Blue skies, warm weather, and sandy beaches aren’t all that Santa Barbara has to offer. Arts and cultural events are abundant to such a degree that sponsoring organizations applied for twice as much in grants than the City of Santa Barbara is able to provide. Those that were accepted range from a revived Cinco de Mayo festival through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to several events honoring Black history and culture, an oral history project at the Trust for Historic Preservation with the Filipino-American community, and a kinetic sculpture race through the group New Grit. A total of $295,947 was awarded for 2023 out of the more than $600,000 requested.

The projects left unfunded had to be a painful cut: for example, the historical treasure hunt proposed for feminist architect Alice Constance Austin or the mentors program for budding artists and dancers. “So many fantastic people are working to make art here and revitalize the community,” said Sarah York Rubin, who runs the county Office of Arts and Culture, which facilitates the grants program for the city. The actual decisions are by several committees for events and festivals, the arts, and organizational development, with the final funding decisions sanctioned by the City Council on Tuesday.

Rubin added that her agency can also steer organizations toward other grants and help them develop proposals. “A number of state offices have major grant funding coming online next year,” she said. As well, local foundations also can fund pilot programs for the sustainability of arts and culture organizations through grants, “and there’s another one few people know about,” York said. “It is a $2,500 stipend for self-employed people who earned $50,000 in 2019 and less than that in 2020. It is pandemic-related, but the Santa Barbara Foundation is accepting applications now.”

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