Artists’ Field Day at S.B.’s Museum of Natural History
by Elizabeth Schwyzer
As far as Lisa Thomas Macrum is concerned, art has the power to
connect a community. To prove it, she’s launching Santa Barbara’s
first Artists’ Field Day: a celebration of community and diversity
through artistic creation. Housed on the grounds of the Santa
Barbara Museum of Natural History, Artists’ Field Day is an open
invitation for participation in the arts — an afternoon of
performance, exhibition, and exchange featuring live music and
dance, poetry, and visual art. And everyone is invited.
A joint project of the Channel Islands YMCA and the Museum of
Natural History, Artists’ Field Day is actually the culmination of
a number of projects Macrum has been developing throughout the
course of the past year, while its inspiration is rooted even
further in the past. “It relates back to older Santa Barbara
community art events like Summer Solstice in the Sunken Gardens,”
Macrum said. “My impression is that these days, performing arts
events are often expensive and separate from one another. I’m
trying to bring them to wider audiences, and bring artists
Macrum, once a professional dancer and former president of the
Santa Barbara Dance Alliance, now describes herself as an arts
advocate. She also holds a masters’ degree in clinical psychology,
and finds inventive ways of blending her passion for the creative
and performing arts with her understanding of mental health. As
director of community and school-based youth outreach programs for
the Youth and Family Services branch of the Channel Islands YMCA,
Macrum uses art to teach character development, focusing on caring,
respect, responsibility, and awareness of diverse populations.
Evidence of the success of her Building Bridges project will be
on display at Artists’ Field Day. Building Bridges began with
elementary, junior high, and high school students sending surveys
to the residents of sober living homes, retirement homes, and
homeless shelters. After receiving the handwritten responses to
their questions, each student created an art project. As part of
Building Bridges, fifth-grade students at Adams school who are
currently involved in the police department’s Drug Abuse Resistance
Education (DARE) program were paired with residents of Serena House
for sober living. “They were able to ask specific questions related
to drug and alcohol abuse, and really connect the lessons with the
real world,” Macrum reflected, noting that she acted as an
intermediary between students and residents to insure the content
of the exchange was appropriate. “The process taught them tolerance
and compassion.” More than 100 of these works of art will be shown
at Artists’ Field Day before being presented to the recipients.
Also on display will be the results of another of Macrum’s
endeavors, The Mural Project, where local high school students
worked with Lithuanian artist Virga Siauciunaite to create a mural
celebrating Santa Barbara’s diverse population and natural beauty.
At a ceremony in May, the mural will be presented to the non-profit
of the project’s choice.
Members of the public attending Artists’ Field Day will be
encouraged to tap into their own creative juices. Local arts
organizations Poetry in the Schools and Arts Alive! invite visitors
to contribute a square to a paper quilt of creative writing — a
visual and linguistic work of art created onsite by the attendees.
Participants in Building Bridges and The Mural Project will get
free admission to the event and will be able to see their artwork
on display and get some exposure to forms of art and performance
that may be new to them: Dancers, filmmakers, composers,
choreographers, and musicians will collaborate to create
site-specific and improvisational work both inside the museum’s
galleries and in outdoor spaces. Performing artists participating
in the event include choreographer/filmmaker Robin Bisio,
Afro-Brazilian dancer Vanessa Isaac, and musician/composer Randy
Tico, who is well known for his involvement with the summer
solstice tradition. Macrum hopes the unusual setting will inspire
these artists to stretch their creative process and to collaborate
with one another in new ways.
“Things are so separate these days, many kids don’t get a chance
to know the diversity of their own community,” Macrum said. “This
opens the doors.”
Work is also underway on a documentary about the project, which
Macrum plans to submit to next year’s Santa Barbara International
Film Festival. The hope is that such a film would bring visibility
for the concept to other communities and inspire similar
initiatives elsewhere. “I feel really strongly about the power of
the arts in many arenas, especially mental health,” Macrum said.
“They’re healing, and they’re a nonverbal form of communication.
They connect people without the need for words.”
4•1•1 Artists’ Field Day takes place on Sunday,
April 30 from noon to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the Santa Barbara
Museum of Natural History. For more information, visit artistsfieldday.com
or contact Lisa Thomas Macrum at 569-1103 x11.