoria Hall into a 300-seat theater and to restore the landmark Granada Theater for 1,300 arts patrons to experience a world-class performing arts center with modern acoustics, lighting, and period fixtures. 

Collaboration with Arts Organizations
The City Council has invested in arts facilities and supported stable funding for emerging and established arts organizations.

The City has leased a property to the Arts Collaborative for $1/Year and contributed $300,000 to develop a Community Arts Workshop that provides a year-round flexible space for arts organizations to be used for art creation, set design, exhibits, rehearsals, classes, and community meetings. A long-expressed need from the arts community for decades, the Workshop also became the permanent home for the annual Summer Solstice parade where community artists create costumes and floats.

  • The City supports small arts and cultural organizations through an annual Events and Festivals community grant-making process where the City funds grants totaling $500,000 for community events and technical and organizational assistance. This funding provides the seed investment for 50-60 emerging arts organizations to grow their vision and attract community support.
  • The City contributes $250,000 in funds annually to help established and historic community arts festivals such as Old Spanish Days, Summer Solstice, and the Film Festival provide free entertainment to the community, develop new programming, and reach the next generation.

Incorporating Art in Civic Places

The City works collaboratively with arts organizations to improve access to arts and culture for youth, the residents, and visitors in public buildings and neighborhoods centers.

  • Santa Barbara Arts Alliance, the City's Youth Mural Program, provides an art-based mentoring program for low-income youth to paint murals in the City’s neighborhoods, parks and other areas of the City plagued by graffiti vandalism. The murals have become a source of pride in locations that were once vandalized on a weekly basis, saving the City thousands of dollars to clean graffiti.
  • An annual Arts Symposium is conducted to bring individual artists and leaders of arts organizations, museums, local galleries, and theaters together to strategize about creative placemaking and improving access to the arts.
  • The Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show is a piece of living history highlighting the creative talents of local artisans. Located on Cabrillo Boulevard from Stearns Wharf to Calle Cesar Chavez, the show takes place every Sunday year-round and on Saturdays of major holiday weekends.
  • The City Hall Art Gallery displays exhibits from local artists of historical significance.
  • Providing leadership in the creation and establishment of a City Poet Laureate position. This very popular program has energized residents and unified Santa Barbara’s literary community.
  • Public art is featured prominently in the recently completed Santa Barbara Airport Terminal that showcases regional artists.

Contact Us

County Arts Commission

Santa Barbara County Courthouse
1100 Anacapa Street, 3rd floor Rotunda Tower
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 568-3990

Arts Advisory Committee

Community Events and Festivals Committee

For questions on the City’s arts and community promotion programs, please call 564-5305. 

Latest News!

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Santa Barbara Wins National Award for Public Arts Leadership

February 1, 2016 

The Americans for the Arts, the nation's leading non-profit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, and The U.S. Conference of Mayors recognized Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider with the National Award for Local Arts Leadership at the mayors' winter meeting in Washington, D.C.

The award recognizes the successful creation of a Historic Arts District, collaboration with arts organizations, and improving access to arts and culture for youth, the residents, and visitors in public buildings and neighborhoods centers.

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Last Updated: Sep 12, 2016