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    Posted April 26, 2013 by
    San Diego, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
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    Art and Architecture Complement the City of Santa Barbara


    While we think of getaways as the chance to relax and refresh, it's also the opportunity to stimulate one's senses and intellect. It can provide perspective, and helps you sort out life's challenges and meaning when you return to home base. The sights and sites of new places can be a game-changer. It should make you ponder about what's important in your life and your own corner of the world.
    Covering all of Santa Barbara can only be accomplished with a major article, or a book. This piece will touch on some places I found appealing. So make your own journey there, and be a seeker of the sublime.
    What nature creates is incalculable. But what we leave behind sets the stage for the next acts to follow. In the serene city of Santa Barbara, California, they have succeeded pretty well. They understand that art and commerce can–and should–come together for the common good.
    Perhaps the best example of local architecture is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Its history doesn't matter as much as its statement. It speaks to you without words. You grasp its intent immediately and intuitively. It not only offers the “wow” factor from the exterior. It draws respect for law and justice as you roam its spectacular interior.
    The arts are important to the people of Santa Barbara, and they revere their theatrical venues. Besides the Granada Theatre and Lobero Theatre, there's the Arlington Center for the Performing Arts. The inviting courtyard entrance lets you know that something special will be going on inside its doors.
    Ablitt House is not a major Santa Barbara attraction. But it's quirky, and it appeals to architectural buffs. It's a four-story, 53-foot-high tower house (plus rooftop patio) designed by local architect Jeff Shelton. It wasn't open for viewing when I was there, but the outside view is worth seeing.
    Brooks Institute Gallery 27 is a double treat. You not only see sensational photography by Brooks students, faculty and alumni. But the building itself, and how they designed and adapted it for the gallery, is also a work of art. The gallery has more than 300 feet of display space on its walls. And what they exhibit there is first-rate.
    Meridian Studios was built in the 1923 as artist studios. It was designed by architect George Washington Smith. Viewing these pastel-colored old walls is like looking at an Old Master painting. Located downtown a little off State Street, the studios are now upscale offices. An architect is one of its tenants. The studios are not open to the public, but if you are quiet and respectful, you can walk through the courtyard and take a gander.
    Sculpture can be found all around downtown, either standalone works or integral parts of the gorgeous buildings. Just keep your peepers open, and you'll find them. You can see some in the courtyard at historic La Arcada, which has shops, restaurants and galleries. One is a statue of the brilliant Benjamin Franklin. La Arcada's entry signs, with a lion and castle motif, reflect original artwork on the building dating back to 1927.
    Don't look in the so-called Funk Zone for art. It's not that easy to locate the artists and their studios. But there are art galleries around the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and in other spots downtown. Many works are sofa paintings for the tourists, but you can find serious art, too.
    So the message is this: Keep your radar working while walking around downtown. I discovered cool antique shops that were not in the guides and maps. I couldn't afford most of the fine items, but I bought an old postcard. And the locale was a good photo op.

    My three nights were spent at Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara. It's a comfortable 3-star hotel right across Cabrillo Boulevard from a large sandy beach. It has a nice pool but I was so busy that I didn't find time to use it. From the hotel you can walk to many cool places, or take a shuttle along the waterfront and up.down State Street for only 25 cents.

    With a head filled with the artistic images of Santa Barbara, I feel rejuvenated. So while this city can be a bit pricey to visit, the amount is worth it. The icing on the cake is having friends in Santa Barbara to visit, and who'll share their city with you. And they did!


    Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St.; 805-962-6464, www.santabarbaracourthouse.org.
    Arlington Center for the Performing Arts, 1317 State St.; 805-963-4408, www.thearlingtontheatre.com.
    Ablitt House, 13 W. Haley Street (between State Street and Chapala Street; then walk down the alley); www.jeffsheltonarchitect.com/Buildings_graphics/ablit_destination/index.htm.
    Brooks Institute Gallery, 27 E. Cota St.; 805-690-4900; www.facebook.com/brooksgallery27
    Meridian Studios, 112 E. De La Guerra St.
    La Arcada, 1114 State St.; 805-966-6634; www.laarcadasantabarbara.com.
    Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, 500 E. Montecito St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103; 805-966-9222, www.SantaBarbaraCA.com.
    San Diego Downtown Association, www.santabarbaradowntown.com.
    Architectural Foundation & Historic Walking Tours, 229 E. Victoria St.; 805-965-6307, www.afsb.org; $10 per tour.

    Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara, 202 W. Cabrillo Blvd. Santa Barbara, CA 93101; 805-966-2880, www.hoteloceanasantabarbara.com.

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