5 Pieces of Public Art Not to Miss in Santa Barbara!

by Courtney Dietz September 01, 2013

Alongside the charming Spanish colonial architecture and stunning coastal geography, there’s a surprising abundance of public art scattered around Santa Barbara. If you can pull yourself away from Santa Barbara's museums and galleries, you'll find everything from towering street-side murals to smaller pieces tucked away in courtyards and paseos. It is hard to take a step in this incredible city without stumbling across a fantastic piece of art.

Here's five of the more prominent pieces that are worth a visit:

  • Chromatic Gate (1991; 633 East Cabrillo Blvd.) – Famed artist Herbert Bayer, who spent the last 10 years of his life in Santa Barbara, designed this 21 foot tall multi-colored arch located across from the beach. The piece received a much-needed face-lift in 2013 and is a striking frame to either the mountain or ocean view.

chromatic gate
  • The Transportation of the Mail (1937, 836 Anacapa Street) – Six sunken plaster reliefs by William Atkinson adorn the interior of Santa Barbara’s Main Post Office. Often confused with the more recognizable WPA (Works Progress Administration) pieces, this installation is a result of the Treasury Section of Fine Arts. The Post Office, on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985, is compelling in of itself with art deco detailing throughout.

  • Summer Solstice Celebration (1995; 1200 Anacapa Street) – These bright murals by Richard McLaughlin and Benjamin Bottoms were installed on the interior courtyard of the Granada Garage in 2009. The June Summer Solstice Celebration and Parade is the largest art event in Santa Barbara County, attracting over 100,000 spectators and 1,000 participants.

solstice murals at the granada garage

Photo Credit: Courtney Dietz

  • Untitled (1958; Chapala Street, between Victoria and Sola Streets) – This series of 6 mosaics each measuring 13’ x 18’ was created by artist Joseph Knowles, a long-time resident of Santa Barbara. Insiders note: It’s speculated by some that the original ordering of the panels was backwards as each panel represents an era of Santa Barbara history and from left to right, seems to regress. In its original location since 1959 (along Victoria Street between Chapala and State Streets), in 2012 it was moved around the corner and the order of the panels was switched.

  • Syuxtun Story Circle (2009; West Beach) – This 20 foot wide mosaic made of over 200,000 tiles is embedded in the sidewalk near West Beach (along Cabrillo Blvd.). This piece sits on the site of one of the largest Chumash villages and depicts the upper-, middle-, and under worlds of the Chumash swirling together. At the very center there is a sand dollar whose core is one small piece of abalone, a swirl of iridescent colors.

story circle
Syuxtun Story Circle at West Beach. Photo Credit: Courtney Dietz

    Whether you are looking to learn about Santa Barbara’s history through our art and artists or whether you're just in the mood to take a stroll and explore a diverse spectrum of interesting works, Santa Barbara abounds with unexpected works of art to explore.



    Courtney Dietz
    Courtney Dietz

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