This week, the walls of the volunteer-based nonprofit were filled with the work of Santa Barbara Art Association members and others who will help commemorate the gallery’s 40th anniversary through an exhibit this month.
Manny Lopez, who serves as business manager, said the milestone makes the gallery at 1114 State St., No. 8 the longest continually operated fine art gallery in town — a title the group would love to still boast 40 years from now.
He expected the gallery to gain that greater exposure this week as one of more than three dozen local art galleries and businesses participating in the 1st Thursday event coordinated by the Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara.
“It’s kind of a labor of love,” said Lopez, who noted the gallery has been involved in 1st Thursday since it began seven years ago. “This is a gallery created by members to showcase their work. Everybody in town gets to know who you are.”
The free, three-hour 1st Thursday event has steadily grown over the years, and since Kate Schwab stepped into the role of director of marketing and communications for the membership-driven, nonprofit organization.
“I couldn’t wait to get my hands on 1st Thursday,” Schwab told Noozhawk. “Mostly it was designed to get businesses to stay open later.”
What began with a handful of galleries keeping the open signs up until 8 p.m. instead of 5 or 6 p.m. has turned into a full-blown monthly gathering for locals and visitors wanting to immerse themselves in the cultural form of their choosing.
Artwork, live music, café fare and wine are regular 1st Thursday staples, as well as book-signings, jewelry or fashion shows and even a flash mob of dancers that performed at last month’s event.
“Culture, to me, is really a huge word,” Schwab said. “That’s why I think a lot of people are jumping on. I feel very strongly about this street.”
She said the Downtown Organization has 1,400 due-paying members who support the organization’s goal of maintaining and enhancing business and cultural activity in the downtown area bounded by Anacapa, Chapala, Micheltorena and Gutierrez streets.
The organization itself has been around since 1967 and also sponsors mixers, the annual Downtown Holiday Parade, the Downtown Art & Wine Tour, Shop Spree SB and more.
About 3,500 pamphlets, referred to as event “passports,” are printed each month, along with posters for participating businesses to place in their windows.
Schwab struggled to highlight just a handful of the 39 businesses participating in this week’s 1st Thursday event because so many are doing “such cool” things. A list of all participating venues can be found by clicking here.
As for new venues this month, Ca’Dario Gallery at 31 E. Victoria St. will stay open late to celebrate its opening, and Blush Restaurant & Lounge at 630 State St. will feature live music on its patio, along with an art exhibit.
Schwab encouraged those attending 1st Thursday to check out some new spots and to offer feedback by finding the Downtown Organization on Facebook.