Multiple art galleries in downtown Santa Barbara extended their hours Thursday evening to participate in the first 1st Thursday Art Walk of the year, which made its return this week after a 17-month hiatus.
About a dozen art galleries and local businesses participated in this month’s 1st Thursday event, showcasing local art and culture and offering free admission to view the galleries. Locals could be seen wandering in and out of galleries near the 1000 block of State Street, sipping champagne and enjoying the artistry.
Just like so many other small business owners, art gallery managers and operators alike were hit hard by pandemic-induced lockdowns and widespread closures. Months of restrictions and shut downs had a number of gallery owners wondering how they would stay afloat and pay rent without customers or visitors.
Julie Schloss, the owner and manager of the Santa Barbara Fine Art gallery, said her gallery felt the impact of the pandemic early on during the first shut down. She told the News-Press Thursday that the pandemic felt like a “sucker punch,” especially after the gallery had relocated to a new space just two months before lockdown.
“It was a tough time,” Ms. Schloss told the News-Press on Thursday.
More recently, however, business has started to improve at the gallery. After the state’s June 15 reopening loosened many COVID-19 restrictions, Ms. Schloss said the gallery has seen more and more visitors returning over the last month and a half, many of which are itching to see beauty after a dark year.
“People really wanted to come in here and see beauty, and I think that’s why we succeeded,” Ms. Schloss said. “We’re still succeeding, and people are still wanting to see beauty with the pandemic and so many things going on in the world.”
At Colette Cosentino Atelier and Gallery on Anapamu Street, locals were greeted by Emily Glasheen, the operations manager of the gallery, during Thursday’s event. The petite gallery features work from Colette Cosentino, a local artist with a flare for decorative art and abstract pieces. The gallery showcased the artist’s newest piece, “Tossed Salad of Love,” during the 1st Thursday event.
As people wandered in and out of the gallery on Thursday, Ms. Glasheen told the News-Press that art really has a healing ability during this time because of its ability to “take you away to another world.” After a long pandemic year, Ms. Glasheen said she believes people are ready to be back out enjoying the arts once again.
“We’ve had so many people come in, and I think people are excited to be out and exploring again,” Ms. Glasheen said. “And I think one of the things that people have really missed are the arts. You know — art, music, live music, and actually coming and seeing things in person. I think it’s been something that everybody’s missed.”
Downtown visitors wandering around Thursday evening may have noticed a massive, white, blow-up elephant plopped outside Jardins de las Granadas on Anapamu Street. The display, called “The Light Elephant,” was created by two local artists, Iman Djouinia and Jonathan Taube, and stands as a large-scale social experiment.
Passersby who walked past the structure were asked to address the “elephant in the room” and answer what thoughts and feelings the elephant evokes. Locals were asked to answer questions like “what’s the story here?” and “what’s happening here?” and offer their own interpretations.
The artists teamed up with local type artist Simon Kiefer for the event, who provided the typewriters for locals to answer the questions.The answers that were collected on Thursday will be returned to the artists, Mr. Kiefer said.
The next 1st Thursday event is scheduled to take place next month on Sept. 2. More information on upcoming events can be found at downtownsb.org/events/1st-thursday.