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Towbes Establishes Performing Arts Fund Through Santa Barbara Foundation

By Jessica Tade for the Santa Barbara Foundation |

Longtime Santa Barbara resident and business leader Michael Towbes has established The Towbes Fund for the Performing Arts at the Santa Barbara Foundation to benefit nonprofit performing arts organizations and their venues throughout Southern California.

Michael Towbes
Michael Towbes (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

A lifelong supporter of theater, dance and music, Towbes, along with his wife, Anne Smith Towbes, previously led the $60 million effort to restore the Santa Barbara Performing Arts Center at the Granada Theater and was instrumental in maintaining KDB 93.7 FM as a classic radio station in Santa Barbara.

Inspired by the giving passion of Towbes, grants from this field of interest fund will be distributed over the next 15 years by the Santa Barbara Foundation to organizations seeking to further their missions of providing quality performances and art opportunities. Funding for this gift comes from Towbes’ donation of a limited partnership interest in a property in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Foundation, working closely with Towbes and his advisers, was instrumental in turning this complex donation into a significant philanthropic opportunity.

“Long after the curtains are drawn and the performance has ended, the experience lives with you and continues to inform your daily life. Seeing a fine performance can change your perspective on the world,” Towbes said. “I felt compelled to provide support so that others will be able to have these experiences, and I knew the Santa Barbara Foundation would be the perfect home.”

“Our community continues to be shaped by the generosity of individuals wanting to preserve civic pride and community engagement,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We are more than thrilled with Michael’s generous gift and know it will provide so much benefit over the next 15 years. In a time when arts organizations are being forced to do more with less, it is always helpful when support is championed by caring individuals like Michael Towbes.”

Towbes has lived in Santa Barbara for more than 50 years and is one of this county’s leading philanthropists. Graduating from Princeton and then attending MIT, he is chairman of The Towbes Group, chief financial officer of The Towbes Foundation, and chairman and owner of Montecito Bank & Trust, a Santa Barbara-based community bank with assets totaling more than $1 billion.

He is a senior life director of the National Association of Home Builders and a member of the California Building Industry Hall of Fame.

A founding member of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and a past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Towbes has also been honored by his selection as Santa Barbara’s Man of the Year, and is the recipient of both the UCSB Chancellor’s Medal and the Westmont Medal.

He has been selected as Santa Barbara Philanthropist of the Year and as Santa Barbara Volunteer of the Year by the National Society of Fundraising Executives, and earned the Santa Barbara News Press Lifetime Achievement Award.

— Jessica Tade is the communications and marketing manager for the Santa Barbara Foundation.

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