City Arts Grant Applications Now Open

by D.J. Palladino

Nearly half a million dollars in grant money awaits artists and
art groups right now at the City of Santa Barbara, according to
Ginny Brush, the brand-new executive director of the County Arts
Commission. City arts grant applications forms are now available to
be downloaded and county arts staff members are even holding
workshops to help artists write good proposals. Brush primarily
wants people to know that this money serves a purpose beyond
keeping organizations alive. Its underlying agenda — and barely
hidden motive — is the promotion of a Santa Barbara culture. And
that money’s significance has only grown for this community, points
out departing, though still-active commissioner Patrick Davis.

“In the old days, we used this money to leverage CAC funds,”
says Davis, referring to the now-defunct California Arts
Commission, which previously would fund artists in amounts matching
what money they garnered in their own communities. This made city
money a kind of primer for the well. Davis, who still seems a tad
reluctant to depart the beautiful county courthouse tower offices
the commission currently occupies, points out that the CAC has been
gone now for two years, a conspicuous victim of the Enron state
money disasters. Nobody wants to say that money will never come
back, including Brush, who claims to harbor a “Pollyannaish” heart,
but right now for artists not supported by Medicis or Rockefellers,
this city money is all there is available. Davis also thinks that
the Santa Barbara Foundation and the other leading Santa Barbara
arts donors and supporters are good in that the organizations they
support do not overlap with City government funding. But Davis
points out that a lot of the $424,604 they awarded last year went
to recreation facilities and arts management. “Those are very
important too,” he said.

Ginny Brush hopes that people will understand the purposes of
this funding. “In the first place, there is a lot of confusion out
there as to why it is City money and yet distributed by a county
agency,” she said. The money does come from the City, but the arts
commission works in a partnership to distribute the funds. Brush
also stresses the educational importance of the funding, and says
that the City particularly likes to fund applications that offer
outreach programs or other free community involvement.

“One great example this last year is Mauricio Gomes,” said Brush
referring to the genius behind the Steelhead Trout Festival held on
State Street late this winter. Combining education about creeks and
wildlife with an art exhibit on State Street, Gomes’s triumph was
pleasing to locals and drew in tourism, too. “The whole grant was
$4,000,” said Davis. “The City earned back at least four times that
in bed taxes.”

It’s particularly important to fund arts with educational extras
in a time when cuts to arts programs in schools continue. “They’re
cutting more than that,” added Brush. “There’s not even three Rs
left.” City grants to the arts take place on three levels. The
first are grants made to events like the Santa Barbara
International Film Festival and the Solstice parade. Next come
organizational development grants, and if you need an example of
how they work consider the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, which
began in an Isla Vista coffee house and now features world-class
soloists. They first got help from the fund a mere 20 years ago.
And finally, there are community arts grants. These, like the one
to Gomes for the Steelhead Trout Festival, are the ones that seem
nearest to Brush’s heart. “You have to think also in terms of how
unique this community is,” said Brush. “On our printout we have
four pages of nonprofit arts groups here in Santa Barbara. By way
of comparison, the list for Madison, Wisconsin is one page.”

The $414, 475 available in grants must be applied for by June 9,
2006, with the largest grants in community and development money
coming in at $4000. Davis and Brush will hold application workshops
at the Lobero Theatre on April 26 and May 17.

However you slice it, this 22nd granting period makes Santa
Barbara a relative oasis of arts support in contemporary America,
and Brush points out that the support offers a much wider benefit
than helping the avant-garde to baffle us Barbareños with puzzling
public sculpture. “These grants are all about the promotion and
preservation of culture in the City. Maybe that’s more ethereal
than an object, but it’s very important.”

4•1•1 For more information, call Ginny Brush at
568-3992. You can download grant application forms from


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.