What started as the dreams of an architect wanting to replicate Mexico has turned into a staple of Santa Barbara’s beachside tourism scene.
The Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show, which lines Cabrillo Boulevard every weekend, celebrates its 50th anniversary Sunday.
Home to an average of 150 artists and craftspeople each Sunday, the open market allows local artists to sell their wares and attracts thousands of visitors each week.
More than a third of the sellers have been taking part for 25 years or more, including leathersmith Steve Junak, painter Linda Fox, printmaker John Rindlaub, and Tom Rhodes. Margo Von Phul, visual artist, has the longest tenure, showing in the show since 1970.
“I call it my Happy Artist Place,” said potter John LaPointe, who has been selling there since 1976. “The show paints our city in an artistic light,” said Jason Bryan, the city’s recreation supervisor. “We are an artistic community and the show demonstrates that. It’s not a juried show, which is often the case with arts and crafts shows. It’s a great incubator for people just getting into art and you could be there side by side with someone who is hanging in galleries and getting awards.”
The man who began the market was Robert Eischen, a local architect who did art on the side. He was so inspired by the outdoor art festivals he had seen in Mexico City, he wanted to recreate them here.
“Downtown businesses really thought it was an intrusion and council people tried to get rid of it because it was thought it would hurt business,” Mr. Bryan said. “Nowadays the climate has changed, and we welcome this style of approach to things.”
An independently organized festival at first, its first home was in De la Guerra Plaza, where it was known as the Domingo Show. When that proved popular it expanded to a second day and became the Sabado and Domingo Show.
Eischen’s idea really paid off seven years later when popularity caused it to move to the beach, where it was renamed the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show.
Annual dues are $534, which includes every Sunday plus special Saturday holiday showings. Those dues may be covered by one day’s sales, or one month’s, but Mr. Bryan reports that everyone considers it affordable. The number of repeat artists demonstrates that.
“It’s a community,” Mr. LaPointe said. “I get to hang out with my work and people who are on vacation.”
Sunday’s celebrations will include a live performance by Spencer the Gardener from 1 to 3 p.m.