Few people in Santa Barbara have been more involved in the complex negotiations that have supported the city’s arts organization than Nancy Lynn. Currently Director of Development at the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA), Lynn has, at one time, served at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Bowl, the Lobero Theatre, Summer Solstice, and Sarah House. As an astute observer, a capable executive, and an extraordinary leader and collaborator, Lynn has been at the forefront of the movement to put the arts in Santa Barbara on a positive, self-sustaining place since the 1970s. I spoke with Lynn recently by phone from Santa Barbara, where she was preparing for her upcoming move to Arizona.
You have been very active in the cultural life of Santa Barbara. What will you do next? My husband Jim and I are very excited to move on to the next phase of our lives. We are moving to the Tucson area, which has a very rich cultural scene as well.
Can you tell me about your involvement with CAMA and some of the other groups you have worked with here? These are all really wonderful organizations, and its been a privilege that I’ve been on board not only through the growth of some of these organizations, but also through moments of transition for some of the venues. In the beginning I worked at the SBMA for seven years as an assistant to the curators, and then the director, who was Paul Mills at the time. Then I moved on to become executive director at the Lobero, where I stayed for the next 19 years. This was a crucial period for the Lobero, during which we were faced with a seismic retrofit. At that time the theater belonged to the county and the Lobero Theater Foundation only leased the building. In order to raise money for the retrofit it was decided that the building should belong to the Foundation. I was also on the board of the Bowl Foundation for the transition from Old Spanish Days to the County and then to the Bowl Foundation. It was important to put these venues into the hands of these foundations because before they had been neglected to some extent and this allowed the people of Santa Barbara to donate to organizations expressly designed for this purpose. It gave them a sense of ownership that was a key to these capital campaigns.
Could you say something about the Lobero? The Lobero has this fabulous history. The current building opened in 1924, and the organization that built it was the Community Arts Music Association. At that time it was a larger organization that had several branches, and it was the drama branch that built it, but it is still the same CAMA that I work for today — in its 92nd season coming up.
Are any of the current programs related to the original CAMA? Yes, fortunately Santa Barbara has always had visionaries. William Andrews Clark Jr. started the music branch of CAMA to bring in the L.A. Philharmonic, and that tradition, which continues today, goes right back to the beginning of the organization. The Masterseries is an interesting circle too. CAMA used to have a recital series, which then went through a lull where there were only the orchestral concerts, but now, after a period of the Hesperia Foundation’s support, the Masterseries has come back home and is part of CAMA once again.
Are there any aspects of what you have been doing that these organizations share? I worked behind the scenes in a period that was important to many of these organizations, because in the years since the 1970s these groups have really been strengthened. For instance, I was involved with Summer Solstice when it went from being a parade to being an institution in its own right. CAMA is much stronger than it was when I came in ten years ago, moving from a part-time staff to a full-time organization with its own endowment and visionary leaders to move it forward.
Is it mostly a matter of preserving structures, such as the Lobero and the Bowl, or is there more to it? It’s not just the venues, as important as they are. There are also very good people in these groups who really get the best talent to come here and perform. Something I’m proud of is the growth of the education component. CAMA now has docents and performances out in the schools that really bring the music to life. They offer a robust ticket program as well that gets students into the orchestral concerts. At the Lobero I am especially proud of the development of the Boxtales group, and of Jerry Pearson’s Santa Barbara Dance Theater, with its excellent outreach program. I appreciated working with Michael Andrews, Jeff Mills, and the others who made these groups happen.
Were the boards of directors an important part of these organizations? Absolutely, we owe a great deal to the men and women who made these things happen on the boards. At the Lobero, I would want to acknowledge Mike Towbes, his wife Anne, and Jim Hurley. The CAMA board has also been wonderful, with a great group including Herb Kendall and Dolores Hsu. I should also mention Bob Light, Stephen Hahn, and Sara Miller McCune. All of these people have given so much back to the community, and it has been a great privilege to work with them as a team. For any of this to work, collaboration between staff, board, and donors has to be there. Every element has to be in place and everyone has to do their job or these things can’t go forward, but fortunately we have had quality people and managed it.
Are there any other acknowledgements that you would like to make? Yes, kudos to city of Santa Barbara and Patrick Davis, who worked with both the city and county. The city has consistently acted as a carrot, and thrown the first money in. They were the ones who said, “OK, Granada, you go now.” The Redevelopment Agency played a big role in the Lobero retrofit. The county is outside the RDA but the city has done a lot for Solstice, for instance, with their grants. It’s a hard time right now for non-profits. The Santa Barbara Foundation is changing its focus to ensure that these organizations will continue. The Hutton Foundation is also doing something very important by making affordable office space available to them.
What is it that excites you most about the work you have done here? I like to be around for the start-up. It’s exciting to get things going. With Sarah House, I got involved because of Michael Gonzales, who was with Solstice and who died of AIDS. I thought it would be something I would do for Michael and then I fell in love with the organization. We had a play written by Dori Baisley about Sarah House last year that was quite a success. We now have a musician living there who is writing some songs about it. It’s such an important organization. I really love what they do.
Are you an artist? I sing and play instruments very moderately, and I sing in the church choir. I was married to Tom Moore, the photographer.
Who was the first person to give you the idea that Santa Barbara could be such a cultural center? Paul Mills. His big thing was new glory. He was responsible for the flags on the breakwater and the Colin Campbell Cooper collection. Not many people know this anymore, but the first Summer Solstice was actually an outgrowth of the Asian collection at the SBMA, part of a caravan ceremony with shakuhachi flutes.
Is there anyone at CAMA that you’d like to thank? Many people, but I’d especially like to give kudos to Mark Trueblood for the staff leadership at CAMA.