1918: WWI-themed Projection Installation Honors Local Veterans and Makes History at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

by Kevin McGarry

1918 installation at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park on November 10. 2018. Photo by Anne Petersen

On Saturday, November 10, 2018, at 6:00pm The Environment Makers, New Grit and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) unveiled 1918, a two-night immersive multimedia installation created to commemorate the armistice of World War I and honor our local veterans, living and deceased. The opening program, led by SBTHP’s Executive Director Anne Petersen, introduced the project to the community. City Councilmen Greg Hartt and Oscar Gutierrez, SBTHP staff and volunteers and many community members gathered together at Santa Barbara’s birthplace El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to witness the unveiling. Speakers at the opening program included SBTHP Board President Debby Aceves, City Councilman Greg Hartt, and the projection artists who created 1918, Kym Cochran and Jonathan PJ Smith. Over sixty people attended the opening program and afterward enjoyed a reception with delicious food donated by Rudy’s Presidio Restaurant.

The planning for 1918 began over a year ago when, on a sunny afternoon in early November 2017, local projection artist Jonathan PJ Smith (founder of The Environment Makers and co-founder of New Grit) met with SBTHP’s senior staff to discuss his innovative idea to create a WWI centennial anniversary projection display that would cover the front walls the Presidio with dynamic WWI film and imagery for two evenings over Veterans Day weekend, 2018. Jonathan’s hope was to use historic imagery that is now available in the public domain to bring to life the experience of the war and its aftermath through multiple projections on the whitewashed walls of the Presidio. Jonathon explained his vision with such ingenuity and enthusiasm that we (SBTHP staff) started to imagine the impressiveness of his vision. It was clear that Jonathan wanted to create a profound and moving way to mark this very special Veterans Day. We jumped at the opportunity and then a year-long journey began to make his dream a reality.

Jonathan’s creative partner and co-founder of New Grit Kym Cochran came on board and she helped shepherd Jonathan’s artistic vision and worked with SBTHP staff to turn it into what became our 1918 program. Through New Grit, Jon and Kym hope to help others find creativity through education, participation and exploration of arts and technology. 1918 was the first of many community projection art projects New Grit hopes to provide the Santa Barbara community. In fact, they are already working with the staff of the City of Santa Barbara to bring more thematic projection installations to other historic locations in downtown Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is home to over 38,000 veterans. Each year, SBTHP and Los Soldados Real del Presidio de Santa Bárbara host a Veterans Day Ceremony to honor our local veterans for their service. 1918 was another, very special way to do this. We already have discussed ways we hope to collaborate with Jonathan and Kym of New Grit again in the future. We’d like to thank them for their ingenuity and hard work in creating 1918 as well as Rudy’s Presidio Restaurant, the Towbes Foundation and the Outhwaite Foundation—all organizations that continue to support SBTHP’s efforts to activate the power of places of memory to engage the public with a deeper understanding of the past and inspire action to shape a better future.

Kevin McGarry is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

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