II. Sunday, January 12, 1947

The Community Arts Association was one of the agencies most responsible for Santa Barbara’s recognition of the beauty of its old adobes and before the earthquake used adobes as its branch headquarters. It dreamed of restoring the adobe, frame and brick theater (shown above), built by José Lobero on the corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido Streets, but when this was found architecturally inadvisable, erected the handsome new Lobero Theater on the site of the old. The following year the earthquake came and the theater still stood, proving the wisdom of the decision.
The Community Arts Association was one of the agencies most responsible for Santa Barbara’s recognition of the beauty of its old adobes and before the earthquake used adobes as its branch headquarters. It dreamed of restoring the adobe, frame and brick theater (shown above), built by José Lobero on the corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido Streets, but when this was found architecturally inadvisable, erected the handsome new Lobero Theater on the site of the old. The following year the earthquake came and the theater still stood, proving the wisdom of the decision.
Community Participation Led to Santa Barbara’s Golden Age of Development in Arts

It was Samuel Hume who named the Community Arts Association while, together with Irving Pichel, directing the production of the two extravaganzas, “La Primavera” and “The Quest.” These open air spectacles in the Spring and late Summer of 1919 were at once the forerunners of the Association and the Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

The group dreaming, and talking of and gradually formulating some kind of community organization primarily (at first) interested in the drama, thought for a time of buying the old Lobero Theater, which was partly adobe and partly of frame and brick construction. For some time, however, nothing transpired in this direction.

Miss Pearl Chase recalled one of the first meetings of a definite organizational character which took place in the Winter of 1920 at the home of Mrs. Michel A. Levy. Mrs. Levy said that the “first” meeting was held at the home of the late Mrs. Otto Hansen (now the Rickard home), who became one of the first chairmen.

Players Organized
At this meeting the Community Arts Players were formed. They hired a director and produced successful, self-supporting plays at the old Potter Theater at the corner of West Montecito and State Streets for two years before staging a campaign to build a theater. Mrs. Levy, from the beginning, and still, one of the pillars of the Drama Branch, remembered that some of those most interested were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hyde, the late Harry Brainard, the late Mrs. George Washington Smith, Mrs. Hilmar O. Koefod, William Ashworth, Mrs. Charles B. Raymond, Mrs. Kirk B. Johnson, the late William North Duane, David Imboden, Dwight Bridge, Mrs. James R. H. Wagner and Messrs. Ingerson and Dennison, who were the designers of the Samarkand Hotel and spent considerable time here. Many of the original group carried on in the present Lobero Theater Foundation.

School Incorporated
In the simultaneously incorporated School of the Festival Arts launched by the late Fernand Lungren, some of the leaders were the late Mrs. Marian Craig Wentworth, heading the drama department; Arthur Farwell, the music department and Albert Herter, the life class. The late Mrs. T. Mitchell Hastings and the late Miss Mary Tracy were others taking a prominent part.

Miss Nina Moise was the first important director to be employed by the Community Arts Players, who during four years presented nearly monthly plays at the Potter, where it became the general rule that the theater of 1100 seats drew four capacity audiences for each play. Volunteers made scenery and costumes; actors were people of the community.

The Music Branch came into being at the end of 1921. The late David Gray, chairman, and a committee of interested persons already were underwriting and sponsoring concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The Branch, under the chairmanship of the late Mrs. Albert Herter, instituted the idea of sponsoring local musicians, organizing the Clerbois String Orchestra and setting up scholarships. Later it entered the field of bringing noted musicians from outside for concerts also.

By now Mr. Lungren had bought the old Dominguez Adobe which before the earthquake stood at the corner of Santa Barbara and Carrillo Streets. Mrs. Hastings developed a little gallery there where local artists exhibited. Charming teas often opened these exhibits.

Plans and Planting
Last of the branches to be put forth by Santa Barbara’s artistic renaissance was that known as Plans and Planting (1922), with Bernhard Hoffmann as chairman of Plans and the late George S. Edwards of Planting. Unique in the country, its aim was to create an interest in and knowledge of good architecture and gardening. It has heaped national laurels upon Santa Barbara. It is the only one of the branches existing intact today.

The consolidation of the four branches into the Community Arts Association, Inc., was effected in 1922 as an organization to receive and administer the Carnegie grant. The late Dr. Henry Smith Pritchett, who was long closely associated with Carnegie philanthropies, was then living here. In order to obtain the grant of $25,000 annually a comprehensive report of the accomplishments to date of the branches was drawn up and submitted. So excellent was the record that the fund was forthcoming without “strings” and continued so for five years.

During this time both the new Lobero Theater (on the site of the old) and the plant of the School of the Arts (around the old Commandancia) on Santa Barbara and Canon Perdido Streets was built. The plant of the school is now the Community Institute.

‘Bondage of Commonplace’
On the Association reports and bulletins there used to be appear this legend: “It has been said that a city that develops finely should delight the eye, feed the intellect and lead the people out of bondage of the commonplace. Hundreds are working through the Community Arts Association to bring about this development in Santa Barbara.”

In 1926 on the strength of this united achievement a further grant was applied for and received from the Carnegie Corporation, which otherwise would have concluded in 1927. Another $100,000, plus $25,000 to cover losses of the earthquake catastrophe of 1925, was thus put at the disposal of the Association, to extend through 1930.

By then a combination of the depression and the ending of the grant had created a financial hazard, which the Association did not survive. Due to tremendous overhead in its operation, the School of the Arts was completely abandoned in the early ‘30’s.
As Miss Chase pointed out: “At the time of the earthquake all the Association funds were from private or semi-private sources; that is, no Government funds were available, as now.

“On the other hand, the depression introduced the practice of free art instruction through public agencies, so the school had less reason for being.”
Changes also took place in the Drama and Music Branches, the growth and development of which will be discussed at length in subsequent articles dealing with these separate divisions.