The Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara will be closing its doors for good on Aug. 28 after more than 45 years in the community.
“We are deeply proud of the work that our institution has undertaken to invite and highlight artists whose work has given context to the human condition — our hurts, our joys, our desires and our fears — and we have always strived to break barriers in order to present a multitude of realities and experiences,” museum representatives said in a statement.
Like many nonprofit arts institutions, the Museum of Contemporary Art has been struggling financially for many years, according to board president Laura Macker Johnston.
The COVID-19 pandemic added a greater financial strain on the museum, and the board of trustees was unable to secure the funding needed to maintain the museum’s operations.
“I am devastated by the closure of the MCASB,” said artist Shana Moulton, who has been involved with the museum since 2012. “Exhibiting at MCASB in 2021 was one of the best institutional experiences I’ve ever had.”
The museum was founded in 1976 by artists in the community who were looking to showcase their artwork in a space dedicated only to contemporary artists, according to the press release. It was initially called the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, located in the Balboa Building downtown.
In 1990, the museum moved to its current location in the Paseo Nuevo shopping center. The Contemporary Arts Forum changed its name to the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013 when it expanded its mission toward education and became an American Alliance of Museums accredited institution.
“It’s rare that general art museums, even if they have some contemporary programming, are able to provide this kind of platform and community engagement with contemporary art,” Moulton said.
Despite the closing, the museum has plans to preserve its Emerging Leaders in the Arts and Teen Arts Collective programs.
Emerging Leaders in the Arts is a nine-month fellowship for young BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) professionals ages 18 to 28 who are pursuing museum leadership, according to the museum’s website.
The Teen Arts Collective is a program for students ages 15 to 18 that allows for them to learn about artists in their community and plan exhibitions for their own art.
“Contemporary art speaks to what informs our society today through the lens of living artists,” museum representatives said. “It allows for diverse voices to engage with the human experience in real time. MCASB has been a vital part of the cultural landscape in the Santa Barbara region.”