Putting the ‘art’ in ‘party’: SBMA’s Atelier bash is back for 2014

Test-tube tastings of geographic distillations of time and space are promised at the Botany Bar, inspired by artist Michelle Stuart's seed calendars.COURTESY PHOTOS
Test-tube tastings of geographic distillations of time and space are promised at the Botany Bar, inspired by artist Michelle Stuart’s seed calendars.


Spring is here and Atelier is back at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

The twice-yearly party turns the museum into a fun, interactive night out. The title this time around is “Moons, Mapping, Memory, and Fantastic Machines,” with plenty to keep the visitor occupied over the two hours on Friday.

Atelier replaced the more extensive “Nights” activities at the museum, reducing the number of parties per year, and moving much of the event inside. (In the “Nights” days, the events used to spill out onto the museum’s back patio, where DJs spun tunes until late.)

As part of Santa Barbara Museum of Art's "Moons, Mapping, Memory, and Fantastic Machines" visitors can create constellations against a musical backdrop.COURTESY PHOTO
As part of Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s “Moons, Mapping, Memory, and Fantastic Machines” visitors can create constellations against a musical backdrop.


One reason to move back inside, according to Patsy Hicks, the museum’s director of education, was all that outside activity was taking people away from the party’s original mission — getting people to explore the museum. (Other reasons that aren’t as sexy: permits, noise levels, etc.)

Friday night is based around three exhibits: Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating, Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature, and the museum’s curated photography show about space, “Heavenly Bodies.” Ms. Hicks and her coworkers have used all three shows to inspire them in Atelier’s events.

“This event is to tease people into coming back to these exhibits if they’ve already seen it, or get them in to see it if they were unsure they’d like it,” Ms Hicks said.

Visitors will first notice the playful way this is done at the State Street entrance, where a special bar will be set up. Unlike the usual mixed drinks inside, the outside “botany bar,” filled with hanging greenery, mock scientific test tubes filled with infused vodkas that link back to geographic locations found in Ms. Stuart’s work.

Also on the front steps on Friday, UCSB’s Middle Eastern Ensemble will play a blend of old world and new world instruments.

“We challenged them to play music that riffs off of the idea of memory, mapping, time and space,” said Ms. Hicks.

The music will be improvised.

Inside, the music will be provided by the museum’s Sonos system, with a playlist of pop and classical tunes with an astronomical bent; visitors can also play around with an installation that lets you create your own constellation.

Savoir Faire catering provides the food, including deviled eggs, sopes and dumplings, along with two cocktail offerings from Straight Up: a classic martini called a Mars Rover and a Babylonian Devil’s Trap, Santa Barbara craft distiller Cutler’s Artisan Spirits whiskey.

L.A.-based band String Theory has played several museum events, a band that counts as one of its instruments a gigantic harp that looks like telephone wires. Their offshoot dance troupe choreographed by Holly Rothschild called Strange and Elegant performs a series of four vignettes on Friday, including one where the dancers appear as blindfolded angels.

“Holly enjoys a creative response to a particular exhibition, and in this case she was inspired by all three of the shows,” said Ms. Hicks. “There’s an elegance that works well in our space.”

Ms. Hicks measures success of Atelier by looking at faces.

“Our job is to bring people closer to the art, not taking them away from it. When we see people talking about the art and enjoying it and discovering it, then we feel it’s been a success.”


When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St.
Cost: $25 members/$35 non-members
Information: sbma.net/atelier or 884-6423

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