Arts organizations routinely compete over the toughest consumer
territory there is — the space of wonder. And here in Santa
Barbara, where every bend in Mountain Drive reveals another
astonishing vista, the natural environment itself is perpetually
capable of producing the elusive “wow” factor that all of our
cultural institutions covet. Perhaps that’s why our best arts
organizations are constantly innovating — to keep pace not only
with each other, but with the infinite capacity of our natural
setting — to saturate everyday life with unforgettable beauty.
At the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, two recent initiatives seek
to unlock the potential significance not only of the museum’s
extraordinary collection, but also of the rich community in which
• During Nights, the museum becomes a theater and a playground
for Santa Barbara’s business and arts crowd to flirt, mix, and
merge with the augmented art experiences concocted monthly by
museum education staffer Kristy Thomas.
• In Picture Stories, the museum’s latest version of its
evolving project to re-display the permanent collection, the
curators have taken the emphasis off of traditional art history as
chronology, and put it onto the web of meaning that extends through
imagery, subject matter, and the individual viewer’s
As different as night and day, these two programs nevertheless
emerge from the same impulse, which locates meaning where culture
really happens — in people.