Between August 12 and September 4, if you happened to walk into a pair of half-finished-looking industrial buildings on the corner of Garden and Ortega Streets, you would have found much more color than you might have expected.
The walls would be covered in paint, both on large stretches of canvas and on the bricks themselves. You’d see brilliant blues and rich reds, oceanscapes, cityscapes, and fantastical creatures. And you’d find the air full of energy from 23 artists laughing, discussing their work, and painting intently. You’d have entered the Community Arts Workshop, and begun to see the fulfillment of a vision conceived 30 years before.
The nearly two dozen painters were organized by arts nonprofit Youth Interactive, which rented space at the CAW to create 16 murals to enliven the construction area on lower State Street. But the vision of the Community Arts Workshop (CAW) goes much further than this one project.
The need for a facility like the CAW was first identified by the Regional Arts Master Plan that was developed by the City and County three decades ago in the 1980s. Their report called for a multi-use arts center with rehearsal, training, workshop, gallery and performance space for community arts groups and individuals. That vision floundered for nearly 30 years.
But then the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative—a collective of artists and arts supporters committed to sustaining and growing all forms of the arts in Santa Barbara—stepped in. On April 8, 2014, the City of Santa Barbara signed a lease with the Arts Collaborative for 631 Garden St., the former site of a city motor pool, to create the Community Arts Workshop – two large buildings and four separate spaces for rehearsals, painting, sculpture, gallery shows, and more.
Renovations have begun, but such is the need for the space that multiple projects have been squeezed into the still unfinished space. It served as workspace for the Solstice Parade this year and for Pianos on State last year, and Youth Interactive just finished its residency.
“We could not have created such a large public art project without the use of this magical space,” said Nathalie Gensac, founder of Youth Interactive. “The CAW is a jewel for the arts in our community.”
Ms. Gensac went on to describe the CAW as “a grandiose and amazing space where artists can come together to collaborate, cross-pollinate, and create works of art for the benefit of Santa Barbara and beyond.” Many more projects like Youth Interactive’s will be able to fill the CAW’s space and add cultural life to Santa Barbara once fundraising and renovations are complete.
But that will only happen if the CAW can reach its fundraising goals.
Thanks to the generous support of the city of Santa Barbara, local foundations, and individuals, the CAW has raised 20 percent of a $2.5 million goal to cover permitting, renovation, and operation costs. With that money the southern of the CAW’s two buildings has been refurbished with paint, insulation, drywall, a new roof and doors; work has begun on the floors of the North Building; and ironwork artist David Shelton has designed and begun work on two remarkable ironwork gates. Over the next few months the rest of the space is scheduled to be renovated and restored.
In order to complete those renovations and open the CAW to the artists of Santa Barbara, we are issuing a call to our community for support. There is a groundswell of excitement for the space, from organizations as diverse as the Downtown Organization, Santa Barbara Foundation, New Noise, Opera Santa Barbara, Boxtales Theatre Company, the Lobero Theatre, SB Dance Arts, and more. You can see a video of them endorsing the venture at http://www.sbcaw.org/video-multipage.html.
All of this enthusiasm makes us very confident that with our community’s continued help the CAW will soon open its doors as a fixture of artistic life in Santa Barbara, a place where artists, students, and everyone can be inspired and enrich our community.
Donations to support the CAW can be made by visiting sbcaw.org and clicking the “donate” button on the bottom left. More information on the CAW is available at sbcaw.org and facebook.com/sbcaw. Marianne Clark can be e-mailed at email@example.com for more details on donations.
For further information contact Casey Caldwell at 805-679-1268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/1fXyTkO. Image 1 shows Youth Interactive’s Shannon McCain Jaffe at work in the unfinished North Building [Photo credit: Youth Interactive]. Image 2 shows Santa Barbara artist Matt Rodriguez painting his Youth Interactive mural in the renovated South Building [Photo credit: Casey Caldwell]. Image 3 shows the exterior of the unrenovated North Building [Photo credit: Casey Caldwell]. Image 4 from early 2015 shows renovation undergoing in the South Building [Photo credit: Leon Olson].