A Cultural Gift to the Community

By Giving List Staff   |   October 29, 2021
Rhiannon Giddens (photo: Ebru Yildiz)

If you had told Celesta M. Billeci, UCSB Arts & Lectures’ Miller McCune Executive Director, in March of 2020 that within a couple of months the organization’s 63-year-old program would be redefined by racial justice, she may not have believed you. Then came the murder of George Floyd, casting the issue of systemic racism and its underlying causes squarely into the global discourse.

In a matter of weeks, UCSB Arts & Lectures did what it does best: it recognized the gravity of the moment and mobilized leading thinkers, activists, and creatives for a season-long series called Race to Justice, which explored race, racism, its impacts on American society, and solutions for advancing racial equality. Race to Justice featured the likes of historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson, and was transformative for A&L, reaching viewers worldwide when most of the organization’s programming moved off-stage and online due to the pandemic.

The success of Race to Justice embraced every word of the Arts & Lectures mission: “To educate, entertain, and inspire.” As Billeci says, “That’s what we do. We believe in educating and entertaining everybody, but we also believe in inspiring the community and Creating Hope, which is the theme for our 2021-22 season. I cannot define how people will be changed or touched because everybody has a very personal experience. But I do guarantee you will be changed or touched when you come to an Arts & Lectures event.”

Race to Justice reinforces the versatility of UCSB Arts & Lectures to create a well-rounded program of 200 annual events that is simultaneously timeless and timely while offering something for everyone. This season, A&L launches a new Soul of America series celebrating the best of America’s jazz, bluegrass, and other homegrown musical marvels. The program also expands its scope to look at injustices in a broader context with its Justice for All series, bringing an even wider range of public policy makers, courageous changemakers, thoughtful writers, and groundbreaking artists to Santa Barbara theaters. 

2021-2022 is already packed with a mix of provocative programming, including a lecture by renowned journalists and human rights activists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the return of Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, and the groundbreaking Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

During the performance season, you can count on nearly four events each week of world-class arts, music, dance, and educational programming, but as Billeci says, “It is worth your time, and it is worth investing in this program because it is a phenomenal gift to the community. We have something for everyone.”


UCSB Arts & Lectures

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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.
Bill T. Jones, Choreographer and MacArthur Fellow

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.” 

Key Supporters

Advisory Council members and leaders who have helped make A&L a vibrant part of Santa Barbara:
John & Jody Arnhold
Paul & Patricia Bragg Foundation
Marcy Carsey
Marcia & John Mike Cohen
Audrey & Timothy O. Fisher
G.A. Fowler Family Foundation
Connie Frank & Evan Thompson
Martha Gabbert
Eva & Yoel Haller
Luci & Rich Janssen
Dorothy Largay & Wayne Rosing
Kath Lavidge & Ed McKinley
Patty & John MacFarlane
Manitou Fund
Sara Miller McCune
Jillian & Pete Muller
Natalie Orfalea & Lou Buglioli
Maxine Prisyon
Sage Publishing
Heather & Tom Sturgess
Anne Smith Towbes
Sherry Villanueva
Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin
Merryl Snow Zegar & Chuck Zegar
Dick Wolf