Public art serves to brighten a community, engaging both residents and tourists alike. In 1978, Santa Barbara passed a 1% for Art Ordinance and established a County Art in Public Places (CAPP) subcommittee under the County Arts Commission. As a result of these initiatives, murals, mosaics, and sculptures dot the Santa Barbara landscape. The following list highlights seven sculptures that should not be missed on a trip to Santa Barbara:
1. Chromatic Gate
Art enthusiasts can walk through a rainbow just off of Cabrillo Boulevard. The brightly colored square archway serves as a bridge between the mountains to the north and the ocean to the south. Herbert Bayer created this arrangement of cheery color, which was erected in 1991. By 2013, the colors had faded, and a restoration was commissioned that included sanding, resurfacing, priming, and painting. Chromatic Gate engages passersby once more with its bold rainbow color scheme.
Kinetic sculpture fans should head up to Goleta Beach Park, where a sculpture installed alongside a playground mesmerizes with movement and sound. The 15-foot tall sculpture by George Rhoads features 20 cone-shaped wind catchers arranged in small clusters that rotate independently, propelled by sea breezes. The movement of the Windamajig sculpture causes mallets to pull back and strike against the pipes that form the structure of the piece, creating bongs and dings that root visitors to the spot as they investigate the origin of each distinctive sound.
3. Good Time Clock IV 1984
The Santa Barbara Airport houses another renowned kinetic sculpture. This one resembles a machine or a clock as the name implies, with a moving ball rolling down metal raceways, engaging different parts of the sculpture to move. The sculpture, which has an electric motor, uses weight and timing to move the ball to each new station. Enclosed in a plastic case, the Good Time Clock IV sits in the airfield courtyard, entertaining travel-weary visitors.
4. Dolphin Family
Formerly known as the Santa Barbara Bicentennial Friendship Fountain, or the Bicentennial Friendship Fountain, this sculpture features a family of dolphins in midair jumping over a dish-shaped fountain. The work by Bud Bottoms was commissioned to commemorate Santa Barbara’s bicentennial in 1982. Replicas of the sculpture were sent to Santa Barbara’s three sister cities as well: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Toba, Japan; and Yalta, Ukraine.
Lost-At-Sea Memorial Whale Tail Benches and a Dolphin Torso, also by Bud Bottoms, sit not far from the Dolphin Family fountain at Santa Barbara Breakwater. For passersby, the sculpture adds whimsy to a beach stroll.
5. Mentor’s Fountain
Three bronze, undulating pillars stand in a fountain at Santa Barbara City College. Created by artist Aris Demetrios, the sculpture was dedicated in 2000. The pillars, which symbolize the importance of the mentoring relationship in intellectual life, overlook an expansive lawn at the college with views to the ocean. Art enthusiasts seeking a tranquil, thought-provoking work juxtaposed against a beautiful setting should not miss Aris Demetrios’ Mentor’s Fountain.
6. Millennium Gate
The Santa Barbara County Administration Building welcomes visitors with an oval-shaped sculpture called Millennium Gate. The shiny steel sculpture, created by Rich Peterson, has an opening in the center that symbolizes birth and new beginnings.
A longtime Santa Barbara resident, Rich Peterson served as the community’s fire chief from 1976 to 1992. When the brand new Station 12 needed a sculpture of a firefighter, the city commissioned Peterson to do it. He created Charge the Line, modeled after Sergio Sanchez, who still serves as a firefighter in Santa Barbara. The bronze statue stands outside Fire Headquarters on Cathedral Oaks Road.
7. The Peace Monument
Public art engages and inspires, and sometimes tells a story. The Peace Monument, which stands in People’s Park, Isla Vista, was the site of a peaceful protest in 1970 by about 1,000 locals who objected to a sunset curfew imposed by Governor Ronald Reagan. Police cleared the area with tear gas and clubs, and arrested 390 protesters. Santa Barbara memorialized the moment by installing the steel and concrete structure in 1993. Four steel archways lead to a center circle, which has a plaque that reads, “In a spirit of remembrance, inspiration, and reconciliation, we commemorate the people who worked for peace, justice, and nonviolence in Isla Vista and elsewhere during the Vietnam War era.”
In addition to the sculptures featured on this list, other installations can be found in the Santa Barbara area, as well as beautiful murals and mosaics. Channing Peake Gallery in the County Administration building and City Hall Gallery in Santa Barbara City Hall both feature local artists and others. Santa Barbara’s commitment to fostering art has helped to improve the quality of life in the community.