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On January 9, supporters of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum gathered at its Collections Facility to kick off the museum’s 20th anniversary year and to honor Bob Kieding, the key doer who made the museum happen. At the event, a new name for the Salinas Street Collections Facility was unveiled, the “Kieding Collections Chandlery.”
Executive Director Greg Gorga warmly welcomed the 50 supporters and shared his excitement for the start of the 20th anniversary year. He recognized many who were involved with the museum from the start: founding boardmember and the second executive director Lee Fleischer, founding and current boardmember Leslie Leaney, founding boardmember Peter Howorth, volunteer at the start and current boardmember Andy Cooper, and current Board President Don Barthelmess. Also recognized were the man whose idea the museum was and its first executive director Milton Schwartz; former councilmember Rusty Fairly, who helped make it happen; and Nick DiNapoli, who drew up the early exhibits, which according to legend, happened on cocktail napkins at the S.B. Yacht Club.
Gorga also lauded the four Keystone Founders for their financial contributions: Ed and Helen Wilson, Barry and Jean Schuyler, Tamara DiCaprio, and Charles Munger, who together contributed $3 million of the $4 million raised. Gorga related how one day Kiedling was standing outside the museum and responded to an inquiring passerby that they were opening a museum. The passerby turned out to be Charlie Munger, who replied that he loved museums. In a lighthearted moment, Gorga remarked that while Kieding had done a lot for the museum, that was the best thing.
While all these individuals were important to the museum’s founding, Gorga saved his highest praise for Kieding, an unsung hero whom he called the main doer — the one who really moved the project forward. Kieding, owner of the Santa Barbara Chandlery, also served as president and vice president of the museum in its early years.
Deputy Director and Curator Emily Falke (whom Gorga introduced as another unsung hero who gets lots done without a lot of recognition), lauded Kieding as her inspiration over the decade she has been part of the museum. Boardmember George Writer first acknowledged Kieding as the premier sailboat racer of his time, and then, more significantly, as “a real can do guy” who was the one who made the museum happen.
The museum opened in 2000 in the Waterfront Center Building, formerly the Naval Reserve Building. Its mission is to interpret the rich and diverse maritime history of the Santa Barbara Channel, including important environmental issues. Twenty years later, the museum is expanding and improving its many exhibits and educational activities for all ages. Exhibits include the Point Conception First-Order Fresnel Lens, the historic sport fishing yacht Ranger, and an extensive collection of Dwight Brooks’ fully-functional boat models. Innovative educational programs include the Marine Sciences, Ocean Connections, and Spirit of Dana Point Tallship Overnight programs, which take children out on the sea, often for the first time.
This 20th anniversary year will have many events and exhibits, including a May 29 fundraiser honoring surfing legends Renny Yater and Shaun Tomson and a Founders Dinner and Reception in December. There will be a few notable art exhibits: through March are traditional Japanese Gyotaku prints, Fishing with Paper and Ink; opening April 22 is Mermaids, photography by Ralph Clevenger and friends; and on October 1, maritime paintings by Naval artist Arthur Beaumont. The monthly lectures will continue and there will be special film showings and other events. For more info, go to sbmm.org/20thanniversary/.
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