Santa Barbara is located northwest of Los Angeles about 95 miles. Perched on the shores of the Pacific Ocean with a backdrop of the Los Padres National Forest; Santa Barbara is surrounded by beauty. Located just a few blocks from Hwy. 1 in downtown Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art which is houses over 27,000 pieces of art. Known as one of the best art museums on the West Coast, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is actually more than a museum. It houses a library, an auditorium, a children's gallery, a café, shop and an off-site educational facility. Santa Barbara Museum of Art



The museum showcases a variety of artworks including paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and photographs.

The museum is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. In honor of this celebration they have highlighted 31 pieces of art that includes paintings and sculptures that date back to antiquity. This wide range of art boasts names such as Claude Monet, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and others. The collection is diverse and has pieces from virtually every art period: impressionist, classical, medieval, renaissance, baroque, romantic, realism, expression, and more. A stroll through this collection will be well worth your time.

There is also a smaller collection of photographs by numerous artists. This collection is set up in honor of Karen Sinsheimer, former curator of photography for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Next read: San Diego to Santa Barbara

Tours of the gallery are available and included in the price of admission. This is an opportunity to explore the works of art with someone who is well versed in the artist, the medium, the history and everything that surrounds the artwork. It allows for discussions, questions and a true exploration of the pieces that interest you the most. Tours must be reserved ahead of time. Things to Do in California: Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Photo:

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»Traveling Collections

Traveling Collections

Currently showing at the museum is the Puja and Piety collection. This collection focuses on the complex relationship between aesthetics and spiritual practice, or puja, as seen in three distinct religions: Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist. These are the three religions that are native to India. Each one has similar, yet different displays of art in a multitude of mediums. There are 160 pieces that span history from the first century to modern day. The pieces represent symbols of worship that were created for temples, shrines, and other such places of worship. There are paintings, terra cotta, sculptures of bronze and stone, chariots and other impressive pieces.

Fearing Library

The Fearing Library, named after Constance and George Fearing prominent figures in Santa Barbara, is home to thousands of written works on art history with a focus on the art of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Contemporary art and Fine Art Photography. It is also home to art dictionaries and other reference materials, art journals and periodicals, and the Art Gallery exhibition catalog.

While the library is set up to serve the staff and members of the Museum, it is available to the public as well. There is also an online catalogue.

The Fearing Library is included in the major renovation project going on at the Museum and is closed until further notice.

Family & Community Events

The museum is host to many events throughout the year. Two of them are the Summer Art Camp and After-School Programs. Various types of art are available to experience throughout the summer months. The final art camp for summer 2016 is titled "Silk, Sand & Stone: Materials and Myth in Indian Art". So you can see your kids will be exposed to new forms of art and new cultures.

First Thursdays is a free program where families can join in to create their own special art. Teaching artists will be on hand to help with these special projects.

Studio Sundays (2nd Sunday of the month) is a free event open to the public to come and participate in art projects right on the front steps of the museum. There will be a variety of mediums to work with such as clay, wire, wood, paper, etc.

The Teen Program is set up for teens to volunteer in helping younger students experience art from a variety of mediums. Your teen needs to be between the ages of 15 and 18.

There is a cooperative program between the museum and the local schools. The museum offers a series of art education programs to the schools starting with kindergarten and going through high school. Things to Do in California: Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Photo:

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»Art Talks

Art Talks

The museum hosts a program entitled, “Art Talks”. It is a series of public talks about a particular artist, collection, or other topic pertinent to art and the museum. These programs are open to the public. You can buy season passes or buy just one for the specific talk you are interested in. No matter how you do it, you are sure to learn something about art that you didn't know before you participated in the Art Talk. Some of the interesting current titles include: “Art & the Antique”; “Introduction: Emulation and the Antique”; and “Images of Empire and Individuals: Roman Art from Caesar to Constantine”.


The museum is happy to host a variety of travel opportunities to explore different lands, art history, art works, and artists. Upcoming trips include a cruise on the Adriatic and Aegean Seas with stops at six world heritage sites; a cruise on the Black Sea; a trip on the Eastern & Oriental Express; a trip to Oaxaca delving into its ancient civilization; springtime in Japan; and many more options. The website details each trip and has an option to register.

Museum Store

The museum's store is filled with gifts and keepsakes that are reminders of the artwork at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Also available are children's gifts, learning toys, and a variety of books about art and art history. Handmade jewelry and other handcrafted, custom products are available. The store is located in the lower level of the museum.

Museum Café

The café serves up delicious artisan menu items including salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta and sweet treats. Now operated by Fire & Ice Events, the café celebrates the art of food. The café is open for lunch and early dinners.

The Campaign

A large fundraising campaign is underway to fund one of the largest museum renovation projects. The goal is to provide improved gallery spaces; increased community spaces and an overall enhanced museum experience. The renovation is comprehensive in that it will touch every inch and corner of space from gallery improvements down to retrofitting foundations and spaces that can withstand seismic activity. Green technologies and products will be incorporated into the renovation project. With a project of this magnitude it has been broken down into stages. Stage 1 got underway in December, 2015 and should finish around June, 2017.

If you live in the Santa Barbara area of southern California, a trip to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a must. If you are planning a business or vacation trip to southern California try to fit in a trip to this museum. To explore with your own eyes the artworks from centuries and even millenniums gone by would be very inspirational and remarkable. The pieces housed at this museum are antiquities and artworks that cannot be seen at just any museum. The curators at the museum have made it their goal to offer the best works available; for example, boasting the most works of Claude Monet than any other West Coast museum. Offering works in a variety of mediums from paint, to paper, to bronze, to stone, to wood – this museum's mission is being accomplished every time the doors are open – integrating arts into the lives of people.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara Address: 1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-963-4364, Fax: 805-966-6840 Things to Do in California: Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Photo:

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Things to Do in California: Santa Barbara Museum of Art