Jake Vantiger and Joe Beraldo's mural at Blackbird.

While it’s true that Santa Barbara has a reputation as an upscale community offering a luxury lifestyle, high quality doesn’t necessarily equal inaccessibility. Examples of excellent artwork can be found in a variety of locales where high mixes with low, cheap can definitely be chic, and art collectors rub shoulders with art students. And at the heart of it all is an irrepressible artistic pulse that makes Santa Barbara a hotbed of creativity and inspiration.

Barbarian Subculture

The Santa Barbara hipster can now enjoy an even greater selection of stores to make an individualistic statement with the opening of Blackbird, a new boutique tucked off lower State on Parker Way that offers an eclectic mix of clothing and home wares. In addition to selling clothing lines by local designers, owner Patricia Mera has also adorned her store walls with a diverse selection of artwork from her circle of creative friends. The crown jewel of the store is the wall-size mural in the back by art team Jake Vantiger and Joe Beraldo, which sets the tone for this ultra-hip business. Part graffiti, part Barry McGee, their surf/skate culture-inspired style includes a T-shirt line and fanciful paintings on skateboards, canvas, cardboard pieces, and any other kind of surface they can mount on a wall.

Men’s clothing store Particle has become a Santa Barbara fixture for young urbanites on the prowl for one-of-a-kind pieces and also includes large-scale paintings by owner Wallace Piatt. His edgy mix of bold colors and graphic details extends down to the smallest accessory-even his merchandise bags have hand-printed images and become takeaway pieces of art.

Art Deco-dence

David Avalos's "Hubcap Milagro #5" (1986).

Finding artwork in unexpected places is all a matter of locating your explorer within. A noteworthy example of artwork off the beaten path is the most recent project of area artist Ruth Ellen Hoag, who is completing a 30-foot wall mural at Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Depicting an array of decadently dressed dancers amidst art deco architecture, her stylized painting is like a scene from The Great Gatsby come to life. And though you might not think of venturing to Isla Vista in search of art, check out UCSB’s MultiCultural Center lounge, which currently features the work of David Avalos. His smart sculptural compositions explore themes of conflict in the Mexican-American experience with a critical eye and wit.

Eat, Drink, and Be Arty

Santa Barbara’s epicurean culture continues its love affair with the visual arts. The cozy and undeniably chic Milk & Honey restaurant entices customers with killer cocktails and equally tempting artwork. Currently, it features the work of Dylan Diogenes, whose digitally enhanced photographs of junkyard autos create mesmerizing artificial landscapes. The Natural Cafe (three locations) is currently displaying Sean Kirkpatrick’s paintings of Santa Barbara’s scenic coastline. His expressive beach scenes and palm tree-silhouetted landscapes remind us why we make Santa Barbara our home.

After a long day of art hunting in unconventional places, you can sit back and enjoy a glass of fine wine while you peruse museum-worthy paintings at Wine Cask. In an extension of Intermezzo’s equally impressive collection of modernist pieces, Wine Cask borrows from owner Bernard Rosenson’s trove of treasures and features a collection of paintings by European masters, including a few by Impressionist painter Claude Pissarro that perfectly fit the restaurant’s upscale atmosphere.

Jake Vantiger and Joe Beraldo(jacobvantiger.com)

At Blackbird (29 Parker Wy.) through February.

Wallace Piatt (couturecandy.com)

At Particle (1 W. Ortega St.), indefinitely.

Ruth Ellen Hoag (ruthellenhoag.com)

At Arthur Murray Dance Studio (222 W. Carrillo St.), indefinitely.

David Avalos (mcc.sa.ucsb.edu)

At UCSB Multicultural Center through March 28.

Dylan Diogenes

At Milk & Honey (30 W. Anapamu St.) through mid March.

Sean Kirkpatrick (seankirkpatrick.com)

At The Natural Cafe (508 State St., 5892 Hollister Ave., and 361 Hitchcock Wy.), indefinitely.

Various Artists

At Wine Cask (813 Anacapa St.), indefinitely.


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