Santa Barbara’s iconic landscape painter and gallery owner, Richard Schloss, sits outside of Santa Barbara Fine Art at Arlington Plaza. He is painting the historic Arlington Theatre that’s just across the street.
Nearby, scenic plein-air landscape painter Chris Potter is elegantly working in front of Distinctive Framing N’ Art. Potter begins sketching mustard yellow paint onto the canvas.
These were just two artists featured during a self-guided walking tour exploring the rich art scene in downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday.
The Santa Barbara Art District held ART Santa Barbara — the city’s first-ever fine art festival — that included more than 15 galleries featuring live painters, live music, live artist talks and original artwork.
Art galleries exhibited the signature work of Santa Barbara and regional artists, as well as international and collective pieces. More than 100 artists were represented at the day-long event, according to organizers.
The route took people on foot about four blocks along State Street, from Carrillo to Sola streets.
Guests were welcome to tour galleries in any order, and maps helped pinpoint each location and special event times. Participants placed a bright yellow-colored balloon outside their business, and most locations were open for about eight hours.
“I’m most excited about bringing the arts community together for discussions and collaboration under one roof,” said Nathalie Gensac, who founded the Youth Interactive after-school art program in 2012. “We so rarely get to be in one space at the same time, together, collaborating, brainstorming and having fun celebrating great local art.
“This event is unique because it’s the beginning of a unified collaborative effort to promote Santa Barbara’s art district,” she continued. “It’s a first step toward actively creating a buzz around our art district, which hopefully, in time will help pave the way toward putting Santa Barbara on the map as an arts town.”
Nationwide, Gensac said, artistic cities generate a good portion of their economy, their existence and their tourism from establishing a culture of the arts.
“There is no hiding that State Street needs revitalization and that local businesses are closing up and down State Street,” she said. “I believe promoting the art district and bringing our community together to celebrate local art will go some distance to attracting tourism and helping revive our local economy.”
Event sponsors included Abstract Art Collective, Downtown Santa Barbara, Draughtsmen Aleworks, Sanford Winery, the City of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture, Voice Magazine, Windrun Wine and Youth Interactive.
Yuliya Lennon Art Studio was among the participants at the festival.
A tea ceremony occurred within the gallery, surrounded by elegant sculptures and paintings. The gathering’s theme was Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic with elements of asymmetry and simplicity, which honors signs of wear and age.
Lennon and her husband moved to Santa Barbara from England a few years ago.
She described Saturday’s art festival as “exciting.”
“We thought it was a fairly small place at first,” Lennon said of Santa Barbara. “Living close to London offers a rich artistic community, but when I got here, I realized Santa Barbara has many artists living and working here.”
Artists are promoted locally at events like the monthly 1st Thursday, organized by Downtown Santa Barbara, and across Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, she said.
Saturday’s hours-long festival was aimed at enticing people who can’t attend art gatherings during the weekdays.
“There are loads of things happening,” Lennon said of art events in Santa Barbara. “Having an extra day, which is on Saturday, would allow people who live in the area and can’t make it Thursday nights, and also attract visitors from outside of the area.”
The festival displays “how much we have to offer to position Santa Barbara as an arts destination,” she added.
Another participant was Sullivan Goss Gallery on East Anapamu Street.
During a special event in the morning, the gallery curator discussed California’s legacy of Bauhaus and its connection to a German art school, as well as pairing contemporary work with historical precedents.
The event is helping build Santa Barbara as a top arts destination for out-of-towners and helps people recognize “this is an incredibly rich artistic community that’s a great place to see, buy and collect art,” said Nathan Vonk, owner of Sullivan Goss Gallery.
New galleries and artists are popping up around the city, he said, and people can “take in a bunch of great things in a short distance.”
Vonk said he’s looking forward to seeing attendees exploring the walkable area, learning where guests are traveling from and their interests.
“I hope we get people from out of town and people who are discovering what we have going on here,” he said. “You can take in great art at a small portion of the downtown area.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.