Downtown Santa Barbara will hold First Thursday events this week, after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.
Downtown Santa Barbara will hold First Thursday events this week, after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.  (Courtesy photo)

The First Thursday celebration in downtown Santa Barbara is coming back this week after nearly a year and a half hiatus during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The event is set to take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in downtown Santa Barbara.

Downtown Santa Barbara Tuesday announced that more than 15 participating galleries and cultural art venues will open their doors to the public during the monthly event, and offer free access to visual and performing arts. 

“Artists have not been able to show their work and have it be seen in a visible way, so this is going to be important to get back, and continue the sense of community around the arts,” Executive Director of Downtown Santa Barbara Robin Elander told Noozhawk. “This community and this city are well-known for our arts and cultural offerings, and this (First Thursday) has been a staple for many years.”

Additionally, many venues will feature live music, artists’ receptions, lectures, wine tastings and hands-on activities and other attractions during  First Thursday.

Click here to view the First Thursday participating venues and entertainers.

It’s a joy to be able to celebrate the local arts community again, Elander said.

People can view a variety of original artwork, fine art, landscape art, as well as meet local artists and designers including fashion and jewelry, enamelware and neon light works.

DSB said that people can pick up a First Thursday passport, the official map and guide of all participating venues and events, from Paseo Nuevo, 651 Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara. 

People also can download the map at:

“I love to go out and see places that I would not have necessarily gone,” said April Lee, First Thursday event manager. “We have a lot of new participants this time.”

First Thursday is a walkable, nighttime event. 

“Santa Barbara is gorgeous during the day, but this kind of opens up another world when you walk State (Street) in the evenings,” Lee said. “It kind of opens up your world to new venues you wouldn’t necessarily explore.”

During the pandemic, many community events have been postponed or canceled across Santa Barbara County due to public health restrictions and concerns. 

With the increase in local COVID-19 cases, people are urged to visit the Downtown Santa Barbara website for the latest details on participating venues and the latest restrictions. Due to the increase in cases, some venues opted to skip August, according to organizers. 

Wearing masks indoors is strongly recommended for everyone in public settings, and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s mandate for universal indoor masking goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. 

DSB has recommended that participating venues limit capacity to keep people as safe as possible. 

“Many First Thursday venues are also open and highlighting local artists throughout the month, so if you are uncomfortable visiting during normal First Thursday hours, or if you find the venue you wanted to visit isn’t open, make sure to visit at another time during the month to support our local businesses and arts community,” DSB said in a statement. 

The First Thursday in August will coincide with Santa Barbara’s annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta set for this week, although public performances, parades, and mercados were canceled due to public health concerns about the Fiesta events. 

As part of First Thursday, local flamenco teacher Jessica Haro will perform at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in front of The Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St. 

There’s an opportunity for people to learn some dance moves. 

Following Haro’s performance, a brief introductory class will be offered for anyone interested in learning flamenco steps.

Meanwhile, people can enjoy live music. 

Mariachi Las Olas de Santa Barbara, under the direction of Juan Zaragoza, will perform from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the 1000 block of State Street. The group performs the original form of mariachi, as well as popular or contemporary styles of music using mariachi instruments, according to DSB staff.

Another highlight for First Thursday is “Light Elephant,” a 16-foot-tall inflatable pop-up installation that will be displayed at Jardin de las Granadas, 21 East Anapamu St.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture and city of Santa Barbara will host the artwork, which was created by artists Iman Djouini and Jonathan Taube.

The Art Crawl will highlight the area’s hidden gems and artists. The art walk will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the steps at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St.

People are advised to wear comfortable shoes.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra St., invites people to experience the “Project Fiesta!” exhibition of photographs, costumes and artifacts from annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebrations. 

Held on the first Thursday of the month, the First Thursday event is known for creating an evening of art and culture in downtown Santa Barbara.

Since February 2007, First Thursday events in downtown Santa Barbara have offered art, culture and music for free to the public. 

Up to 5,000 residents and visitors have traversed through museums, art galleries, street exhibitions, retail and professional businesses, and restaurants in the downtown district, according to DSB.

The First Thursday event has evolved throughout the years, Lee said. 

“It was more focused on galleries toward the beginning, but in the few years or so, it expanded,” Lee said. “Now, places that are not necessarily a gallery are getting involved, with some sort of art component.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.