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Santa Barbara Museum of Art Welcomes Visitors Back to the Galleries

SBMA Galleries Reopen to the Public on May 11 

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) is pleased to welcome visitors back into the galleries on May 11, in accordance with the State of California and Santa Barbara County COVID-19 protocols. 

In order to ensure social distancing in the galleries, SBMA is recommending all visitors to make reservations through the online ticketing system at tickets.sbma.net, with admission being free for the foreseeable future. 

Hours 

SBMA will return to normal operating hours of Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm and Thursday, 11 am – 8 pm. The Museum Store’s hours are currently Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5pm. 

What to expect during your visit:  

SBMA has instituted visitor procedures to ensure the safety of Museum Staff, Members, and general public. In addition to limiting the number of individuals in the Museum at one time and frequent cleaning of the facilities, all visitors over the age of two will be required to wear masks. To learn more about the ways in which the Museum is ensuring the safety of all visitors by complying with local and federal regulations relating to COVID-19, please visit the visitor procedure guidelines page at https://www.sbma.net/visit/reopenguidelines

What is on view? 

As visitors return to the galleries, they will be greeted with the following inspiring exhibitions/installations:   

Highlights of the Permanent Collection

This ongoing installation highlights some of the most celebrated works of art from SBMA’s permanent collection, as well as several of the most exciting gifts and acquisitions in the areas of modern and contemporary art, photography, and the arts of Asia. 

Small-Format American Paintings from the Permanent Collection 

This selection of small format paintings is a reminder of the breadth of the Museum’s holdings of American art from the 18th to the mid-20th century. Oil and brush conjure the illusion of near and far persuasively, from the close perspective of still life, to the life-size proportions of bust portraiture, to sublime expanses of land and sky. Whether within hand’s reach or at an immeasurable distance, both types of visual experience are captured within the confines of a canvas no more than 15 inches in diameter. 

Highlights of American Art

This installation features a selection of eighteen paintings and six sculptures that tell the story of the major achievements of American art from the first half of the last century—from the urban Realism of Robert Henri and the Ashcan School, to the Symbolist inflected landscapes of Arthur Davies or Marsden Hartley, to the daring abstraction of Stuart Davis or Arthur Dove. Critically overlooked women artists are also included, to counterbalance the predominance of men in the canon, including the sculptors Malvina Hoffman and Alice Carr de Creeft. African American and pioneering queer artist Richmond Barthé is represented by two sculptures, including one on loan from a generous collector, while the Japanese-born artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi (often categorized as American, but denied citizenship because of the xenophobia rampant between the two World Wars) is represented by a large and important painting that is a declaration of his artistic sources.

Simon Pivots to Social Justice

Rachel Simon would be the first to admit she was blessed by the circumstances of her birth. 

Her father is Herbert “Herb” Simon, the Indianapolis-based real-estate billionaire (and owner of the Indiana Pacers!), and her mother is Diane Meyer Simon, the notable political and environmental activist who founded Global Green, U.S.A.

Her father, Simon says, gave his kids “just enough room to make our own way, but was always there to instill the most important core values.” 

Diane Meyer Simon was an active figure in the populist progressivism of the early Kennedy era. “My mom was just, you know, this super-cool woman, she worked for Bobby Kennedy and had all these awesome stories,” Simon says. “She was an environmental activist and so a lot of my interests probably followed from watching her do her work. [My parents are] both extremely engaged in the community and politically active. So, I mean, I lucked out. We all did.”

Together, Simon says, her parents created in her “a very environmentally conscious and progressive thinker.” 

That progressive thinker is now leading the second generation of philanthropy at the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, based in Indianapolis, but with a regional and even global reach focusing on the environment, education, art and culture, and issues of social justice and sustainability. 

As lucky as Simon is to have cool parents with a desire to give back to their communities and the means to do it, she is also grateful for the gifts that come with being the daughter of two distinct regions that are integral to the country’s cultural fabric – the American Midwest and the American Riviera. 

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Rachel Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges

Simon was born in Indianapolis and spent a good part of her childhood as a Hoosier, before her parents took up primary residence in Montecito. She returned to Indianapolis to attend the Herron School of Art and Design in the early 2000s. She majored in painting, something she laments she doesn’t find enough time for these days, and stayed in Indianapolis upon graduating. 

Simons says she loves the seasons and close-knit community there, but admits that California and Montecito are never far from her mind. Montecito had a familiar small-town feel as her early childhood, and yet the West Coast opened her cultural horizons and helped hone a keen interest in climate and sustainability. 

“As much as Indianapolis raised me, Montecito raised me,” she says. “If I hadn’t spent so much time in California, I definitely wouldn’t think the way I think, and wouldn’t be aware of the things I’m aware of… the social issues that are the forefront of the brain.”

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges, especially related to climate change, sustainability, and social justice. Simon says the foundation has just finished a strategic planning session that will keep its philosophy intact but will focus efforts more directly in some key areas. 

“We are still focused on the environment, arts and culture, and basic needs,” she says, “but social justice will be its own impact area.”

She says the foundation will also work to sharpen its mission and message, especially working with grassroots, community-based organizations. “You know, you can support the education and then you can support equity in education. You can support the environment and then you can support environmental justice, and depending on how you tailor your focus, it could be in a bunch of different areas,” says Simon. “The intersectionality of [environmental and social justice] is so important for people to recognize right now.”

Getting back to parental influences, Simon says she’s “a huge basketball fan” but she won’t give her love to the Lakers, even though she attended USC, just down the road from Staples Center, for a couple years. That’s understandable as Simon is active with Indiana Pacers Foundation. For the Pacers, she has love, for the Lakers, it is “respect.” 

Hey, we can live with that, after all, love and respect is what it’s all really about and that, in the end, seems like Simon’s true inheritance. 

“Speaking of my parents, one of the most important things that they taught us was that we were so blessed and so fortunate… Every day that I work on foundation work, I feel grateful and blessed that I have the opportunity to give back because of the hard work of my parents. So, it’s an awesome responsibility that I’m grateful for.”

The Arts, Back in Full

Finally, after a five-year, $50-million capital campaign to renovate the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, in the spring of 2021 visitors will be able to witness this jewel of the art world anew.

While most of the building has been under construction, the rest of the museum has remained open, albeit with fewer galleries available for visitors. The museum will reopen with new exhibitions, while taking old favorites to new heights.

 In addition to renovating the 12 original galleries in the main building, two entirely new galleries have been added: one for photography and the other to showcase the museum’s impressive collection of contemporary art.

Lansdowne Hermes (Roman), First half of 2nd century CE Marble, 86 1/4 x 40 x 13 3/8 in. SBMA, Gift of Wright S. Ludington, 1984.34.1 Photo courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Of the 100,000 people who visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art annually, most won’t be able to forget Ludington Court, which houses some of the museum’s most prized sculptures and assorted antiquities. Foremost among them is the Lansdowne Hermes, a life-size marble sculpture made in Rome in the 1st or 2nd century AD. Since 2016, when renovation began, Hermes and a handful of other sculptures were on display at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where they also were meticulously restored.

“We hope that our loyal members and visitors to Ludington Court will be enthralled by the new installation featuring the Lansdowne Hermes on an elevated pedestal at its center. Paintings ranging in date from the 15th through early 20th centuries will be hung densely to emphasize the now dramatic height of the gallery,” says Eik Kahng, Santa Barbara Museum of Art Deputy Director and Chief Curator.

In addition to having these restored antiquities back, Ludington Court itself has undergone a total transformation. The original triple-arches have been restored, and a new grand staircase overlooks the gallery.

Come spring, the museum will have more space to provide programming for some 40,000 children and adults alike through a near constant cycle of school programs, symposiums, exhibitions, and lectures. Most of the museum’s programs have moved online and will resume on-site when restrictions are lifted, in accordance with the State of California and Santa Barbara County COVID-19 protocols.

While the pandemic delayed the intended fall opening of “Through Vincent’s Eyes,” a blockbuster exhibit featuring a selection of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings alongside an additional 100-plus works by the artists and authors that inspired him – the closure created an opportunity for something more. In early spring 2022, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art will bring the Van Gogh exhibition to the community with more and different works than originally anticipated. 

And most importantly, Santa Barbara, a community known for its world-class cultural institutions, will have this vital hub of the arts back in full.