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I. Sunday, January 5, 1947

Community Arts Association Served City Culturally

Scores of newcomers living here doubtless never heard of the Community Arts Association. Yet if they had come to Santa Barbara in the 20’s they would have found it the initiator of everything cultural, the promoter and protector of a city beautiful which came to have a reputation for planning and planting, and for community efforts in the fields of music, drama and painting such as few communities of its size have attained.

The association began in 1920 with a loan of $50 and in 10 years accumulated net assets of more than $200,000. By then it had four branches with a staff of 35 and had done a gross business of $200,000 affecting more than 25,000 persons through some 150,000 individual contacts – so the records of the decade show.

Carnegie Grant
Recognizing its value, the Carnegie Corporation made an exception and awarded it the only grant to any organization for the encouragement of art, a sum of $25,000 annually. After eight years, on October 1, 1930, the grant expired.

Today, the Plans and Planting Branch is the only one of the four surviving in its original form. At the dissolution of the association, the Music Branch reincorporated as the Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara, Inc. The Drama Branch became the Lobero Theater Foundation. Some of the activities of the School of the Arts survive in the Community Institute, but the school as such was completely abandoned.

Postwar Start
It was at a time such as the present – the end of World War I, in 1919, when a renaissance of interest in art and the existence of a nucleus of persons who had had experience in serving and entertaining soldiers led to a series of discussions principally concerned with drama and festivals of a community scope.

A group met with Albert Herter, and the late Mrs. Herter, who were in residence here at the time, at Hotel, El Mirasol, their former home, by then converted into a hotel. Among those in the group were the late Clarence Black, the late Frederic Forrest Peabody, the late Samuel M. Ilsley and John M. Gamble. Ruth St. Denis occasionally attended. Miss Pearl Chase usually was there.

In the Spring a community extravaganza, the famous “La Primavera”, for which an outdoor theater was erected in the block between Canon Perdido and De la Guerra Streets beyond Garden Street, became the forerunner of the present Fiesta and the first concrete step toward a community organization working in the arts. Irving Pichel and Samuel Hume were hired as directors; some $3000 was expended for original music; the lighting ran into thousands of dollars.

Artistic Success
While it was a success artistically, the fact that it left a large indebtedness in its wake prevented the repetition of “La Primavera” as had been planned. In the late Summer, however, at about the time of the present Fiesta, another outdoor theater was erected for a second event, which Black this time underwrote for $6000.
This second festival, “The Guest,” [sic (“The Quest”)] was given near the site of the present Pershing Park. It was a dramatic production of high order, into which went concerted community effort in the making of costumes and training of dancers and actors. It helped to bring the community to the right pitch to receive the association about to be born.

By Winter the prime movers settled down to serious discussion of building a theater. Both Peabody and Black had given years to intensive business careers; now they were free to indulge an interest in art. The late Mrs. Theodore Carrington, who after her husband’s death became Mrs. Robert Edmond Jones, was often in the group.

By-Laws Set Up
Finally at an informal meeting at the home of Mrs. Michel A. Levy, Miss Chase pressed the point that without an acting group it would be useless to build a theater. Accordingly, by-laws were written for an organization with money-raising interests at heart, to be called the Community Arts Association of Santa Barbara.
At the same time the late Fernand Lungren, artist, decided to go ahead with a School of the Festival Arts, which also was incorporated as a separate group.
These were the parent trunks from which grew the four branches that flourished for a decade in a community venture unique in so many respects as to attract attention and attain a reputation even abroad.