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This section lays out the Creative Capital framework as it evolved in the first phase of planning work in Santa Barbara County. The seven pillars presented here are based on extensive consultations with a wide range of stakeholders across the County, and are the result of significant debate and discussion by the leadership group. There are many inter-relationships between and amongst the pillars. While the framework that follows reflects a good deal of community input, it should be considered a work in progress. The framework should continue to evolve as cultural leaders consult with wider and wider circles of stakeholders, all of whom will have valuable opinions about outcomes and priorities.

Pillar 1: Strong and engaged leadership


This pillar reflects the overriding importance of leadership to the long-term health and sustainability of the cultural sector, and stems directly from stakeholders’ desire for a stronger leadership at the sector level. Steering Committee members identified this as a primary outcome for Santa Barbara County. Without strong leadership, the outcomes articulated under the other six pillars are unlikely to materialize. Specifically, we refer here to leadership at four levels – institutional leadership, philanthropic leadership, creative leadership, and leadership through advocacy.

  1. A pool of active, talented, diverse and culturally competent leaders guides Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit cultural organizations at the board, staff and volunteer levels

    1. Leaders have opportunities to learn and grow, and are able to draw on best practices in nonprofit management

    2. A spirit of trust and cooperation connects Santa Barbara County’s cultural institutions with each other

    3. Leaders are drawn from diverse communities across the county, bridging the North/South County dividewhwhite

  2. Santa Barbara County’s creative leaders – in the sciences, arts, design, technology and other sectors – are in regular dialogue and grow to see themselves as a collective resource capable of elevating public discourse, solving problems, and generating social and economic impact

  3. A new generation of philanthropic leaders considers, designs and pilot tests new approaches to funding that build the County’s Creative Capital at the community level

  4. Stakeholders in the County’s cultural sector are effectively mobilized in advocating for public policies that build Creative Capital, and in demonstrating the power of the cultural sector to drive positive civic outcomes

    1. Strengthened public will to advocate for culture and creativity as a valued component of Santa Barbara County quality of life

    2. Board and staff leaders of nonprofit organizations are engaged in advocating for the sector as a whole, not just for their own organization

    3. Leaders in the cultural sector have a growing voice in civic affairs more generally, and can be found on the leadership boards and committees of other types of institutions, associations and agencies (e.g., business associations, school boards)

Pillar 2: Creatively engaged people and neighborhoods


Santa Barbara County is alive with active learners and makers – at all levels of skill. Many stakeholders articulated a vision for more programs and venues that encourage and support people from all backgrounds and skill levels in coming together to learn, make and share cultural practices and creative ideas and objects. This pillar focuses on the outcome of equitable access to an expressive life, and assuring that County residents have the opportunities and resources they need to live the creative lives they aspire to lead.

  1. A. Children and youth across the County have equitable access to high quality arts education and creative learning opportunities.

    1. System-wide access to arts education and creative learning in, after, and out of school

    2. Parents and caregivers value creative activities as important to their child’s success in life.

    3. [There are many other outcomes here that stakeholders will incorporate]

  2. Adults at all levels of proficiency have access to high quality creative learning opportunities

    1. Adults have broad, diversified and coordinated access to creative learning programs

    2. Cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs are supported through peer social networks

    3. Young adults who aspire to creative vocations have access to supportive networks, training and internship programs throughout the County that span high school, college, and career

    4. The public can easily find free information about how to access creative learning opportunities (see also Pillar 5-B)

  3. Youth and families are engaged in generative, creative activities at home and in the community

    1. Youth have more opportunities to be creative in their towns and neighborhoods

    2. Cultural traditions representing the County’s diverse populations are sustained and nurtured, and passed along from generation to generation (e.g., master teachers are recognized and celebrated; local and regional festivals are easily permitted)

Pillar 3: Visible signs of creativity throughout the County


While Creative Capital is an innate quality of every human being, it is often invisible. Visible manifestations of creativity, therefore, in both public and private settings, are essential to the long-term health of the cultural sector and to social wellbeing more generally. In interviews, however, numerous stakeholders expressed the view that Santa Barbara County’s visual landscape, in many places, is unimaginative and does not reflect the creative spirit of the county’s diverse communities. Outward expressions of creativity can take many forms and might emanate from the fields of history, botany, design, engineering and technology as well as the arts and culture, and signal something important to the community about its capacity to imagine and invent. While public art can contribute much to this outcome, this pillar contemplates outcomes and strategies much broader than those associated with temporary or permanent exhibitions of public art.

  1. Residents throughout Santa Barbara County are activated in designing and maintaining creative living spaces

    1. County residents display more art and creative things in their homes

    2. County residents are able to display and celebrate their creative work in a “digital creative commons”

    3. Neighbors support each other in maintaining the exteriors of their homes, and in designing, planting and maintaining attractive yards and gardens

  2. County residents encounter expressions of creativity in public spaces in their everyday lives

    1. More municipalities develop public art programs and other programs that engage communities in collective acts of imagination

    2. Cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs actively work to identify opportunities and locations for creative projects

    3. Schools, neighborhood associations, business associations and other community organizations can access resources and find support for creating temporary or permanent creative projects with or without municipal support

  3. Scientists, artists, historians, architects and designers are called upon with increasing frequency to contribute to community planning and design processes that affect the built environment (e.g., improving transit shelters)

    1. Leaders in the cultural sector gain a clearer understand of how their knowledge and assets can contribute to community development outcomes and placemaking

Pillar 4: A strong pool of cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs


Santa Barbara County is home to many cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs, and has many training programs, including those offered through colleges and universities. A key challenge is expanding opportunities to join this community, surmounting barriers of affordable housing and the general cost-of living in South County, and the lack of venues and funding in North County. Unlike Pillar 2, which addresses the outcomes of youth and adult participation in creative endeavors, this pillar asserts that the County’s cultural ecosystem cannot be healthy without a strong pool of cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs who seek to earn a living, or a portion of their living, from their creative work.

  1. Cultural practitioners choose to stay in Santa Barbara County, or relocate to the County, because it offers a nurturing environment for them to create

    1. The number of cultural practitioners living in Santa Barbara County holds steady or increases

    2. More cultural practitioners can find suitable and affordable spaces to live and make work

    3. More artists are able to access networks of supportive peers and collaborators (e.g., social groups, artist collectives, listserves)

    4. Individual practitioners can access programs and services that support their creative growth and economic success

  2. Public demand for the creative work of local cultural practitioners and creative entrepreneurs grows, including an increase in the number of businesses that draw on the work of area practitioners (e.g., design studios, galleries, music clubs)

    1. Santa Barbara County residents support the work of local cultural practitioners by collecting their work, attending their performances, or supporting their cause in other ways

  3. Cultural practitioners are well connected and civically engaged, generating collective impact

    1. There are recognized networks/collectives of cultural practitioners functioning in communities around the County

    2. Cultural practitioners are activated in the work of advocating for public policies that foster Creative Capital

    3. Cultural practitioners occupy leadership positions inside and outside of their fields (e.g., city boards and commissions, school boards, other municipal bodies, neighborhood and community organizations)

Pillar 5: An active marketplace for arts, culture, and creativity


Historically, cultural planning has focused on supporting the supply of programs offered by nonprofit organizations. Indeed, nonprofit institutions do much to build demand in the marketplace for arts and culture. However, the research literature and stakeholder input on the ground in Santa Barbara County suggest a superset of outcomes related to building demand that transcend the self-interests of individual nonprofits. Stakeholders envisioned a future in which County residents participate vigorously in cultural programs and activities across disciplines, cultures and communities. These outcomes under this pillar include the benefits resulting from participation in free programs, the outcomes stemming from a well-informed citizenry armed with the knowledge it needs to take advantage of all sorts of cultural programs and activities, and the outcomes resulting from equitable access and introductory experiences.

  1. The City of Santa Barbara collaborates with other municipalities, cultural institutions, and other stakeholders to drive cultural tourism

    1. Residents welcome and support what it takes for Santa Barbara County to be a world-class cultural destination

    2. Visitors come to Santa Barbara County for cultural events, not just wine and the outdoors

    3. Santa Barbara County develops distinctive events/ festivals that generate a critical mass of tourism, public attention, identification and production beyond the region

  2. Santa Barbara County residents have access to a continuous flow of high quality, multi-lingual, culturally relevant information about cultural programs and opportunities, so that the community can access what is offered

    1. Information about cultural programs is distributed widely, through existing social networks and media conduits

    2. ESL/ELL residents of Santa Barbara County can access information about relevant cultural programs in their first/primary language

  3. Santa Barbara County residents have access to, and take advantage of, free public programs representing a diversity of cultural forms

    1. Residents attend cultural events from traditions outside of their own life experience and neighborhoods, bridging locations, economic differences, as well as ethnic and language differences

    2. Free public cultural programs take place in all areas of the County (i.e., there is distributed access)

    3. Residents are aware of, and participate in, signature cultural festivals and annual events that play a role in the symbolic construction of place

    4. Residents participate in free cultural programs offered throughout the County, offered by public libraries, parks, and community centers

      1. Residents take advantage of free admission programs at cultural institutions

  4. Residents who are new to the area, economically disadvantaged, disabled, or otherwise marginalized have access to high quality cultural experiences

    1. Youth and families that experience economic and other challenges can access cultural experiences through coordinated or centralized access programs (e.g., NYC’s Cool Culture program)

    2. Cultural organizations work together to consider programming through the lens of introductory experiences – pathways into Santa Barbara’s artistic, historical and scientific resources – for those who are new to the County or eager to expand their own horizons.

    3. Stakeholders countywide come together to mitigate barriers related to transportation and cost

Pillar 6: A sustainable infrastructure of cultural institutions and facilities


This pillar addresses the financial sustainability and physical infrastructure that support the County’s cultural vitality, with a special focus on achieving a more equitable distribution of resources across the county.

  1. Nonprofit cultural organizations have access to reliable funding support, both public and private

    1. Cultural organizations are better able to plan and achieve better capitalization

    2. The base of private funders and philanthropists is diversified, reducing reliance on a small number of funders

    3. North County develops a stronger culture of philanthropy amongst residents, foundations and government agencies

  2. Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations increase their capacity to conceive, produce, and present relevant programming that engages the community in all its diversity

    1. Resources are available to nonprofit cultural organizations that want to strengthen their creative process or diversify the creative voices contributing to their programmatic output

    2. Cultural organizations, whatever their programmatic focus, develop a stronger diagnostic capacity to understand community need and to identify opportunities to participate in civic discourse and placemaking

  3. Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit cultural organizations and their constituents have access to suitable facilities

    1. Organizations with existing exhibition and performing spaces (high schools, colleges, and universities) open their spaces to community groups

    2. Future decisions about investments in capital facilities are guided by an objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the infrastructure of existing facilities

    3. Facilities that serve a diverse cross-section of the public are prioritized

    4. Private development is leveraged to create affordable spaces for nonprofit providers

Pillar 7: Supportive public sector policies and goals

This pillar addresses how municipal and County policies support cultural activity, and how widely public officials use culture and creativity to invigorate policy in other sectors such as health, housing, transportation and the environment. We recognize that this pillar is complex and aspirational in nature – a work in progress. However, as many stakeholders and Steering Committee members argued, the County’s cultural sector cannot thrive in the long run without supportive public sector policies.

  1. Municipalities around Santa Barbara County grow to recognize and publicly validate the essential role that culture and creativity plays in public life, and increasingly adopt public policies and regulations that foster creativity and build the Creative Capital of their residents; these policies should:

    1. Serve to attract creative people and creative businesses to Santa Barbara County

    2. Allow diverse expressions of heritage, design and architecture

    3. Promote the development of cultural districts in cities and towns across the County

  2. Commercial development contributes financial and other resources for the cultural sector

  3. Municipalities around Santa Barbara County increasingly play a leadership role in convening and catalyzing cultural resources

    1. Municipalities convene private funders and other stakeholders to explore innovative new public/private sector funding programs

  4. A cultural perspective is integrated into a wide range of municipal operations and departments around the County; there is a broad “civic investment in culture and creativity” as a source of vitality.

Content comes from Creative Community Phase 1 Summary Report, November 2015, WolfBrown.


Above photos: The Summer Film Series at the Santa Barbara Courthouse (Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture) and a celebrant at the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade (Photo credit: David Powdrell).

Pillar 1
Pillar 2
Pillar 3
Pillar 4
Pillar 5
Pillar 6
Pillar 7

public value

Laying out a case for the public value of culture, heritage, and the arts

current state

What our interviews found about the current state of arts and culture in Santa Barbara

creative capital

A conceptual framework for what makes a cultural sector vibrant.

read the report

Read the full report from WolfBrown

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