From the Storefront Gallery Project: Nell Campbell's "Mount Calvary Retreat House Ruins" (dawn, New Year's Day, 2009).

The arts have always served as a reminder of our greatest hopes and deepest values, so it stands to reason that in times of trauma, we look to the arts for healing. This month, Off the Wall highlights art that addresses the losses we experienced in the Jesusita Fire, and affirms the love we have for our community.

Out of the Ashes

In a smart reaction to the increasing number of empty shop windows in the downtown commercial sector, the city of Santa Barbara and the County Arts Commission have joined forces to create the Storefront Gallery Project. A series of exhibits will be displayed in State Street storefronts through October 2009, revitalizing the downtown corridor while tapping into Santa Barbara’s abundant artistic creativity.

Installations for the month of May combine the poems of David Starkey, Barry Spacks, and Perie Longo alongside images of the Tea Fire by photographer Nell Campbell and artist Rafael Perea de la Cabada. Given Santa Barbara’s recent battle with the Jesusita Fire, these words and images resonate with the community’s collective consciousness.

Rondeau: Mount Calvary at Dawn

New Year’s Day, 2009
Night ebbs from day as morning tide
Recedes from shore, leaving us wide-
Eyed and stranded amid this sea
Of wreckage and lost prayers-our plea
For resurrection seems denied.

Surely, though, some small hope must hide
Beneath the charred rubble, some guide
Must dwell nearby who’ll guarantee
Night ebbs from day

And reassure us griefs subside.
Just look at the bright canyonside,
Listen to the caroling towhee.
Someone will clear off the debris,
He seems to sing. Believe, abide:
Night ebbs from day. – David Starkey

All of these artists are institutions of creativity: Starkey is the city’s current Poet Laureate, Spacks and Longo each filled the honorable post in the past, and Campbell and Cabada both have international careers in the visual arts. Campbell’s photography often functions as an unconventional travelogue, capturing the spirit and essence of people and places, always with a blend of photojournalistic perspective and aesthetic sensitivity. Cabada’s work is an eclectic combination of various formats and media, but his work is always shot with a sense of playfulness-something that can serve us well, especially in trying times.

Alive and Well

As one the most recent additions to the downtown food and culture scene, Live Culture is an ambitious establishment providing frozen yogurt, a wine bar, a cafe/bistro, and a live performance series. To top it all off, the restaurant also features a selection of visual arts both functional and decorative. In the former arena, regional glass blower and poet Ulysses Paulsen uses the flowering blossoms of the Jacaranda tree as inspiration for his pendant lighting, while Live Oak Group member Jeremy Harper provides nature-inspired paintings. His luscious, somewhat minimalist versions of familiar Santa Barbara locations are idealized portraits of our community: low-hanging clouds create just the right daytime brightness and rolling waves lap onto pristine beaches. These artists give us visions of the city we treasure, reminding us not to take its beauty for granted.

Jeremy Harper and Ulysses Paulsen

At Live Culture Lounge & Cafe (11 W. De La Guerra St.) through June 3.

The Storefront Gallery Project

At 1221, 917, 509, and 36 State Street through October.


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