I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it said, but if there were a dollar for every time it has been said to me, then a millionaire I would be: “Isla Vista is a cultural black hole/death trap.”

Usually those making the aforementioned statement are phony intellectual/post-sophisticate miserable beings with nothing to gain from the beauty of a place such as this. The sun bothers them, as does the ocean and the beach, the open spaces and the sight or sound of people having fun. These are the types that will be miserable anywhere they go and will drag anyone they can down with them. If you’re not happy here, then my advice is simple: GO AWAY!

Usually they do go away, but it unfortunately takes a four-year cycle known as “college” to get rid of them and by then their replacements come aboard to carry on the duties of the old miserables for UCSB generations to come.

And so, these negative folks aside, I ask how can a town so close to an institute of higher learning such as UCSB fall under the category of cultural death trap?

Sure, the party atmosphere exists among the students, but when it comes down to it, the student population here is smarter than the average bear. With a talented student body and arts departments such as we have, culture in Isla Vista or the UCSB campus is not hard to find. You just have to look in the right places.

Last week I got an opportunity to bear witness to such culture in the form of an invitation to an art show at the UCSB Women’s Center titled “I Am … Women Defining Their Cultures.” To say the least, it was highly impressive.

Now, I’m no artist, much less an art critic. Stick figures are my forte. My basic art knowledge is that Monet was an impressionist, Picasso was a cubist and Dali was a surrealist; that’s all.

But you didn’t have to be an art expert to enjoy the show. The atmosphere was lively and all of the participating artists were present, willing to talk to anyone who asked about their influences and inspiration for their work. There was so much to learn from so many.

It was a pleasant affair and I left pleasantly surprised in many ways. The coolest thing was that this was not the first instance of culture in this supposedly culture-drained town by any means whatsoever.

In my tenure as an Isla Vista resident the opportunity to see many forms of cultural displays has been put forth to me many times. There are many creative people here and their cultural contributions are many. In many ways, shapes and forms, culture in Isla Vista is far from missing. From art shows to musical performances, to lectures and beyond, on-campus and off, there’s plenty of culture for everyone in this town.

Unfortunately, the so-called party aspect of our little community creates doubts in those from the outside. But I believe you can have parties and culture in the same town.

There is no written rule that says you can’t have both. Sure, we’ve got meatheads, but even the Renaissance had its share of those. You just can’t escape them, but there were none at the art show.

When it was all said and done I rode my bike home, all the time smiling in a way that indicated to me that something was truly appreciated. Major props to the UCSB Women’s Center, to the organizers of the art show and especially to the artists involved.

I got to see some good art, meet very talented individuals and a point was clearly proven to me on that night (once again). That point is simply that culture does exist in Isla Vista. You just have to look for it in the obvious places and those places aren’t too far away.

Henry Sarria is a longtime I.V. resident and a frequent contributor to the Daily Nexus.