Fareed Zakaria (center) with event hosts Sara Miller McCune and SAGE Publishing President and CEO Blaise Simqu | Credit: Grace Kathryn Lindelien

On May 13, UCSB Arts & Lectures hosted an intimate, elegant, and fascinating 60th Anniversary Party and fundraiser with Fareed Zakaria. Sara Miller McCune generously opened her Montecito estate, and she and her Sage Publishing underwrote all expenses. Proceeds from the $2,500 tickets go to Arts & Lectures’ (A&L) extensive education and community outreach programs.

The evening began with the 60 donors and Zakaria mingling on the terrace and lawn while members of UCSB Jazz Ensemble with Dr. Jon Nathan provided background music. A tasty three-course meal served on the terrace followed, with guests seated at tables named for some of A&L’s special stars and adorned with framed photos of the stars with guests at the table. At my Scott Kelly table, supporter Sheila Wald was greeted with a photo of her and Jeff Goldblum. During dessert, Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta Billeci ran a fun trivia contest, including how old Yo-Yo Ma was when he first performed for A&L (22) and what eminent historian stated “Arts & Lectures is a stunning example of the great good that generous citizens working together can accomplish with their community” (David McCullough).

Guests then adjourned to the living room for a talk and Q&A with Zakaria. Billeci reminded guests of A&L’s mission to educate, entertain, and inspire, and that its education program is about access for all. Zakaria, who hosts Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN and is a columnist for the Washington Post, gave a fascinating, wide-ranging talk that delved into such issues as why the pollsters got the 2016 election wrong, how Trump got elected and the wide-ranging implications of this for American society, and the rise of nationalist movements throughout the world and how technology and globalization will only exacerbate them.

Zakaria described Trump as a great salesman who told voters what they wanted to hear, which was a nationalist message — their problems were caused by China, Mexico, and Muslims. Zakaria explained how this nationalism has spread to many countries throughout the world, yet it has not taken hold in Japan because there is little immigration in that country. In this country, he observed that the strongest anti-immigrant furor is where there is the least immigration, in rural America, while in urban centers with major immigrant populations, there isn’t the backlash in part because there is familiarity with immigrants. He closed on a positive note — that the younger generation is resisting the nationalist ideology, which offers some hope.

The Host Committee for the event was Annette Caleel, Meg Burnham, Monica Babich, Maxine Prisyon, Heather Sturgess, Anne Towbes, and Sherry Villanueva. 

Major donors are critical to Arts & Lectures as ticket sales and support from UCSB cover less than half of A&L’s costs. Contributions help fund A&L’s extensive education and community outreach programs. About half of all visiting artists and lecturers engage in some form of outreach or educational activity.

Through A&L’s novel Arts Adventure Program, area children are transported to The Granada Theatre for engaging programs, which have included astronaut Scott Kelly, Dorrance Dance, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and National Geographic photographer Bertie Gregory. After some of the performances, students go to UCSB for lunch, tours, and STEM activities. 

Many artists and lecturers meet with UCSB students. Recently, Yo-Yo Ma did a master class with three cello students and Silk Road Ensemble musicians were on campus with music, dance, and religious studies students.

In addition to educating youth, A&L has extensive programming for the community at large, and most of it is free. Through its Thematic Learning Initiative (TLI), A&L artists and lecturers give free lectures and performances. Sometimes, it is the main Campbell Hall lecture or performance; other times it is a smaller, supplemental lecture or performance either open to the general public or to a narrower community group with a relevant interest. A couple of my favorites have been a free, open-to-the public talk by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, which included a panel discussion with area nonprofit leaders, and another by author Eli Saslow. TLI also includes interesting film screenings and book giveaways. 

Community outreach extends into the performing arts realm with master classes open to the public, community dance classes, and more. ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! offers free Spanish-language performances in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, and Guadalupe that feature top artists. The extensiveness of A&L’s education and outreach is remarkable, and it is funded in part by its generous supporters.

For more info about Arts & Lectures, go to https://artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.

For coverage of other events, go to http://independent.com/society. Send invites to gail@independent.com.

Isabelle and Erin Simqu with Ella Brittingham and Ginger Salazar
Bridget Yin with A&L Council Member Lynda Weinman
A&L Leadership Circle member Loren Booth, A&L Council member Tom Sturgess & A&L Ambassador Heather Sturgess
Lisa & George Hagerman
A&L Leadership Circle members Dorothy Largay & Wayne Rosing with Fareed Zakaria (center)
A&L Ambassador Monica Babich, Fareed Zakaria, and A&L Council member Tim Babich


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