A unique public art gallery in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone has become an attraction few people could have ever planned out.
17 panels on Mason St. a block from the beach, were painted by artists in 2009 and since then a grassroots, organized group has rotated artists, and presented cleverly painted concepts seen nowhere else in the city.
Was all this approved by a city committee? In a town where art, signs, and building colors are scrutinized for years on end, the Funk Zone has found a way to evolve in an organic way, somewhat under the radar, and never appeared in front of a commission prior to the paint hitting the wooden panels.
Artist and organizer Laura Inks says the building where the murals are painted used to be tagged with graffiti often and, “it had broke windows and glass on the ground.”
She says, however, the property owners have never had an issue with the art and she makes sure it is appropriate for families to see.
“No one has ever said anything. All of the artists, everyone knows it could get shut down at any moment,” said Inks.”The truth is, it’s now like a treasured environment.”
Now, it’s had a four year run, and it’s also viewed as an economic spike for the city.
If it indeed draws people to the area, they are likely to shop around on other streets nearby as they do in other art districts. “I think the city and particularly the mayor sees that art is an economic driver. It attracts people it brings creatives to our community,” said Inks.
The funk zone is transforming rapidly with new restaurants, wine tasting rooms, live music and big weekend crowds.
Some make it a point to stop by the wall of murals every time.
“The idea that this mural project changes every four months keeps them coming back. I think it is an economic stimulus,”said Inks.
It’s also attracted other forms of art.
“There have been photo shoots here with ballerinas and break dancers. I come by and see tourists, Brooks Institute of Photography students and they come out with their gear and flashers and lights, it’s almost like Hollywood,” she said.
Unfortunately for the artists, the building where they have painted over 100 murals, is scheduled for demolition early next year as part of a large hotel project.
For Inks and many others with a paint brush, they hope their funky art work will live on somewhere else in this zone.
“It’s had a good run. It’s made a good difference,” said Inks. “It’s what started the art movement in the Funk Zone. These murals will be in the minds and hearts of the people that made them and saw them.”Slideshow: Funk Zone Art Becomes a Unique Attraction