Arts Workshop Aims to Lift Human Spirit in Santa Barbara

Community Arts Workshop Offers ‘Cor’ Classes in Poetry, Theater, Dance, and More

A photo from Pre-COVID workshops | Credit: Barbara Parmet

In just three seasons, the Community Arts Workshop’s residency teaching program has developed a distinctive approach to arts education that’s having a powerful impact on our city’s whole population, not just those already involved in the arts. This fall, seven courses in subjects ranging from photography and poetry to Creativity Rehab and The Drift will bring people together for creative sustenance in a time when all of us are experiencing unprecedented and fundamental challenges to our physical and mental well-being. What unites these disparate creative adventures is the instructors’ common concern with feeding what they have chosen to call the human “cor,” a Latin noun that manages to name not only the heart but also the mind and the soul.

Consult the entire list of offerings at to find seven enticing descriptions of what Barbara Parmet, Patrick Melroy, Joseph Velasco, Judy Nilsen, Rick Benjamin, and Sio Tepper have planned. I recently spoke with Benjamin and Tepper to get a sense of what the experience would be like. Tepper’s workshop in Human Musicking reflects her own progressive education. Tepper sees her approach, which emphasizes a non-hierarchical understanding of musical events and includes elements of improvisational theater and dance, as part of her civic duty to give back to the hometown that supported her development as an artist through the Santa Barbara Music and Arts Conservatory and UCSB. This hybrid course will begin in person outdoors and move from there to Zoom.

Benjamin, whose workshop Poetry: Words to Engage Good Trouble takes inspiration from the late John Lewis, believes in the power of poetry as a “wisdom-medium” capable of activating human potential across spiritual, emotional, and political frequencies. He speaks of poetry and teaching as a single entity, a compound of attention and compassion within which participants treat each other’s work as if it belongs to all. In these uncertain times, that sounds like a good plan for the future.

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