Everybody Dance Now! received an Organizational Development grant from the City of Santa Barbara to train their teaching artists for service to Santa Barbara public schools. | Credit: Courtesy

From funky murals on State Street to exemplary performances at the 90-year-old Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara is certainly a central nexus for activity within the arts scene. Behind the curtain, the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture allocates and awards grants to various nonprofit organizations, further bolstering the force of the arts as a whole across the city. This January, to our great anticipation, the nonprofits that were awarded grants were revealed, and will continue their valuable work of uplifting the community through artistic expression.

The grants, divided between the city’s Cultural Arts Grant and the county of Santa Barbara’s Arts Making Impact Grant, awarded funding to 39 nonprofit organizations, effective on January 1 of this year.

While this year’s applicants were reviewed late in the fall of 2022 in order for the grant period to begin at the start of the new year, the city has been funding and awarding cultural arts grants for the past 35 years, as evidenced by Santa Barbara’s lively and bustling art world.

Sarah York Rubin, the executive director of the Office of Arts and Culture, describes the impact of such grants, noting, “I think that this investment is really evident in the cultural vitality here — the number of arts events on any night, the types of music that you can listen to at beautiful venues and parks, the volume of festivals and community events. It really helps to make Santa Barbara a unique and special place to live.”

While every nonprofit awarded funding through city or county grants invites a unique and profound expression of art into the community, York reveals, “I’m especially excited about the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s partnership with the Filipino American community to collect and protect oral histories. There is such a need for this! We’ve been hearing tremendous urgency from communities whose voices and stories haven’t been traditionally included or represented to record stories and experiences before we lose them forever. Without grants like this, there aren’t resources to help do that work.”

Along with this project, the public can look forward to a revival of the Milpas Street Cinco de Mayo festival. “Our city grant support will help us to bring back our lost historical Cinco de Mayo tradition and energize the Milpas corridor,” as described by Jacqueline Inda, founder of the Greater Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Other projects to look forward to include a youth-led gang abatement ceramics program, as well as a traveling van performing classical music and bringing instruments to schools.

Both the city’s Cultural Arts Grant and the county’s Arts Making Impact Grants provide funding to a diverse array of nonprofits, allowing various sectors within the arts to flourish and for outreach to be widespread, with an emphasis towards underserved communities.

The city grant’s outreach displays this diversity, with $300,000 in grants being awarded to nonprofits ranging from A to Z Cooking School, Mission Poetry Series, and the S.B. Black Culture House, and community events such as the Kinetic Cake Experience and performances presented by UCSB Arts and Lectures, among many others.

The county grant’s awardees are just as diverse, with funding going to projects including the Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden Foundation, the S.B. Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Orcutt Children’s Arts Foundation.

Not only does the city award grants, but it also underwrites a myriad of arts and culture avenues, including the Community Arts Workshop, self-described as a “blank canvas for artists, thinkers, innovators, and creators to develop ideas, make connections, and build community.” The city also promotes further artmaking through programs such as the Santa Barbara Arts’ Alliance youth-led murals.

There is truly an emphasis on uplifting, mobilizing, and supporting the community of Santa Barbara to involve itself in the arts scene, which is what lies at the heart of the funding of these grants. The vast majority of grant applicants provide arts services and programs free of charge, something that would not be possible without additional funding support.

Just as the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture represents a partnership between the county and the city of Santa Barbara, the Cultural Arts Grant and the Arts Making Impact Grants represent a bridge bringing the arts to the community. Keep an eye out for upcoming projects, festivals, and outreach programs that bring a piece of the arts scene for all of us to enjoy.

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