Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Santa Barbara’s “Street in Spain” located in the El Paseo. Photo by Dennis P. Doordan.

On June 7, 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), Harrison Design, the City of Santa Barbara and Downtown Santa Barbara co-hosted a timely symposium titled, “Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.” The symposium provided a space for informed dialogue about the future of Santa Barbara’s urban development including the challenges and opportunities our community faces as we consider the best path forward.

Dennis P. Doordan, Ph.D. is an architectural and design historian and museum consultant. He is the author of Twentieth Century Architecture and co-editor of Design Issues, a journal devoted to the history, theory, and criticism of design. Dennis is a professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. He was the Associate Dean of Research, Scholarship and Creative Work at the Notre Dame School of Architecture. He has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Stanford University. Dennis recently retired and moved to Santa Barbara with his wife in June 2019. Dennis’ brother John Doordan serves on SBTHP’s Board of Directors. The following article was published in La Campana, Summer 2019 .

La Campana is one of many benefits of being a member of SBTHP, to join and receive the next issue, click here.

Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

by Dennis Doordan, PhD.

Santa Barbara is a special place with a distinctive setting, a fascinating history, a genial climate and a rich architectural heritage. Residents know this well, of course, but because of the architectural and urban quality of Santa Barbara this special place is also an important model for students of architecture and urbanism. Indeed, as an architectural historian, I have taught and written about Santa Barbara throughout my career and I want to explain why.

In the late 1990s I was commissioned by an academic publisher to write a history of twentieth-century architecture.1 There is an unforgiving economy of words involved in writing a survey text that is established by the publisher’s strict limit on the number of words and illustrations. For every building included, others must be left out; every illustration chosen means one less somewhere else in the book. So I selected buildings that allowed me to make multiple points about architecture in the twentieth century. I included the Santa Barbara County Courthouse (1927-29) because it allowed me to tell several stories simultaneously. The Courthouse documents the enduring presence of historical revivalism in twentieth-century architecture. It also illustrates the ongoing dialogue between regional and national versions of government architecture in the United States. And finally, it is a superb example of the art of architecture. Good architecture addresses multiple themes.

“Spanish and Mediterranean themed architecture had, by the early 1940s, impressed upon Santa Barbara its distinctive identity as a New Spain in America.

I am hardly the first to note the quality of architecture in Santa Barbara. Anyone who studies Santa Barbara builds on the solid scholarly foundation created by historians like Harold Kirker and David Gebhard.2 Their work provides the outline for the master narrative of what Gebhard called “the creation of a New Spain in America.” Writers, artists, and architects all contributed to the creation of an exotic image for the region. An early example of this is Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona.3 Published in 1884, Ramona is set in California after the Mexican-American War and was instrumental in popularizing a romantic image of Mexican California. California State Pavilions at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego promoted the Spanish Colonial Revival style in architecture and design. In the skillful hands of architects like James Osborne Craig, George Washington Smith, Myron Hunt and others. Spanish and Mediterranean themed architecture had, by the early 1940s, impressed upon Santa Barbara its distinctive identity as a New Spain in America.

In Southern California the Spanish Colonial Revival flourished alongside the rise of Modern Architecture. For David Gebhard, the simple massing, white-washed walls and courtyard plans typical of Spanish Colonial domestic designs shared an affinity with early modern architecture and, in a seminal 1967 article, he argued that there was a meaningful give and take between the two architectural styles. In the end it could be suggested that the Renaissance of modern architecture which occurred in California during the 1930s was due in no small measure to the fact that the visual leap from the Spanish Colonial Revival building to the modern was not a great one. Ironically, the modern movement found its “historic” roots not in the distant past but in the very tradition against which it was supposedly battling.4

It may not have been a “great leap” for Gebhard, but for many others it was a controversial one. The role of historical precedent combined with the materiality and solidity of Spanish Colonial Revival buildings was frankly incompatible with the prevailing Modernist architectural culture that privileged novelty over precedent, volume over mass, and preferred simplicity to decoration. In the 1970s and 80s, as the debate between Modernist and Postmodernist architects regarding the role of historical models in contemporary design intensified, Santa Barbara’s experience, conveyed through the work of historians like Gebhard, made it an intriguing and important point of reference in contemporary discussions of architecture.

The Charles Caldwell Park Water Trough and Fountain. Photo by Dennis P. Doordan.

The narrative arc described above carries us from the earliest interest in Mission and Spanish motifs in Southern California through to the emergence of a Postmodern sensibility in architecture that once again projected Santa Barbara squarely into professional debates about what constitutes good architecture and urban design. I want to suggest a parallel story worth considering, one that focuses on the principles of Beaux Arts Classicism rather than the romance of the Spanish Colonial Revival. Once again, the great fairs in Chicago (1893) and San Diego (1915) provide the starting point. Both fairs were important models for American urban design. Both fairgrounds were laid out with axes and cross-axes that struck an artful spatial balance between the solids (the buildings) and voids (the spaces in between). The designers of these fairs created clear spatial hierarchies and provided a variety of spatial experiences ranging from grand formal vistas to more informal picturesque courts. Building on the success of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 the City Beautiful Movement began to spread across the country. Cities large and small looked for opportunities to reconfigure themselves as efficient and modern urban centers enriched with classically inspired buildings. Large cities like Chicago produced plans that sought to integrate transportation networks, civic and cultural institutions and urban parks on a grand scale.5 Smaller cities worked on a more modest scale, one building, park or fountain at a time.

Santa Barbara Club, corner of Chapala Street and Figueroa Street circa 1919. Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Club.

In architectural terms, the Civic Classicism associated with the drive to improve and beautify cities in the early twentieth century drew upon the vocabulary of classical architecture and the principles of Beaux Arts design. Noteworthy examples in Santa Barbara include the Santa Barbara Club by Francis Wilson (1903-04), the Charles Caldwell Park Watering Trough and Fountain on East Cabrillo at Channel Drive, also by Francis Wilson (1911) and the band shell in Plaza del Mar on West Cabrillo at Castillo (1919). The design of these structures is clearly rooted in an alternative architectural tradition to the Spanish Colonial Revival. Moving beyond the consideration of individual buildings, progressive architects and planners associated with the City Beautiful Movement urged communities to consider streets and the buildings that fronted onto them as unified wholes. It is at this more urban scale that one can detect attempts to integrate an aesthetic sensibility rooted in the Spanish Colonial Revival with progressive planning efforts. During the 1920s, various groups beginning with George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs in 1923 and, in the wake of the 1925 earthquake, ad hoc design groups like the Community Drafting Room, the Associated Architects of Santa Barbara and the Allied Architectural Association of Los Angeles, produced proposals for the treatment of entire blocks along State Street.6 Varied in detail, these plans demonstrated a common commitment to the principle of the street as a unified whole defined by buildings that created a continuous street frontage and shared the same stylistic sensibility.

“In architectural terms, the Civic Classicism associated with the drive to improve and beautify cities in the early twentieth century drew upon the vocabulary of classical architecture and the principles of Beaux Arts design.”

A word about drawing is in order here. Now in the collection of Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara, these wonderful renderings served an important role as tools of communal imagination. They were intended to help the community conceptualize what did not yet exist but could exist. This is, after all, what imagination is: the ability to conceive alternatives to the status quo. Today the array of visualization tools available to communities to help them imagine what does not yet exist but could exist has vastly expanded thanks to the advent of digital software packages and the development of alternatives to conventional zoning such as form-based codes.7 But the role of imagination remains critical if the people who are charged with caring for places like Santa Barbara are to exercise forethought and control over the city’s future instead of merely reacting to the flow of events.

The story of Santa Barbara I have so briefly sketched here is woven from multiple threads: buildings inspired by the Spanish Colonial Revival along with designs rooted in the classical language favored by the City Beautiful Movement. How can reflections on Santa Barbara’s past help us in the present to think about the future of this special place? The answer involves focusing on shared principles rather than different architectural styles. When you distill the experience of Santa Barbara you arrive at a set of principles for good urban design. These principles are not unique to Santa Barbara but have been inflected in unique ways by the particular history of this place. It is possible to identify four key principles.

” When you distill the experience of Santa Barbara you arrive at a set of principles for good urban design. These principles are not unique to Santa Barbara but have been inflected in unique ways by the particular history of this place.”

Urban Design is political. Today politics is often described as a divisive force within society pitting neighbor against neighbor. There is an original, more authentic meaning we need to heed. Politics is the art of living together and promoting the general welfare of the community. Good architecture and sound urban planning promote the general welfare. Community wellbeing is not fully possible without a coherent legible physical framework.

Buildings create the shared public space of a community. They define the civil, commercial and social domains of the community and give visual form to shared values. Buildings can enhance a sense of community. They can also damage a sense of community. When a building that is too massive, too out of character, too dismissive of its neighbors gets built, something more than that street or block is damaged. The sense that citizens have that their concerns and experiences matter is damaged and that is not good for any community.

Landscape and urban spaces exist in a dynamic relationship; they are not separate spheres of experience. Santa Barbara is a vivid example of this truism. The urban forests of Santa Barbara are fascinating. Alameda Plaza, for example, boasts an urban forest that includes 316 trees representing seventy-eight species drawn from six continents. As historic weather patterns change and environmental events alter the landscape, the way we manage the relationship of the environments we build, the parks and gardens we cultivate and the wilderness areas we love to visit will prove critical to the sense of place people seek to preserve in Santa Barbara.

Example of an urban forest located at Alameda Plaza. Photo by Dennis P. Doordan.
Alameda Plaza’s urban forest signage. Photo by Dennis P. Doordan.

The Past is an important part of the Present. The preservation of historic buildings and spaces contributes to the visual character and cultural identity of any city. The Historic preservation does more than keep the structures and environments of the past available for our education and enjoyment. Encoded in the buildings and environments we preserve, like an urban DNA, are important lessons about place and place-making, lessons tailored to the specific circumstances of Santa Barbara. For example, one of the distinctive features of the urban morphology of Santa Barbara are the paseos or pedestrian passages that penetrate city blocks; James Osborne Craig’s El Paseo (1921-23) and Myron Hunt’s La Arcada (1926) are two of the most famous examples.

It can be challenging to argue that we should learn from the past when a consensus about the past is hard to achieve in the present. As any historian will admit, the past is as messy and complex as the present. Today, the story of Santa Barbara as a New Spain and romantic images of its colonial heritage such as Daniel Sayre Groesbeck’s famous murals in the Courthouse are not accepted as uncritically as they once may have been. There are members of the community who do not share the romantic and idealized version of the past they so often see around them. Recently, scholars and museums have made efforts to build a more nuanced and critical understanding of how the past has been used to celebrate the power of some groups and suppress the stories of others.8 In this context it is important to note that even in the past, there were voices that told more honest and complex stories. Earlier, I mentioned the role of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona in creating an interest in California’s Hispanic past. In addition to a story of ill-fated love, Ramona is a scathing indictment of the Americanization of Mexican California and an unsparing portrayal of efforts to drive Native American people off their ancestral lands.

I began this article by trying to explain why the story of Santa Barbara is of such interest to students of architecture and urban design. But Santa Barbara has a future as well as a past, a future filled with challenges as well as opportunities. In addition to changing environmental conditions such as sea-level rise, the city faces a mandate to add over 3000 new units of housing by 2023.9 Today architects and planners have an impressive set of visualization tools that can support exercises in what earlier I called communal imagination. What, for example, would lower and upper State Street look like under different development scenarios? What are the discernable impacts of three versus four story buildings in different parts of town? How do townhouses alter the character of residential streets? How do different strategies for building resilient neighborhoods affect established living patterns? A city thrives when its citizens can imagine a desirable future, understand the urban DNA of their city, and apply the principles of good urban design to making informed choices from among a variety of options. Architects, environmentalists and planners will continue to follow developments here because Santa Barbara has been teaching lessons to people who care about cities for more than a century.

Notes

1. Dennis Doordan, Twentieth Century Architecture (London: Laurence King, 2001).

2. Harold Kirker, California’s Architectural Frontier: Style and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (San Marino: Huntington Library, I960). David Gebhard, Santa Barbara: The Creation of a New Spain in America (Santa Barbara: University Art Museum, UCSB, 1982).

3. Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona (Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1884).

4. David Gebhard “The Spanish Colonial Revival in Southern California (1895-1930)” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 26, no.2 (May 1967): 147.

5. Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett, Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909).

6. Gebhard, Santa Barbara: The Creation of a New Spain in America: 21

7. For an excellent introduction to form-based codes see: Daniel Parolek, Karen Parolek and Paul Crawford, Form-Based Codes: A Guide for Planners, Urban Designers, Municipalities and Developers (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Dons, 2008).

8. See for example: Wendy Kaplan and Staci Steinberger, Found In Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2017).

9. Joshua Molina, “To Meet State Mandates, SB Must Build 3,083 New Housing Units by 2023,” Noozhawk April 7, 2019.

Japanese Film Crew Charts the Course of 19th Century Boatman at El Presidio SHP

By Anne Petersen

On June 8, 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) hosted a Japanese film crew from NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. The crew is making a documentary film about Jukichi Oguri, a Japanese boatman who was lost at sea for 484 days before being picked up by the British ship Forester and brought to Rancho Refugio to convalesce. Oguri’s drift, according to the filmmakers, remains the longest in history to be survived. You can read more about this incredible story here

NHK film crew members, including Production Coordinator Michi Murayama (front left);  Director Yasuyuki Kuwata (third from the right); Actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (second from the right); with Debby Aceves (center) and Anne Petersen (far right).  Photo courtesy SBTHP.

The filmmakers brought in Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi to narrate the film and help the audience imagine Oguri’s experiences. We met the crew in the Presidio Research Center for an interview with Executive Director Anne Petersen about life in the Santa Barbara area around 1815.  The team asked questions about the Spanish colonization of California, restrictions on trade and foreign vessels, and Rancho Refugio.

After the historical interview, the crew met with SBTHP Board President Debby Aceves, a descendant of José Francisco Ortega, first comandante of El Presidio de Santa Barbara and the founding owner of Rancho Refugio. During Oguri’s visit, José Francisco’s son José María Ortega was likely in residence and in control, as José Francisco died in 1798. Aceves and Ikeuchi had an informative conversation during which Aceves showed the actor her genealogy chart, and her descent from Ortega. She described the ranching economy that supported the Ortega family and others during the mid-nineteenth century. At the end of their conversation, Ikeuchi noted that it is interesting that Jukicki found Ortega 200 years ago, and now here he was talking with a descendant today, also in Santa Barbara. Aceves remarked that even though he and his crew today live an ocean away, maybe we aren’t really all that far apart because they were able to find connection today through this amazing story.

Debby Aceves show the crew her genealogy chart, tracing her family back many generations to José Francisco Ortega. Photo by Anne Petersen.

At SBTHP we believe that the knowledge and practice of history is vital to sustaining healthy individuals, communities and the nation.  Our experience with this film crew and exploration of the incredible story of Jukichi Oguri demonstrate that connecting with each other and exploring our own past can produce a sense of common ground across geographic and language barriers, and across time itself.  After their visit in Santa Barbara, the crew planned to travel to Sitka Alaska, to film at locations where Jikichi was taken on an otter trading vessel, before being brought back home to Japan. Adrift Across the Pacific will air in September 2019 on NHK Broadcasting.

Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

SBTHP Hosts Dos Pueblos Concert Band at Casa de la Guerra for May 1st Thursday Event

On Thursday, May 2, 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with Downtown Santa Barbara to welcome the Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS) Concert Band for a special 1st Thursday evening of live music under the stars in the Casa de la Guerra courtyard. The DPHS Concert Band includes high school students from various musical backgrounds, who learn a broad range of musical styles to enrich their musical repertoire. The DPHS Concert Band is under the direction of Mr. Dan Garske.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Mori

The band played three dynamic sets and attracted 1st Thursday goers as well as many walking and driving by between 5-8pm. The broad-ranging set list included a mix of theme songs from Star Wars. This special, free 1st Thursday event began the band’s fundraising campaign to cover costs to send the students to perform at Carnegie Hall in spring 2020.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Mori

Admission to the Casa de la Guerra museum was free during the program and the evening provided another opportunity for a special after hours showing of our temporary exhibit; The Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School: The Remarkable Antecedent of UC Santa Barbara. The Blake exhibit was on loan from the UC Santa Barbara Library and displayed at Casa de la Guerra through May 31, 2019.

One of SBTHP’s core values is to provide a welcoming and accessible gathering place for Santa Barbarans and all who visit our community. Through our collaboration with Downtown Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos High School we were able to welcome many new faces to the Presidio Neighborhood. We look forward to partnering with the DPHS music programs again in the future.

Kevin McGarry is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at SBTHP.

Help Us Restore the Presidio Chapel Doors

When was the last time you walked through the large wooden doors of the Chapel at El Presidio Santa Bárbara State Historic Park?

Founding Day, 2017. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

It was likely for an occasion that has fixed in your memory. One spent celebrating one of life’s important rituals, perhaps a beautiful wedding ceremony with your loved ones, or to participate in the joyful sounds of a concert. Dating back to the late-18th century, the Presidio Chapel served as a central meeting place and place of worship for the first European settlers of Santa Barbara.

Chapel construction, 1986.

The doors are an iconic feature of El Presidio SHP, but after 34 years of use the doors are in need of major repairs due to the deterioration of the wood. More recently, one door has had to be propped up with modern hardware just to keep it up in place – illustrating the need for a permanent solution.

Las Posadas, 2019. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

With your help, we can fund fabrication of two new custom-milled doors, hand-forged nails and door hardware, and the re-installation of the existing hand-forged lock. The total cost to replace the doors and hardware is $15,000 and we hope to complete the project this year.

Asian American Neighborhood Festival, 2016. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

Please consider a donation to restore the entrance doors to the Presidio Chapel so that Santa Barbarans, Californians, and visitors from all over the world can continue to enjoy this special place.

Donate NOW

Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight, 2014. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow symposium is a great success!

by Kevin McGarry and Anne Petersen

Barbara Lowenthol with Harrison Design leads a conversation on Santa Barbara’s historic context with Christine Pierron of the Cearnal Collective, Mary Louise Days, historian; Nicole Hernandez, architectural historian with the City of Santa Barbara; and Tim Hazeltine, historical consultant. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) was pleased to co-host a timely symposium, Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, with partners Harrison Design, the City of Santa Barbara, and Downtown Santa Barbara from June 6-8, 2019. Our collective agenda for the symposium was simple; to create an occasion for informed dialogue about the future of Santa Barbara, and to illuminate the unique challenges and opportunities our community has and will face when considering the path forward.

To discuss these complex issues, we invited the community’s foremost minds in historic preservation, architecture, local government, and real estate for a one-day symposium at the historic Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. The symposium topic is a wonderful complement to our mission to inspire preservation advocacy throughout Santa Barbara County in order to create a more vibrant community.

1st Thursday at the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Ohan Arakelian.

On Thursday, June 6, SBTHP hosted a 1st Thursday program with our partners, showcasing some of the State Street archive drawings produced by renowned architects in the mid-1920s. This collection of ten historic, color renderings provided by the UCSB Art, Design, & Architecture Museum were mounted on the walls of the Alhecama Theatre. Guests were not only invited to view the collection but were also encouraged to enjoy a glass of wine from Grassini Family Vineyards and converse about the future of Santa Barbara’s development. Free to symposium ticketholders as well as the general public, this special 1st Thursday event was a great success and set the stage for the dialogue to be had at the symposium scheduled for the following day.

Dennis Doordan speaking about traditional urbanism. Photo courtesy of Harrison Design.

On Friday June 7, over 100 community members gathered in the Alhecama Theatre to enjoy a series of lectures and panel discussions about the past and future of Santa Barbara.  Highlights included a lecture on traditional urbanism by Dennis Doordan, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and a history of planning in Santa Barbara by former mayor and current Planning Commissioner Sheila Lodge.  Panel discussions about the city’s historical context, architectural resources, and future development rounded out the sessions.

Anthony Grumbine leads a walking tour through the Street in Spain. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

At the mid-point of the day participants broke into groups for guided walking tours of the Presidio Neighborhood and State Street let by Anthony Grumbine and Serena McClintock of Harrison Design, and Nicole Hernandez, the architectural historian for the City of Santa Barbara. Following the tours, symposium guests enjoyed lunch catered by Rudy’s Presidio Restaurant at the historic Casa de la Guerra courtyard. This allowed for candid discussions about Santa Barbara’s past, present, and future in a fitting historic environment.  The symposium was followed on June 8 by an architectural paint-out at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

Lunch at Casa de la Guerra. Photo courtesy of Harrison Design.

The past and future development of Santa Barbara can produce high emotions and a spectrum of opinions.  We are proud that our partners helped bring together a diverse group of stakeholders for a congenial and open-minded conversation about our shared commitment to the community. We are grateful for the many local businesses and organizations who supported the event. You can find them listed here.

If you missed the display of State Street archive drawings at 1st Thursday, you can view them at Casa de la Guerra through the end of August.

Kevin McGarry is the associate director for public engagement and Anne Petersen is the executive director at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.  

Cota-Knox House Receives Colonial Dames of America 2019 Award for Excellence!

by Anne Petersen

(L-R) Ruth Loper, Joy Chamberlain, Kathi Hobbs Chulick, Debbie Kendrick, SBTHP Executive Director Anne Petersen, Marjory Friestad, Judith Cardinal, and Katherine Cowell Collins. Photo by Katherine Collins.

We are pleased to announce that the Cota-Knox House restoration project was awarded the Colonial Dames of America’s 2019 Award for Excellence at the organization’s annual meeting on April 29 in New York City.   The award will fund a rendering of the restoration project, a key tool in helping the community visualize the completed project and its value.

Architectural drawing of the facade detail which will inform the painted rendering of the restoration. By Harrison Design.

In 2017 the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Colonial Dames of America formed a partnership with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), and the organization serves as its service project.  Each chapter of CDA must undertake a service project in support of historic preservation, or partner with an organization that undertakes such work.  We are proud that our Santa Barbara chapter, one of the newest chapters in the organization, made such a strong call of support for this project, ensuring that the Cota-Knox house received this special recognition.

The Cota-Knox House today. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

The Cota -Knox House (1871), located in El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, is one of Santa Barbara’s earliest brick buildings.   Its appearance today barely resembles its appearance at the time of construction due to changes wrought by the 1925 earthquake and various owners.  SBTHP is completing the planning process for the restoration which will involve a new roof, seismic retrofit and facade reconstruction. We look forward to debuting the beautifully painted rendering of the completed project very soon!  To learn more about the Cota-Knox House and how you can support its restoration, click here.

Anne Petersen is the Executive Director for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

Wool Artist Taiana Giefer Installs Tapestry Series at El Presidio SHP

Photo by Alan Kozlowski.

On May 11, artist Taiana Giefer installed a collection of hand-made wool tapestries throughout the grounds of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.  Called Seed Study: Conception, the collection of felted wool pieces looked right at home among the adobe walls at El Presidio SHP.  Taiana installed the pieces in a manner that encouraged visitors to explore the park, so that around every turn and across every threshold they might encounter a surprise.

Photo by Lauren Ross.

We were pleased to partner with Taiana, and to make admission free to the park for the day to encourage attendance and exploration of these unique pieces.  Her project dovetailed perfectly with our organizational value to provide a welcoming and accessible gathering place for Santa Barbarans and all who visit our community.  It also tied in perfectly with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s strategic plan goal to support the Presidio Neighborhood’s growing role as a community hub. We learned to see our special historic spaces differently, through an artist’s eye, and were happy to welcome new visitors to park who came to see the project.

Photo by Lauren Ross.

We look forward to presenting more creative partnership projects in service of our mission. In all things, we are stronger when working together.

 

 

SBTHP Participates in CA State Parks Advocacy Day!

By Anne Petersen

California State Parks Foundation staff welcomes park advocates. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On May 7, 2019 Associate Director for Public Engagement Kevin McGarry and I attended Park Advocacy Day in Sacramento, which is sponsored annually by the California State Parks Foundation.  We arrived for a day of training with CASPF on May 6, which included a legislative update and a workshop on effective storytelling by the Department of Here.

New research findings about youth and parks. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

On Advocacy Day all 150 participants, most from nonprofits like the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation that support California State Parks, gathered for additional training before our legislative meetings.  Highlights of the morning included an address by Director of State Parks Lisa Mangat and a presentation from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability about the value of California State Parks as a health intervention for young people.

Arriving at the State Capital. Phota by Anne Petersen.

Our small team for legislative meetings included Spencer Robbins, a graduate student with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Julia Metzer, executive director of Clockshop, an arts nonprofit collaborating with State Parks on the Bowtie project along the Los Angeles River.  Tracy Verardo-Torres, our team leader, is an independent consultant specializing in park advocacy.

L-R, Spencer Robbins, Anne Petersen, Monique Limon, Kevin McGarry, Tracey Verardo-Torres, Julia Metzer.

Our team held five legislative meetings, with Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, Assemblymember Monique Limón, Assemblymember Christy Smith and Assemblymember Richard Bloom. We encouraged each legislator to support pending park bills, including Limon and Carrillo’s bills supporting access to parks, as well as the need to protect the 5% of Proposition 68 funds that were earmarked for park access, which is under legal dispute.

We specifically discussed SBTHP’s programs at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park including CASA Camp, designed to provide invitation and access to nearby State Parks for Santa Barbara Housing Authority residents.  These programs align well with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability‘s initial findings that the people most in need of access to parks often will not come, or feel welcome, on their own.  They are much more likely to attend and take advantage of the park resources, no matter how close the park is to their residence, through responding to targeted programming designed to serve them.

For SBTHP, this experience was invaluable in terms of both making sure our work is heard at the State Capital, meeting new colleagues which whom we have much in common, and being able to tie our work in with this statewide study, a confirmation that our programs are relevant, valued, and helping to serve those most in need. We look forward to attending again next year.

Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

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