We’ve Got This, Santa Barbara
Celesta M. Billeci, UCSB Arts & Lectures’ Miller McCune Executive Director, is on her 12th Zoom call of the day. It is 2 pm.
Despite scrambling to ensure the community had access to Arts & Lectures while COVID-19 steamrolled its 2020 season, Billeci is upbeat, bullish on 2021 and her institution’s place in the community.
Quoting the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, she says: “We must be headlights and not taillights.”
“We promise to be headlights for the community,” she says. “We promise to innovate, not hibernate.”
During lockdowns, this has meant moving lectures and performances that would be typically scattered at stages across Santa Barbara online – a practice Billeci and her team will keep on doing. “That we can bring people from all over the world to Santa Barbara is fantastic.”
Looking forward to 2021, Arts & Lectures has already lined up a diverse slate of performers and thinkers – Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Bryan Stevenson, chef José Andrés, opera diva Joyce DiDonato, David Sedaris, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Jon Batiste and many more – to “entertain, educate, inspire.”
“Each of those elements has its own urgency these days,” Billeci says. “We desperately need to be awestruck, amused, and entertained.”
Arts & Lectures is so much more than what happens on stage. Contributors and friends of the organization enjoy special access to these global thinkers and world-class performers in informal chats, dinners and private sessions. And Arts & Lectures’ massive education and community engagement programs serve all ages and learning levels, from school-age children to college students to parents and families, to seniors. Billeci points to Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma who always give a master class to students that is also open and free to the public – transformational experierences.
“I joke with Yo-Yo, that I like his master classes better than his performances,” Billeci quips.
Arts & Lectures serves more than 110,000 each year with its over 300 public events and education programs – including 15,000 community members who enjoy the Spanish-language music and dance programs of ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! This community-driven program provides performances and educational activities throughout Santa Barbara County, including agricultural communities of north county.
For Billeci, who loves Santa Barbara for its residents’ intellectual curiousity and willingness to be challenged, the Herculean effort of entertaining, educating, and inspiring the community is a matter of pride and responsibility.
“We connect this community and the community needs us,” she says. “We did not create this community, but we are vital to making sure it is vibrant and alive.”
Senior Director of Development & Special Initiatives: Stacy Cullison
To educate, entertain and inspire.
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Enriching Program at Santa Barbara’s Doorstep
Art teaches abstract thinking; it teaches teamwork; it teaches people to actually think about things they cannot see.
Your Support Is Essential in Maintaining Leading Edge Arts and Culture in Santa Barbara
It’s a popular misconception that UCSB Arts & Lectures is fully funded by the university, when the truth is that support from patrons and other individual donors is essential. There are myriad ways to contribute to the organization beyond purchasing tickets, from major endowments to event sponsorships to joining the Producers Circle.
“We definitely need help from the community to keep doing what we do,” Billeci says. “Without that support, this world class program and these educational offerings could not happen for the community.”
Advisory Council members and leaders who have helped make A&L a vibrant part of Santa Barbara:
John & Jody Arnhold
Paul & Patricia Bragg Foundation
Marcia & John Mike Cohen
Audrey & Timothy O. Fisher
G.A. Fowler Family Foundation
Connie Frank & Evan Thompson
Eva & Yoel Haller
Luci & Rich Janssen
Dorothy Largay & Wayne Rosing
Kath Lavidge & Ed McKinley
Patty & John MacFarlane
Sara Miller McCune
Jillian & Pete Muller
Natalie Orfalea & Lou Buglioli
Heather & Tom Sturgess
Anne Smith Towbes
Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin
Merryl Snow Zegar & Chuck Zegar