Downtown Santa Barbara’s “1st Thursday” is an Art Feast for All

Yan Yan
Staff Writer

Photo by Downtown Santa Barbara

At 5 p.m. Thursday, downtown Santa Barbara’s State Street burst into life, melodies and color spreading to every corner. A sea of art took over the street as exhibition openings, live music, dancing, artists’ receptions, lectures, films, wine tasting and children’s activities were made available to the public. It was all a part of November’s “1st Thursday,” a planned Santa Barbara evening filled with art and culture. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, participating galleries and art-related venues offer free access to all of the visual and performing art they have to offer.

The event’s organizer, Downtown Organization, is a nonprofit group. They consider it their duty to promote local restaurants, retailers and cultural venues, as well as cultivate Santa Barbara’s cultural atmosphere.
“It is an event for all ages. Kids, teenagers, and parents can all find interesting places to visit. The whole community comes together,” said Ashleigh Davis, the marketing director of Downtown Organization. “We also schedule something outside, such as a showcase of local performances and kid activities. With the help of some other nonprofit organizations, people can get to know what’s happening outside the gallery in the community.”
“Pianos on State” is one of the current live shows outside the gallery. It is a collaborative musical experiment coinciding with the 2011 New Noise Digital Music Festival and Conference from Nov. 3 to 13. Colorfully decorated pianos are placed at various locations up and down State Street, as well in busy public transportation centers, like the MTD bus station and the Santa Barbara Airport. Amateur and professional musicians alike will be scheduled to perform, and during open times anyone is welcome to play.
“It inspires creativity,” said Jillian, a Santa Barbara citizen who enjoys 1st Thursday almost every other month. “The pianos are painted in fun colors. Everyone can sit down and play. You know, not everyone has an access to the piano.”

1st Thursday also gives people close communication with artists in a fun and social environment.
“The event makes me more aware of what’s happening in the town. Otherwise I skip over them,” said the frequent festival-goer. “You can visit many galleries and showcases in one evening. Also, it is more social. You can make friends here.”

Adding to a sense of community, many art pieces featured in 1st Thursday depict local scenery. You will be amazed how the nasty Goleta fog becomes a gorgeous view through the lens of photographers. You’ll see the beautiful Santa Barbara beach, Santa Cruz Island, Yosemite and Inspiration Point. All of these easily resonate in visitors’ minds. There is no doubt why this event is so popular; it gives visitors a fresh perspective to review the familiar, even neglected, beauty of our surroundings.

1st Thursday bridges the gap between artists and visitors, which is a blessing not only to visitors, but also to local artists and partner venues.
Kim Adelman, a local artist whose works are included in 1st Thursday’s showcase of Santa Barbara arts, said,” I love the multicultural atmosphere. I also learned a lot from the exchange and communication with other artists.”
1st Thursday’s promoted mediums are not limited to music and art work. The Book Den, a frequent partner of 1st Thursday, was displaying Santa Barbara poet Melinda Palacio’s new novel, “Ocotillo Dreams.”

“We have been cooperating [with 1st Thursday] for several years,” said Eric Kelley, the owner of the Book Den. “At first we also exhibited art and photography. Recently we concentrate more on books. Usually fans of art also like books.”

Kelley said that during 1st Thursday, the shop doesn’t just display books or works of art: they bring the artists to their audience.

“We hold receptions of local authors and photographers. People can come to meet them and get their work signed,” said Kelley.??  Interestingly enough, Santa Barbara civilians aren’t the only ones benefiting from this event: the neighboring restaurants and art-involved stores also boost their profits and popularity with the increasing number of visitors attracted by 1st Thursday.

1st Thursday will celebrate its fifth anniversary in February 2012. With the effort of participating artists and cultural venues, as well as Santa Barbara art-lovers, more and more people are coming to know this fantastic cultural event.

“It has been proved a success,” said Kelley.