Arts in the Time of Quarantine

Santa Barbara Creatives Keep the Music, Dance, Theater, and Film Coming 

“I am incredibly proud of the sector’s work to support our community during this crisis,” said Sarah York Rubin, executive director of the Santa BarbaraCounty Office of Arts & Culture. | Credit: Paul Wellman

It’s been nearly a month since sheltering in place was decreed, prompting mass cancellations of onstage and in-person gatherings and performances. But, despite being knocked on its heels, Santa Barbara’s vibrant arts community has regrouped and continues to persist in making music, theater, film, books, and dance available to the people virtually.

“I am incredibly proud of the sector’s work to support our community during this crisis,” said Sarah York Rubin, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture. “Many of our cultural organizations, including the Museum of Art, MOXI, the Museum of Natural History, SBIFF, and Camerata Pacifica, have created robust programs to engage, entertain, educate, and uplift our isolated community members and families.”

In early April, for example, Center Stage Theater launched a digital arts festival to connect artists with viewers. Each morning, the day’s guest is announced, and, at 7 p.m. that evening, interviewer Jim Sirianni talks with the artist about their creative process pre- and post-COVID-19. UCSB’s Arts & Lectures is releasing gems from its vast programming archives, as is the Carsey-Wolf Center’s Pollock Theater. The university’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum has gone virtual, offering up carefully curated content. The same is true for the Wildling Museum. 

Metropolitan Theatres has followed the trend of presenting first-run feature films for rent. Music concerts are also popping up, including a star-studded lineup for the Earth Day festival featuring Jack Johnson, Kenny Loggins, Glen Phillips, Tina Schlieske, Zach Gill, and Michael McDonald. Book shops and the public library will even deliver you your favorite tomes.

Individuals are also making their work accessible online. “Artists are sharing virtual concerts, lessons, studio tours, cooking lessons, and more,” York Rubin said. “Some of our artisans have begun sewing and donating masks. It really is a group effort.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts and entertainment industry is one of the hardest hit by the shutdown. “The last economic impact study we conducted estimated the county’s nonprofit arts and culture economy to generate $200 million dollars in a year,” said York Rubin. Recent data released by the State of California indicate that arts organizations estimate an average revenue loss of nearly $200,000 each, with individuals losing upward of $23,000 each, Rubin said.

For Santa Barbara, which ranks ninth in the country in individual artists per capita, the loss is far reaching and devastating. “Over 65 percent of arts organizations have had to cancel events that cannot be rescheduled,” said York Rubin.

Necessity is the mother of invention, however, and artists have taken up the call. “Our creative community is demonstrating essential leadership and will play a significant role in rebuilding and re-envisioning our lifestyle,” said York Rubin. “I believe that in the upcoming months and years, people will be reminded why Santa Barbara County’s cultural community — its breadth and depth — is such a significant asset.”


At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor.  Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you  in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.

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