We’ve Got This, Santa Barbara

By Giving List Staff   |   January 1, 2021
Alvin Ailey® American Dance Theater (photo: Paul Kolnik)

Celesta M. Billeci, UCSB Arts & Lectures’ Miller McCune Executive Director, is on her 12th Zoom call of the day. It is 2 pm. 

Despite scrambling to ensure the community had access to Arts & Lectures while COVID-19 steamrolled its 2020 season, Billeci is upbeat, bullish on 2021 and her institution’s place in the community. 

Quoting the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, she says: “We must be headlights and not taillights.”   

“We promise to be headlights for the community,” she says. “We promise to innovate, not hibernate.”

During lockdowns, this has meant moving lectures and performances that would be typically scattered at stages across Santa Barbara online – a practice Billeci and her team will keep on doing. “That we can bring people from all over the world to Santa Barbara is fantastic.” 

Yo-Yo Ma (photo: Jason Bell)

Looking forward to 2021, Arts & Lectures has already lined up a diverse slate of performers and thinkers – Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Bryan Stevenson, chef José Andrés, opera diva Joyce DiDonato, David Sedaris, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Jon Batiste and many more  – to “entertain, educate, inspire.” 

“Each of those elements has its own urgency these days,” Billeci says. “We desperately need to be awestruck, amused, and entertained.” 

Arts & Lectures is so much more than what happens on stage. Contributors and friends of the organization enjoy special access to these global thinkers and world-class performers in informal chats, dinners and private sessions. And Arts & Lectures’ massive education and community engagement programs serve all ages and learning levels, from school-age children to college students to parents and families, to seniors. Billeci points to Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma who always give a master class to students that is also open and free to the public – transformational experierences. 

“I joke with Yo-Yo, that I like his master classes better than his performances,” Billeci quips. 

Arts & Lectures serves more than 110,000 each year with its over 300 public events and education programs – including 15,000 community members who enjoy the Spanish-language music and dance programs of ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! This community-driven program provides performances and educational activities throughout Santa Barbara County, including agricultural communities of north county.   

For Billeci, who loves Santa Barbara for its residents’ intellectual curiousity and willingness to be challenged, the Herculean effort of entertaining, educating, and inspiring the community is a matter of pride and responsibility. 

“We connect this community and the community needs us,” she says. “We did not create this community, but we are vital to making sure it is vibrant and alive.”


UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures

Phone: (805) 893-3755
Senior Director of Development & Special Initiatives: Stacy Cullison


To educate, entertain and inspire.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.

Enriching Program at Santa Barbara’s Doorstep

“Arts & Lectures offers our community an incredible array of artistic offerings, both classic and contemporary, that are unequaled in any other community of our size in this country.  Every one of those 200-plus annual offerings are brought to the University, its students, and our community.  A&L’s education outreach, to both English and Spanish speaking students, enriches younger students immeasurably.  We are incredibly fortunate to have such a varied and enriching program right here on our doorsteps!”
– Sara Miller McCune
A&L Council Member and Former Co-Chair

Join Us

For Celesta Billeci, the call to action for those who want to support Arts & Lectures’ vital role in the community is simple: “Join us.”
“There is a place for you at Arts & Lectures,” Billeci says. “Come on over and check us out! We’ve got something for nearly everyone – the arts maven, the politics junkie, the active senior, the home chef – you name it, you’ll find yourself inspired – and entertained, and even educated! – at Arts & Lectures.
“And once you’ve bought a ticket and you’ve seen what we do,” Billeci adds, “you’ll realize that joining our circle of contributors and further connecting with Arts & Lectures will deeply enrich your life here in Santa Barbara.”

Arts & Lectures Council

Rich Janssen, Co-Chair
Kath Lavidge, Co-Chair
Timothy Babich
Marcy Carsey
Marcia Cohen
Timothy O. Fisher
Tom Kenny
Dorothy Largay
Patricia MacFarlane
Susan McCaw
Sara Miller McCune
Natalie Orfalea
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree
Tom Sturgess
Anne Towbes
Lynda Weinman