Behind the Curtain: We Celebrate the people that keep the arts moving in SB

For those of us in the entertainment print trade, we know at lot of these people by name, if not face. They keep the wheels greased and the machines running; they send out the press releases and they make the artists accessible; they keep the books balanced and the funds raising; they make sure that everything feels effortless. For the general public, that means they’re invisible for the most part; and they don’t want you to know how much effort goes into being effortless. But they are always on top of the list of the “without whom” section.

So now it’s time to bring a few of these people out in to the light and give them the recognition they deserve, for photographers to backstage crews. They are our Behind the Scenes Superstars.


When the Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center needed a curator, they struck lucky with Lynn Holley. She’s done just as much for local arts – curating the Spring Art, Jewish Art and Cowboy Art exhibitions; bringing in local artists as speakers at various events – as she has reaching out to bring in other cultures. Most notably was the Tibetan art show and the Tibet Film Festival, which increased awareness of that most fascinating region, and the Tibor Gergely show, resurrecting and reappraising the Hungarian children’s book illustrator. Her longtime gig as a Sarasota Herald Tribune film critic has sharpened her eye for the film series, which also recently included the Fine Art Film Fest, showing at, but not a production of, the BFJCC. That she does all this with a low cost (the Center operates through donations) and with an infectious joy that spills back into the community has earned her accolades inside and outside the Center, and has resulted in sold-out shows in an already very crowded art and culture scene.

Laura Gasparrini

Laura Gasparrini makes Santa Barbara a more beautiful place by making us all a little bit more beautiful. She does so through her jewelry – her company is Om Tara! Temple Arts, which creates custom-made work for her clients based on divine feminine archetypes. But she also gives back by teaching private jewelry-making classes, and offering workshops through SBCC Adult Education. On top of that she volunteers for Stage Left productions, providing the art design for annual student productions such as “Guys and Dolls” and “Wizard of Oz.” In her own way, Gasparrini’s work typifies the best of Santa Barbara’s art community, always helping to bring art and creativity to a wider audience.

Todd Jared and the Crew

Todd Jared and the Lobero stage crew are as behind the scenes as it gets. When the curtain raises – whether on a Nutcracker or a Sings Like Hell show, they’ve already done what needs doing. Up until a few years ago, the Lobero’s backstage still worked on a 1920s pulley rigging system, but Jared oversaw the transition to a modern, efficient one, with a new state of the art sound system to boot. That’s part of the reason that live bands sound so wonderful in the Lobero – and now we know who to thank. Whatever the task, Jared and the crew handle it with “skill, tact and humor,” says publicist Julia McHugh. “Night after night, they make sure our homegrown performing arts groups – and visiting superstars – look and sound outstanding.” Nobody leaves the Lobero, it is said, without Jared and the crew receiving rounds of thanks. And it’s also rumored Jared knows first-hand about the Lobero’s ghost – but that’s a mystery that we’ll leave alone for now.

Mary Dan Eades

Look for Mary Dan Eades on the web and you’ll discover that she, along with her husband, are one of the main forces behind the low-carb/high-protein diet concept. Can this surely be the same woman who devotes “200 percent of her time, talent and treasure,” according to Marylove Thralls at Opera Santa Barbara, “to working at the Choral Society”? Of course, it is. She was the former president there, and worked effortlessly back in 2008, for example, to combine forces with the Symphony, State Street Ballet, and The Granada to put on their “Carmina Burana,” which set about to show just how awesome the new Granada could be. She currently chairs the Choral Society’s “Tour to Spain” committee, set for spring, and is hosting a birthday party for Mozart as a fund-raiser for the Society’s concerts. Add to that the upcoming “Rolling Requiem,” set for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, where the Mozart Requiem will be sung simultaneously across the country. “I have never seen anyone care as deeply or knock themselves out quite on the magnitude of scale that she does,” says Thralls. Where does she get the energy? We can only guess it’s the diet.

Michael Shasberger

A good person leaves their organization better off than how they found it, and that can be said to be the current goal of Michael Shasberger, Westmont’s Adams professor of music and worship. According to Scott Craig, media relations guru at the college, Prof. Shasberger increased the amount of music majors from 10 to 60 since he started teaching there in 2005. But teaching wasn’t enough – he soon set about creating music festivals. The Fall Choral Festival invites more than 540 high school students from 14 different schools from California and beyond – and that was this year, a number that keeps growing. Shasberger also continued on with the nascent Westmont Christmas Festival. Those three shows sold out in just over a day. Elsewhere, he’s led choirs, conducted orchestras and been active in music appreciation societies, as well being a part of Fiesta’s closing night concerts. In a time where schools and colleges are feeling the pinch, Shasberger’s efforts to increase enrollment and awareness have led parents, students and faculty to sing his praises.

David Bazemore

Our next superstar makes everybody else look like superstars (Scene included). The lens of David Bazemore has captured not just the touring artists that come through Santa Barbara, but he is also many organizations’ go-to-photographer when they want to highlight their own artists, shooting for the Lobero, UCSB’s A&L and the News-Press. Anybody who has tried to take a photo of the performing arts – moving quickly, onstage, in very low light – knows how hard it is, but Bazemore makes it all look so easy and gorgeous. The first battle in any PR campaign is creating a picture in somebody’s mind, and Bazemore is the first flank. His fans in the arts community speak highly of the connection Bazemore has between himself and the subject. “I think I can take some credit for his current status,” says publicist Julia McHugh. “I hired him about 13 years ago to shoot the Music Academy opera and masterclasses. He actually worked for free that first year, to build up his portfolio. I haven’t hesitated to hire him since.” And all this started witih Bazemore’s first camera, originally his grandfather’s Leica, which he inherited in high school.

Miki Garcia

If it wasn’t for Miki Garcia, we are told, Santa Barbara art would still mean pretty landscapes and dolphins (sorry, pretty landscape artists, we still love you!), instead of the edgy work that regularly makes its way into the Contemporary Arts Forum under her Executive Directorship. Part of her mission, of course, has been to introduce us to the bleeding edge of contemporary art, reflected in her invitations to artists such as Sanford Biggers and last month’s triple-header of Peter Rostovsky, Paul Winstanley, Charlotta Westergren. But she reserves equal if not more space to the artists in our community, often giving them the only chance to present their challenging work. Next year continues that theme, with shows on Net Neutrality and another asking what it means to be an (often struggling) artist in S.B. Being located downtown at Paseo Nuevo hasn’t made Garcia think inside the box (mall) – she constantly does her best to invite us inside that space and show us we don’t have to go far afield to find things strange and wondrous.

Patsy Hicks

Kids love the education room at the Museum of Art, but anyone who has been there can see parents having fun too. Put that down to the mind of Patsy Hicks, who has been the Director of Education for two years. Hicks oversees all the education that goes on in the Museum, but also directs all the docents and other volunteers. If you’ve left the Museum and felt you’ve learned something – and one hopes that always happens – Hicks probably had a hand in it. Before that, Hicks was Teen Programs Coordinator and Manager of Academic Programs at the Museum, providing her with the experience needed for community outreach, and putting her at the center of the Museum’s mission to get as many people from as many walks of life interested in the world of art. You can thank Hicks and her department for continuing the popular Free Family Days, the Summer Youth Mural Project and the Nights and Atelier events. Larry Feinberg, SBMA’s Director, summed up Hicks a few years ago: “Patsy is one of those rare people in which there is a coalescence of intellect, abundant creativity and determination to get things done.”

Santa Barbara Blues Society

No one person at the Santa Barbara Blues Society can claim success for the organization’s continued existence. Everybody contributes to the whole, which for over three decades has been presenting a series of affordable concerts, currently a monthly series at Earl Warren Showgrounds, and an annual free show for all members. Working with a board and staff of volunteers, the Society promotes the history of America’s oldest musical form through school visits, lectures and community outreach. For the traveling blues artist, the Blues Society has made sure Santa Barbara has been a welcome stop, and the Society’s volunteers keep the sound of blues coming from the radio on its weekly KCSB show. While modern culture keeps spiraling into the future faster and faster, somebody has to make sure we don’t forget our grand and mighty past, and the Blues Society continues to do so.

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