dolphins

Santa Barbara’s iconic dolphin fountain was designed by local sculptor Bud Bottoms as a tribute to the Chumash people, and was first unveiled in 1985 as the “Bicentennial Friendship Fountain.” (Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians photo)

A celebration commemorating the 30th anniversary of Santa Barbara’s iconic dolphin fountain and the completion of its restoration project will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 15 at the entrance to Stearns Wharf.

The fountain, which was designed by local sculptor Bud Bottoms as a tribute to the Chumash people, was first unveiled in 1985 as the “Bicentennial Friendship Fountain” and has since become one of the most well-known images associated with Santa Barbara. The 30th anniversary celebration will include special a blessing along with singing and dancing from different bands of Chumash Indians.

The recent restoration project, which was funded by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Santa Barbara Beautiful and the City of Santa Barbara, transformed the fountain, temporarily, into a planter and supplied a new layer of patina to protect the sculpted family of dolphins from corrosion. The Santa Barbara Men’s Garden Club developed a landscape plan for the project using drought-tolerant plants to maintain the aesthetics of this well-known landmark while considering the drought.

“When we learned about the need for the dolphin fountain to be restored, we wanted to find a way to get involved,” said Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “This fountain has become Santa Barbara’s iconic image, but it’s also a source of pride for Chumash people everywhere.”

Jeanette Casillas, president of Santa Barbara Beautiful, said: “The message public art sends to visitors and guests should be about great beauty. The dolphin fountain elicits these thoughts and feelings and is a welcoming symbol to all cultures who visit our community. Santa Barbara Beautiful is grateful for the opportunity to join in this community collaboration.”

In 1980, the City of Santa Barbara decided to build a “Santa Barbara Bicentennial Memorial Fountain” at Stearns Wharf and held an open contest to determine the best design. The public was invited to vote for their favorite out of the 23 submissions made by artists, architects and sculptors. Bottoms’ creation that featured dolphins, which hold significant meaning in Chumash culture, won the contest, and he later dedicated the Bicentennial Friendship Fountain to “the native Chumash people of this beautiful place and to all of us lucky ones who came later.”

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated more than $19 million to hundreds of groups, organizations and schools in the community and across the nation as part of the tribe’s long-standing tradition of giving. To find out more about the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation and its giving programs, click here.

— Mike Traphagen is a public relations specialist for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.