Standing along East Cabrillo Boulevard at the corner of Cabrillo Ball Park in Santa Barbara, the Chromatic Gate, the iconic, boxy rainbow sculpture designed by late Bauhaus artist and Santa Barbara resident Herbert Bayer, has endured more than 20 years of salty air, sun exposure and criticism since its erection in 1991. The aging is apparent, as the once vibrant colors of the arch are now peeling in some parts and caked with rust.
Now, with the help of community members and the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, this icon that stands on city-owned land near the waterfront is nearing restoration, with planners $18,000 away from their $68,000 goal.
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“We are raising community awareness about the opportunity to restore the Chromatic Gate,” said Patty DeDominic of DeDominic & Associates, who worked with the Arts Fund of Santa Barbara to get the project started. “So many people call it Santa Barbara’s rainbow, but it’s actually an extraordinary piece of contemporary art by a world-famous artist who lived in Santa Barbara. ... We want to be proud of that public art once again.”
Donations — which can be submitted online at www.artsfundsb.org or collected on site — will go toward the remaining cost of preserving the gate’s frame and for purchasing the same hues that were used on the original coat, supplied by U.S. Paint.
The fundraising campaign has yielded more than $50,000 with more than 100 donations, ranging from $10,000 to $2. Major donors to the project include The Towbes Group, Mercedes Eichholz, Santa Barbara Beautiful and Edward Cella, a friend of Bayer’s.
“For a small contribution — $10, $100 — you can be one of our patrons and you don’t have to be a millionaire to be a lover of the arts in Santa Barbara,” DeDominico said. “It is a great opportunity for people to connect.”
Saturday’s event will include a check presentation ceremony while participant musicians of Roger Perry’s Summer of Rock Series perform. Acts will include the Rainbow Girls, Jamie Geston, Voice of Reason, The Wha Wha’s and a surprise guest. Summerland burger joint Tinkers is scheduled to supply food and refreshments.
The prototype of the gate was conceived by Bayer while he was living in Montecito, his home for 10 years before his death in 1985. Born in Austria in 1900, Bayer was one of the last surviving members of the Bauhaus school of art — noted for design based on functionality and simplicity — and a frequent target of the Nazi propaganda war on “degenerate art.” In 1938, under mounting pressure from the Nazi regime, Bayer sought refuge in New York City and enjoyed a successful career in the graphic arts.
David Jacoby from the Jacoby Family Trust, which donated $10,000 to the project, reflected an appreciation for both Bayer’s art and his character.
“On behalf of the Jacoby Family Fund, I am delighted to help restore Bayer’s Chromatic Gate ... as a beautiful, modern piece of art — and regard it as a personal win over past evil,” Jacoby said.
In 1991, the 21-foot-tall, 12.5-ton steel sculpture was raised by local modern art enthusiasts despite public concerns that it would contrast with the area’s predominately Spanish architecture.
Two decades later, those concerns seem to have dissipated as tourists and newlyweds are a frequent sight near the gate, modeling beneath its steel beams for sunset photographs.
“I think that is typical of a lot of public art,” said Ginny Brush, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. “When it is initially there people, are not as comfortable with it or accepting of it. … But I think the waterfront has also changed a lot and there is a greater interest in public art on the way.”