On chilly Thursday evenings, Santa Barbara’s art world opened up and welcomed visitors to explore its galleries, studios and performance venues amidst light snacking and wine. More than just a standard museum walk-through, downtown Santa Barbara offered painting demonstrations, hands-on activities and opening receptions—all free. The 1st Thursday Art Walk is a perfect opportunity for Santa Barbara residents to immerse themselves in their city’s rich culture and connect with the colorful artists that they may call neighbors.

Throughout the winter quarter, Santa Barbara’s art scene offered so much: mixed media, oil paintings and hands-on art. The 1st Thursday Art Walks of February and March witnessed the openings of multiple exhibitions and hosted several other interactive activities.

Sullivan Goss — An American Art Gallery, held the opening reception for Whitney Brooks Abbott’s new exhibition, “Field Notes,” on Feb. 1. Abbott is a Carpinterian oil painter who specializes in plein-air, French for “in open air,” and interior paintings. At the reception, she shared that her newest collection is focused on capturing places familiar to her along the coast and farmlands of Carpinteria. The collection also includes a few interior paintings that resonate a sense of familiarity through the warmth of their palettes and the attention to light. One such painting, “Backstage, Santa Barbara High School,” is a large 42-inch-by-36-inch piece showcasing a room brought to life by sunlight seeping through a sequence of windows. It is signature of Abbott’s impressionistic painting style that makes full use of the flexibility of oil paint, as the base painting peeks through her loose brushstrokes to complete an illusion of flickering sunlight on a particularly reflective floor. Abbott recalled how her painting journey in the past few years has revolved around places she visited with her children, which this painting is a testament to. “Field Notes” is Abbott’s first exhibition at the gallery since 2018 and will continue through March 25.

Whitney Brooks Abbott next to her painting, “Backstage, Santa Barbara High School.” (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Following the opening of Abbott’s show, Sullivan Goss also welcomed Santa Barbara-based artist Maria Rendón’s second solo exhibition, “Holy Water,” on March 1. The opening reception was hosted as a part of the 1st Thursday Art Walk on March 7, in which curious visitors piled into the gallery to get a taste of what the reception would have to offer. Rendón’s exhibition mainly features works of natural scenery. Her works embrace the intrinsic texture of the wooden panels she paints on, employing a translucent base layer that retains the contours of watermarks from thinned-out acrylic and flashe. Equally notable is Rendón’s ability to create unexpected harmony among non-harmonious — and even complimentary — colors. Her uses of geometric shapes and lines in regular patterns add a hint of abstraction to her paintings that carry a fantastical, almost supernatural quality.

Not far down the street, domecíl, a lifestyle boutique that also functions as a gallery, displayed artworks of Hilary Brock and Tama Takahashi in February and March, respectively. Brock’s depictions of Santa Barbara’s beaches evoke a feeling of peacefulness. Her paintings are characterized by colors of low saturation and a sense of space created through the distinction of textures. The backgrounds of her pieces show well-blended gradients of color while lumpy strokes of white paint highlight the foregrounds. Brock’s employment of such techniques allows her to closely capture the specks of reflected light on seawater and tops her otherwise realistic paintings with a pinch of fantasy.

A display of Hilary Brock’s paintings at domecíl. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Takahashi’s multimedia artwork channels her Japanese-American heritage. Although she was born and raised in Colorado, her father maintained a lifestyle closely influenced by Japanese aesthetics, which is reflected in Takahashi’s artwork. As a mixed-race American, Takahashi wishes to expand the meaning of American art.

“I was born American, and I make contemporary American art,” she said. Much like how her culture is a collage of different traditions, Takahashi’s artwork combines watercolor cutouts and washi paper with traditional Japanese patterns on birch boards crafted by an artisan in Kyoto.

A display of Tama Takahashi’s artwork at domecíl. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

An artist to catch while downtown is Carol Talley, whose work is being showcased at the Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) Gallery until the end of April. Talley’s pastel artworks are truly ones that demand to be admired in person. Her bold use of color and abstract lines and shapes come to life when viewed from across the gallery, showcasing forms unable to be comprehended up close or on a digital screen.

Talley attended the reception of her show “Abstracted Landscapes” in person on Feb.1 and had a great time chatting with visitors to the backdrop of music by guitarist Chris Judge. The curators of the show from CPC also made sure to set up a table offering wine from the local Stolpman Vineyards. Curator Sophia Beccue shared that the CPC wanted to cultivate a supportive community by reaching out to local artists, musicians and merchants to enjoy evenings brimming with art and culture. 

Visitors admiring Carol Talley’s artworks at the Christ Presbyterian Church Gallery. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Another artist not to be missed is Mary Kay West. West’s fine art atelier at 3 West Carrillo Street opens its doors to visitors on the 1st Thursday Art Walks, where she demonstrates her extensive painting process live. One step into her studio will ensure visitors a feeling of being encapsulated in her world of classical realism. West’s delicate paintings of birds and florals paired with carefully selected frames adorn her studio walls. These paintings, though not large in size, take her multiple hour-long sittings to complete.

Mary Kay West demonstrating the process of painting a bird. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

In stark contrast to West’s realistic paintings are the artworks on display at art gallery Maune Contemporary’s exhibition, “I HeART You.” The exhibition, which opened on Feb. 1, features many works by renowned pop artist Thierry Getta, better known as Mr. Brainwash. Mr. Brainwash’s multimedia artworks make use of elements of graffiti and pop culture, including references to the pseudonymous street artist Banksy. Also on display at Maune Contemporary are poppy prints by Donald Sultan and floral prints and ceramics by Alex Katz. The exhibition is still ongoing, with the addition of a selection of landscape paintings by Will Day, the gallery’s newest artist. 

For enthusiasts of abstract and contemporary art, 10 West Gallery is another attractive destination. The 10 West Gallery on Anapamu Street has a multitude of contemporary Santa Barbara artists on display. Currently, some pieces the gallery is showcasing include ceramics by Patrick Hall, fine photography prints by Patrick McGinnis and paintings by Sophie MJ Cooper, Marlene Struss and Karen Zazon. 

Visitors at 10 West Gallery. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Located on East Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara County’s Channing Peake Gallery invited visitors to the opening reception of “New Muralism: Inclusive Visions of Self and Place” on March 7. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture and Slingshot / Alpha Art Studio. Slingshot is a nonprofit art studio in Santa Barbara that supports local artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The studio is now in its 10th year and has about 40 resident artists. The exhibition presents large-scale reproductions of a small selection of artworks from a few of these artists, along with a couple of original ceramics and pencil drawings. Jessica Schlobohm, the gallery director of Slingshot, attended the opening reception and eagerly shared the vision behind the exhibition with an attentive audience. Schlobohm said that Slingshot’s vision is to bring visibility to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which led her to curate a show based off of muralism, an art movement rooted in drawing public attention to social issues. Part of the curation process involved creating magnified reproductions of the original artists’ work. While some of the artworks could simply be displayed as prints, others had to be recreated manually in order to preserve the quality of the artist’s marks. The curation of “New Muralism” demonstrates an intensive amount of effort, making it most definitely worth taking a trip to see while it runs over the next nine months. 

Artwork reproductions by Slingshot artists on display at the Channing Peake Gallery. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Finally, students from UCSB’s Media Arts and Technology (M.A.T.) graduate program also made contributions to the 1st Thursday Art Walk of March with a showcase of innovative interdisciplinary projects at the Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science and Technology. The showcase, titled “RARE: Realities Altered Realities Emerging Vol. 02,” demonstrated the students’ comprehensive research combined with cutting-edge technology, art and music. Ryan McGee, an M.A.T. alum, displayed his recent project in collaboration with Professor George Legrady: an installation of spatial audio and lighting in which visual patterns were converted into audio. Current M.A.T. students Nefeli Manoudaki, Iason Paterakis and Ryan Millett put on show their project “Osmosis,” an auto-generative model that projected visuals adapted to the surrounding architecture and produced matching sound effects in real-time. Millett, who was responsible for the audio of “Osmosis,” referred to his peers and himself as “architect engineers” who worked to connect multiple disciplines. Millett also worked on a project with Sabina Hyoju Ahn, where the two made a light-sensitive instrument. The instrument is in the form of a box with seven light sensors reactive to different light intensities that would then be translated into varying sounds. Professor Marcos Novak, chair of the M.A.T. program, extended warm welcomes and reminded visitors to keep an eye out for M.A.T.’s next showcase toward the end of spring quarter. 

The showcase of “Osmosis.” (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

Sabina Hyoju Ahn presenting her light-sensitive instrument made in collaboration with Ryan Millett. (Na Huang / Daily Nexus)

The art world of Santa Barbara painted itself beautifully last quarter, from openings of multiple art exhibitions to avant-garde projects like “RARE.” There is so much more to the Santa Barbara art scene that one fails to capture in words. The lively atmosphere of winter quarter’s 1st Thursday Art Walks teases more excitement to come in the spring.