Staff Report

In recognition of artists’ essential social contributions, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission will award up to 20 stipends of $500 each to local artists who have created work in response to this unprecedented time. With gratitude for county artists, makers, creators, innovators and visionaries, this program is made possible through a partnership between the Arts Commission and the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. 

This program was informed by a virtual countywide artist listening session facilitated by Fifth District Arts Commissioner Ruben Espinoza and the Office of Arts and Culture. Many participants shared that they currently face tremendous financial hardship. A recent report from the State of California indicated that since March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, 85 percent of all artists have experienced work cancellations, such as performances, shows and commissions. As freelancers and gig economy workers, cultural practitioners are often ineligible for traditional benefits that help offset these losses. 

Despite these challenges, many artists are remarkably still creating and sharing work to support the community, often without compensation. Arts Commission Chair Dennis Smitherman noted, “We believe that artists deserve to be paid for their labor. It is our hope that these honoraria will support the selected artists and help enable them to continue to create and connect.”

The call is open to practicing artists and cultural practitioners across disciplines, including but not limited to landscape arts, literary arts, visual arts, performing arts, culinary arts, and traditional cultural practice. Applicants must reside in Santa Barbara County and be at least 18 years of age. Submissions are due by August 3, 2020. The application is available at  

Artwork submitted for consideration must have been created after the State shelter-in-place order was issued on March 13. The Arts Commission may share the work of the selected artists with the public, though all artists will retain intellectual property rights to their work. Submissions will be evaluated on artistic merit, uniqueness of perspective, as well as the artwork’s relevance to the current context and moment. 

“The Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation is honored to participate in supporting our vibrant arts community in Santa Barbara County with these stipends,” said Karen Kerns, Vice Chair of the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. 

As part of a lease agreement with the County of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Bowl has an arts subsidy fund with fifty cents per ticket sold designated for arts and culture grants. The Bowl’s contribution to this special program is from its 2019 concert season.