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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 Office of Arts and Culture 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.

Update on City Grants


For the upcoming budget year, the City is looking at how to improve the review and disbursement process and our Arts Advisory Committee will be discussing possible improvements at its next March meeting. We are exploring ways to improve our process to save time for arts organizations who apply for funding. We are not anticipating any overall funding delays and the City will be budgeting the same amount of grant funding as last year. If you have any ideas on how we can make our process easier for all parties, please send those ideas to Nina Johnson at the City of Santa Barbara at

Latest News!

Public Art Installations

The City is partnering with arts organizations for more public art installations and sculptures on State Street.

Pianos on State will offer daily entertainment October 2-16.

In September, Runaway was on display in the historic Storke Placita off 700 State Street, courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2019
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