There are many reasons Goleta is known as “The Good Land,” yet recently I was reminded of the human factor behind the best of them. Yes, this narrow coastal shelf we call the Goleta Valley has the natural blessings of a fertile soil, a mild climate, and the embrace of the Pacific Ocean. However, the people residing on this piece of land can make life here a pleasure—or not.
When my family and I visited the University of California Santa Barbara campus last month to see the Golden Dragon acrobats touring company perform, we expected amazing feats of balance and grace set to music. We were not disappointed. What was unexpected was the happy energy of the child-centered “pre-show” in front of Campbell Hall.
Arts & Lectures’ Performing Arts Manager Cathy Oliverson and her student volunteers had organized a Family Fun event that included balloon- hat makers and at least four talented artists whose canvasses were children’s faces. The painters had the longest line and they quickly brushed on unicorns, rainbows, cartoon characters, abstract color patterns, and anything else parents permitted.
One little boy bore the red and black scowl of Star Wars villain Darth Maul. He was waving a balloon sword and chasing his little sister, who also had a balloon sword and clearly loved being chased. Their laughter blended with that of other children—some of whom were launching air-filled rocket balloons that sputtered into the surrounding trees—to create a pleasant sort of chaos in the plaza.
From their expressions and the comments, the adults were enjoying the freestyle show just as much as the kids. This included one fellow who was startled by a spent rocket balloon landing on his head, then laughed when he realized he had not been nailed by a pigeon.
Oliverson wears another hat, that of A&L’s educational- outreach chief. Under the banner of the Viva el Arte de Santa Barbara, she and UCSB Isla Vista liaison Catherine Boyer stage free bilingual arts events in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara, and Guadalupe. A consortium of other local organizations also support these events.
Now in its eighth year, the Viva el Arte program recently brought the Ballet Hispanico to Isla Vista Elementary School. Before a room packed with mainly Latino parents and their transfixed children, the 12-member troupe performed a blend of international dances from a platform a few feet above what usually serves as the cafeteria. Given the energetic dance numbers, which emphasized Latino cultures, it was a wonder that no one fell off the small stage.
The troupe, which also performed at President Obama’s second inauguration, was so captivating that young children quieted down—if they were not dancing in the aisles—until the question-and-answer session at the end. Then the students and children peppered the ballet members with questions, including the ages and homelands of the performers.
Oliverson, a long-time Goletan, noted that the Viva el Arte and Family Fun events are widely supported. “The (community’s) interest is fantastic and there is always a great scene,” she said. The next Viva event at I.V. School is a mariachi group, on Friday, February 8 at 7 p.m.
Helping Out the Environment: Sharing your home with scores of strangers may not be how you would choose to spend a Saturday but it was an easy decision last month for Valerie and Paul Kushnerov. Joining with emPower Santa Barbara County, they opened their energy-efficient, 2,300-square-foot Goleta home to show other homeowners what can be done to cut costs and reduce environmental impacts.
Around 100 people attended the emPower SBC showcase event, estimated Valerie, who also serves as the City of Goleta’s public information officer. “I met some neighbors (on the tours) for the very first time.”
The two-story house was originally built in 1965, and the Kushnerov family moved to it in 2011. Like many tract homes of that era, it had virtually no insulation. “You were cold in the winter and baked in the summer,” said Valerie.
Besides layering the attic with enough insulation to greatly increase their comfort, the Kushnerovs’ contractors sealed and insulated the heating- duct system and water pipes, and air- sealed the whole house. The family replaced the hot- water heater and furnace and installed water-conserving faucets.
The Kushnerovs also invested in a 3.92 kW solar electric system, at $17,000 the single most expensive improvement they made. However, the efficiency measures and solar power also generated around $8,400 in tax credits and rebates. They estimated the improvements would cost a total of $45,000.
Valerie expects to reduce their energy bills by 90% and break even within eight years. She said she is also ready to host another day of tours.