Fourteen Santa Barbara County Galleries and Museums Take on Climate Change

In a rare act of cultural collaboration, 14 Santa Barbara museums and art galleries have formed the Santa Barbara County Environmental Alliance to launch a joint project dubbed Impact on climate change and the urgency of the moment “Creatively explore the impacts of climate change through art, history, science or nature” with the aim of “informing, inspiring and inciting to action”, according to the site Alliance website.

At the head of this company are Stacey Otte-Demangate, director of the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature in Solvang, and Steve Windhager, director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The 14 cultural nonprofits came together for the first time in monthly Zoom check-in meetings held during the COVID shutdown. From there, Otte-Demangate posed the question: why not come together to tackle what she called “the question of all questions”? The concept, she conceded, was initially a bit hazy, but she had also been thinking since 2014 about an exhibition on the theme Fire and Ice: Our Changing LandscapeNow one of the featured pieces in the alliance’s climate change project.

The trick was for each gallery or museum to take a small enough bite of a very large apple that those experiencing it could digest it. Windhager and Otte-Demangate agreed that it was about engaging, not preaching. Who knew, for example, that the whales in the Santa Barbara Channel helped sequester carbon molecules from the surface of the ocean?

Some of the 14 museums and galleries opened their exhibitions a few weeks ago; others do just now. They should last three to four months. For more information, see the Santa Barbara County Environmental Alliance website at sbmuseumsalliance.org.


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Teresa H. Sadler