Community budgets are tighter than ever, but Santa Barbara Youth Council member Elly Iverson is working to help maintain the teen center downtown, and infuse a little creativity into the public eye in the process. She’s part of the driving force behind a showcase of original graffiti artwork, which will debut at Thursday’s opening night event and will be on display until May.

The Santa Barbara Youth Council is made up of high school and junior high students who help with teen programs and provide feedback to the city council on youth issues. The group is one of the sponsors of the art show, which is a result of conversations that occurred at “speakouts” — regular dialogues in which panelists and the public explore ideas that can be controversial.

“In the month of January, we had a speakout about graffiti and whether or not people thought it was art or vandalism,” Iverson said. The diverse panel included graffiti artists and police officers, and the event, held at the Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1232 De la Vina St., saw a good turnout of teens and adults. The idea for the art show itself was borne out of that discussion.

“From that, we got some ideas and said ‘OK, what can we do in our community to help this problem?’” said Iverson, a Santa Barbara High junior. The youth council came together and decided to host an exhibit that specifically showcased art with aerosol paint as the medium. Iverson then collected about 20 pieces of artwork from various local high schoolers.

Thursday’s show at the Santa Barbara Teen Center, 1235 Chapala St., will begin at 7 p.m. with live music and appetizers. A $3 suggested donation is being accepted at the door. Iverson said all of the proceeds will go to teen programs.

The city council and Santa Barbara school board members have been invited, and Iverson is hopeful the event will garner a solid turnout.

She said that after the city’s proposed 2010 budget was released Tuesday, many at the teen center were disappointed that the Parks and Recreation Department, which has funded teen programs in the past, would be experiencing some of the largest cuts.

“It’s depressing that a lot of our big events that we have, that have really drawn in a lot of the youth, we’re not going to be able to have any more,” she said. Especially during the summer, some of the planned trips the group has coordinated may not happen. “There’s a big question hanging over everyone’s head: ‘Is it going to happen or not?’”

Cyrus Alexander, the Teen Center coordinator, said events like the art show are always welcome and he added that he likes to push teens to put on their own events. “It’s helpful when we have teens taking the initiative to help with programming here,” he said.

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Teen Center or call 805.882.1235.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

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