The Monthly Arty Party

1st Thursday Brings Together Art, Film, Music, and Theater

by Elizabeth Schwyzer

Santa Barbara residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to the arts. Keeping a calendar of such cultural riches can be a serious undertaking, especially for those who want to enjoy the full range of the city’s creative offerings. Starting next month, the challenge of staying on top of it all becomes considerably easier when on Thursday, February 1, the Downtown Organization kicks off its monthly arts night, 1st Thursday, bringing together visual art and film, live music and theater.

The idea of a regular downtown arts evening has been brewing for more than a year. The success of recent social and cultural events like Nights at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the first-annual Off-Axis art festival brought attention to the community’s hunger for some sophisticated creative expression combined with a little festivity. Many cities hold a regular art walk of some kind, but Santa Barbara has never before brought together galleries and museums, independent artists, theater groups, and musical groups for a monthly downtown event.

pool_above.jpgOrganizers see 1st Thursday as a way of serving the local community while at the same time drawing visitors to the downtown area — after all, the express goal of the 1,400 member nonprofit Downtown Organization is “to maintain and enhance business and cultural activity” in the downtown corridor. “If the locals like it, the tourists will love it,” Downtown Organization Executive Director Marshall Rose predicted recently.

Christi Westerhouse and David Court, owners of participating venue The Frameworks/Caruso-Woods Gallery, concur. For more than a year, they’ve been hosting a third-Thursday soirée each month, where deejays spin, drinks flow, and there’s fine art on the walls. “We felt like downtown needed something fun to do in the evenings that didn’t cost a lot of money but had a cultural element to it,” Westerhouse said. “We’re providing an inexpensive way to hang out and have a good time in a community of creative people.” The gallery’s monthly shindigs have thus far acted as an unofficial after-party for SBMA’s Nights.

By switching from the third to the first Thursday of the month, Westerhouse hopes to foster a downtown buzz as participants move from one gallery to another. In honor of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, on February 1, Caruso-Woods will host DJ Thomas Golubic, music director of KCRW and music supervisor of HBO’s popular television show Six Feet Under. Golubic will present clips from classic films like Blade Runner and The Graduate, rescored to live mashups. Artiste winery will provide a free tasting, and Linda Saccoccio’s paintings will be on display.

At CAF, members of the Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers will hold a panel discussion and present their work for major Hollywood films, including locally shot flicks Seabiscuit and Sideways. A reception will follow the talk. “We consider 1st Thursday an important new program for the city, and we seized the opportunity to fold in art and film,” said CAF Executive Director Miki Garcia. “There’s a need and desire for art to be part of our social and cultural life.”

Film fest fever will also turn up at Santa Barbara Frame Shop and Gallery, where owners David and Angela Beardon will celebrate the premiere 1st Thursday with wine, hors d’oeuvres, and an exhibit of framed movie posters from motion pictures featured at this year’s film festival. Bearden sees 1st Thursday as a family event, and one that welcomes the entire community. “With the Downtown Organization running it, it’s easier to bring everyone together,” Bearden said.

Other 1st Thursday exhibits and venues include the official opening of the Patty Look Lewis Gallery, where works by Lewis, William Dole, and Selden Spaulding will be on display, accompanied by live music by Fiddlin’ Dave and the Arroyo Boyz, and wine from Alma Rosa Winery. At Studio 3 East, owner Erika Carter will host the kickoff event for the Light Blue Line project with a display of Global Warming Postcards — haunting images of a prospective Santa Barbara given a seven-meter rise in sea level.

1st Thursday may be centered on downtown art spaces, but it’s more than just a gallery crawl. The inaugural event features Mitchell Thomas’s Car Plays, in which a series of short, original plays will be presented simultaneously inside vehicles parked behind SBMA. Also, old-time band Legrand, Franks, and Dodge will serenade State Street strollers from the patio of Borders Books.

In short, this monthly art walk offers more than watercolor beachscapes, wooden wind chimes, and woven change purses. 1st Thursday is proof Santa Barbara is ready to embrace the full range of contemporary arts — and even throw a party in their honor.

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