Thursday, January 7, 2016

You Need to Know about These 5 Awesome Local Arts Programs for Kids

Santa Barbara’s eclectic nature is influenced by its multicultural heritage, commitment to sustainability, and promotion of the arts through the hosting of events like the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Known for having California’s second-highest number of nonprofits per capita, the city focuses on providing amenities that benefit the local groups most in need.

Among these groups, children are the focus of most of the community’s resources. Along with programs designed to help them learn about civic involvement, socialization, and safety, there are many organizations that focus on the development of creative abilities through art programs, including the following five groups.

1. Music Matters

A program hosted by the Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara, Music Matters is an outreach initiative that teaches fourth through sixth graders classical music appreciation. Beginning in 2003 at a local elementary school lacking musical education opportunities, the program has continued to develop ever since. Today, Music Matters leads classes for students at 13 schools in the county.

The central themes of the curriculum taught by Music Matters include music in relation to the imagination, emotions, nationality, and creativity. In an age when most popular music has electronic or synthesized elements, instructors help instill an interest in classical music through techniques that improve listening skills. Students are exposed to various music pieces, and are then asked questions that require them to use emotional intelligence.

Education professionals interested in bringing the Music Matters initiative to their schools can do so through inquiry on the program’s website at

2. Viva el Arte de Santa Barbara     

Viva el Arte de Santa Barbara, a program presented by the University of California, Santa Barbara, is focused on arts that are relevant to Latin American heritage. In an effort to provide a diverse cultural education to 15,000 local children and their families, Viva el Arte provides the community with free Latin music and dance performances.

Along with community presentations, the group also performs at local schools, hosts weekend workshops, and offers music lessons. These experiences are an excellent way for children to learn about cultural traditions and connect with family members across multiple generations.

Run by volunteers, Viva el Arte is a nonprofit organization funded by grants and donations. To stay up to date with group performances and events, visit its Facebook page at

3. ArtVentures at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Students in the city can participate in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s ArtVentures, a creative after-school program that hosts classes and workshops teaching basic visual art techniques. Children learn skills such as drawing, painting, and understanding color and composition, and projects within the curriculum connect with current museum exhibits.

In order to inspire confidence and build visual thinking skills in students, ArtVentures instructors lead them on a visit to the museum, where they are able to view and find inspiration in professional artwork. All classes and projects are held in an offsite facility, the Ridley-Tree Education Center. Registration for the museum’s camps, after-school program, and workshops can be found on the official website,

4. Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN)

The Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN) is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide students in Santa Barbara County with a professionally taught, quality arts education. The network focuses on providing these programs at schools and centers within communities that are economically disadvantaged and the least likely to have access to an education in the arts.

Programs hosted by iCAN include subjects within music and the visual arts, and each year they serve nearly 3,000 children at nine sites across the county. With a teaching staff of 32 instructors, iCAN instructs children in art production, perception, and reflection. Participants of the music programs initially learn about choir and violin, and earn the ability to pursue a wind or brass instrument once they reach the fifth grade.

Both music and visual arts students also become involved with the community, participating in exhibitions, art shows, and concerts, which give them the opportunity to showcase their newly acquired artistic skills at various points throughout the year.

5. Girls Rock Santa Barbara

Girls Rock Santa Barbara provides girls and women in the city with a unique opportunity to participate in music lessons, camps, and year-round programs that help them learn about music performance. With subjects including performance, production, photography, filmmaking, and journalism, most programs are geared toward girls between the ages of 6 and 17, though programs for adult women ages 18 and up also exist.

Opportunities for girls include the program After School Rock Band, where students pursue one of many instruments, form a band with other girls, and work together to compose an original song. At the end of the 12-week program, all bands perform their song at a community showcase. Students are not required to have any prior musical knowledge and are provided with instruments by the Girls Rock Santa Barbara organization.

The mission of the program is to use music as a tool to inspire women and girls to feel confident, challenge gender stereotypes, and make friends in a supportive and safe environment.