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The Alchemy of Place and Taste in Santa Barbara Beers

Photo: Calcium carbonate from Santa Barbara's water left after distilling all night. Credit: Benjamin Kinzer/Pete Johnson

Synopsis by Cultural Anthropologist, Chloé Frommer. Fermentation is a cross-cultural, botanical food and beverage-processing technique that facilitates preservation, detoxification, digestion, and taste. With modernization, the visual appearance, aroma and flavor profile of some fermented products have also developed as very particular, stylized registers. But even before style, meaning was always-already invested in the selection of substances, process and consumption. In the case below, the social, geological and climactic features of Santa Barbara and the West Coast, are becoming more apparent in the fermentation of uniquely local variations on older, European beer styles. 

Ted Mills

It starts, like it always does, with hops, those exploded-bulb looking flowers of the trellis-climbing plant with the great name, Humulus lupulus. Add malt. Add yeast. Add technique. Add heat. Add time. And through a science that still feels a bit like alchemy one gets beer, Europe’s most famous fermented invention. Styles of beer display their origins: Belgian style (high in alcohol, malty), English India Pale Ale (more bitter from more hops and more alcohol meant it could survive the journey from England to their occupying troops in India), Kölsh (from Köln, Germany, and which is pale, dry, and bitter).

But as I sit here on a much-too-humid-for-autumn October day in Santa Barbara, keeping it local and drinking a beer from one of our many local breweries, it’s true to say that California has its own style of beer, even when that beer comes in many varieties, from light, refreshing lagers to dark, chocolate-y ports. Up and down the coast--and a little bit inland--California is brewing some very interesting beer, and it has influenced the craft brew scene across the States.

“There’s definitely a West Coast style,” says Josh Ellis, owner and head brewer at M. Special brewery, one of the many new breweries to pop up in Santa Barbara county in the last year. “It would be an IPA that finishes drier, has less of a malt backbone, less of a caramel flavor. it’s really about a beer that profiles hops, beginning, middle, and end.”

Hops--which are in the same plant family of the cannabis plant, and share some of the grassy aromas--give beer its bitter taste. The majority of beers use hops--but California *really* likes them. That hop-dominance on the West Coast comes from the abundance, cheapness, and availability of hops from Washington state, where varietals carry location names like Cascade, Mount Hood, Columbus and Chinook. At the beginning of the micro-brewery revolution in the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s, beer-makers starting with the now-defunct New Albion Brewing Company out of Sonoma and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, the Northern California city north east of the Bay Area, embraced the hop, wanting to put their own spin on things. That’s led to some very strong beers, too, where alcohol content can be twice as much as your average light lager.

California also has a huge amount of breweries--around 550 in total, by Telegraph Brewery’s Brian Thompson’s account--because of the business-friendly environment.

“We don’t have to work with distributors, though we do,” he says. “You can self-distribute. There are fewer restrictions on alcohol limits and marketing.”

Self-distribution has allowed brew-pubs--where beer is brewed on the premises--to be major social gathering places for breweries. You can still grab a Bud Light if you want, but it’s just as easy to try a craft beer.

Pete Johnson, who owns one of Santa Barbara’s oldest brewpubs, The Brewhouse, only sells his beer through his location down near the beach in Santa Barbara. Partly that’s due to owning a different license--self-distributors can’t also sell liquor and cocktails at their bars, which Johnson has always done--and the prohibitive cost of the one that would allow such sales. “Sometimes I feel I’m not part of the brewing community,” he says, noting that when he opened there was only one other brewery in the county--Santa Barbara Brew Co--and now there’s 20.

Though Johnson agrees there’s a hoppyness to California beer, he loves to make all kinds, making small batches of Hefenweizen (a non-filtered beer that contains wheat) or red ales, which gets its color from the kind of malt used and has a sour taste.

Sean Lewis, author of “We Make Beer” a trip across America’s craft beer scene and former Santa Barbara resident, disagrees about how hoppy the Central Coast really is. He says the very hoppy beers are more a San Diego thing, like Stone Brewery.

“Central Coast beer, like Firestone Brewery and Figueroa Mountain Brewery, the things they win medals for, are really traditional style beers like pilsners and lagers.”

There’s also the case of Santa Barbara’s water, which tends to run hard. Brewers like Johnson makes a pilsner-style beer, but holds off from that description because the hard water makes it taste different. With Santa Barbara thinking of water during these years of severe drought, that might be nitpicking. Other brewers never mentioned water when talking brewing.

Photo: Brewhouse's "German Pilsener", in name, process, appearance, and aroma. But lacking the soft water that makes the taste of the original German style. Credit: Ben Kinzer/Pete Johnson

Sean Lewis also thinks that the craft beer revival started on the West Coast because of its geography.

“They were people who were able to go out and see the world a little bit more,” he says. “They were ones who had fallen in love with craft beer overseas so when they came back they started to make it themselves.”

Brewers tend towards the fraternal, and would rather help each other out than try to undercut the competition, which if it exists is healthy. In Santa Barbara most home brewers and owners of breweries are part of the 60-plus member Santa Barbeerians, which shares recipes and makes special beers in small batches for members to try.

Many brewers tend to be or have been engineers and scientists, tinkerers and those who love attention to detail. The Brewhouse’s Pete Johnson was a NASA engineer a long time ago. But he loves his job as a brewer. “

You have to love it otherwise you wouldn’t do it,” he says.

“People’s tastes have changed,” Johnson continues. “When I started out people would say my beer was too hoppy. Now when they taste my beer they say, that’s nice, but do you have something with more hops in it?”


Foto: En el ‘The Valley Project’, uno de los salones de cata de vino en el Barrio Funk, un mural de las zonas vitivinícolas en Santa Bárbara por Elkpen sirve de mapa del lugar mientras que Robbie Stewart sirve vino a Amy Balliett (derecha) y Jessica Trejo (izquierda), visitantes de Seattle:. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ted Mills

No hace mucho tiempo, tal vez cerca del inicio de la presente década, el Barrio Funk en Santa Bárbara era rústico y bueno. Durante el día, albergaba instalaciones industriales y talleres de artistas, y solo se podía ingresar si te conocían o si querías comprar algo. El hollín y los gases se combinaban con el hedor de un lugar cercano que procesaba mariscos. Camiones subían por la Avenida Yanonali para entregar o retirar material de construcción. Máquinas hacían ruido detrás de persianas cerradas o en lotes abiertos.

Por la noche habían dos bares, y dependiendo del día de la semana, sólo uno abría: ‘The Bay Cafe’, que, después de terminar el servicio de comida, mantenía el bar abierto para los que salían de trabajar (como yo). Saliendo del café, se ingresaba a un pueblo fantasma con poca iluminación en las calles y con aire con olor a la salmuera del océano, que estaba ubicado a pocas cuadras de allí. A veces se podía escuchar el sonido de las nutrias marinas a lo lejos.

Foto: El Museo de Surf de Santa Bárbara, ubicado en la Avenida Helena, creado en 1992, cuando el Barrio Funk era “un secreto rústico y bueno’, albergaba desde instalaciones industriales hasta talleres de artistas” según el escritor Ted Mills. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Yo empecé a visitar el Barrio Funk en el año 2005, pero incluso en ese entonces, el lugar popular para pasar el tiempo, ‘Red’s Coffee Shop’, era más conocido en relación a la calle State, el lugar favorito para relajarse a una cuadra del lugar. Cuando ‘Red’s’ reabre sus puertas como bar en el 2009, muchas cosas comenzaron a ocurrir. Productores de Vino Municipales, no la primera bodega en la zona, pero sin duda la bodega del momento, se inauguró el mismo año. De pronto, me encontré paseando en bicicleta por esa zona más y más y conociendo a los lugareños. Los lugareños comenzaron a realizar talleres, eventos y fiestas abiertas al público.  

Pocos años después, todo cambió. El Barrio Funk ahora es un lugar bullicioso de unas cinco cuadras de bodegas, restaurantes y bares. La música en vivo sale a la calle, y también los clientes. Pero los artistas siguen ahí, tratando de ingeniárselas para ganarse la vida, incluso cuando los alquileres van subiendo y el aburguesamiento avanza y reemplaza un taller por tiendas minoristas.

Foto: En el Barrio Funk de Santa Bárbara, algunos de los talleres, incluyendo el ‘Blue Door’, un taller para artistas locales, y tres pisos de colecciones antiguas y modernas. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

El proceso se aceleró en el año 2012 justo después del aclamado interés en el evento de arte y cultura del Barrio Funk realizado en octubre, donde los artistas abrieron sus talleres y los pocos bares y bodegas esperaban atraer a más visitantes. Los organizadores bloquearon el camino y realizaron un mini festival.

Poco después, el lugar comenzó a cambiar; víctima del creciente éxito.

Vi como ocurrió. Lo que pasó de ser un pueblo únicamente para sus residentes y se convirtió en un destino que no se puede dejar de visitar. Salieron artículos en el L.A. Times y después, oh, oh, en el New York Times.

El Barrio Funk es una idea tan confusa en la mente de sus visitantes como lo son las calles que forman sus fronteras. Algunos lo ven como un lugar donde pueden llegar a pie a casi una docena de lugares de cata de vinos. Yo lo veo como una colección de talleres y galerías de artistas, algunos son amigos míos, así como un lugar para socializar, pero separado de la multitud de turistas. Pero también son ambas cosas, ya que podemos juntarnos para tomar unas copas en el ‘Red’s’, o un café en el ‘Lucky Penny’, o almorzar en el ‘Metropulos’.  

Y por otro lado, también están todos los otros interesantes negocios durante el día: un gimnasio de CrossFit, una carnicería, que pronto ofrecerá también sándwiches, una tienda de comida para mascotas, un taller mecánico, un hostal y un club de strippers.

Foto: Thomas Blumer (centro al frente), entrena junto a otros entusiastas deportistas con pesas rusas durante una clase en la tarde en el gimnasio de CrossFit ubicado en la Avenida Gray en el Barrio Funk de Arte y Vino de Santa Bárbara. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Y me reafirmo en que cualquier cosa que esté en la calle State, en la frontera sur del Barrio, no pertenece al Barrio Funk. Lo siento Hotel Indigo! Lo siento, restaurant Nuance! Otros no estarán de acuerdo, como, por ejemplo, esos dos establecimientos. Asimismo, el boulevard Cabrillo ubicado al este, está frente al mar y es demasiado turístico como para ser Funk. Es increíble la diferencia que unos pocos pasos pueden hacer en la Avenida Helena, donde la tienda de alquiler de bicicletas no es Funk en absoluto, pero el Museo de Surf, que realmente vale la pena visitar, definitivamente sí lo es.

Foto: La Puerta Azul (The Blue Door), ubicada en la calle Yanonali en el Barrio Funk de Santa Bárbara, consta de tres pisos de colecciones antiguas y modernas como este cuadro al óleo sobre lienzo por el artista local Michael Armour a la entrada de la galería. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

La galería más Antigua en la zona es la galería ‘Santa Barbara Arts Fund’, la cual dirijo, abiertamente, para exponer a los  artistas del condado de Santa Bárbara y conectar a artistas jóvenes con mentores profesionales. Sus exposiciones mensuales muestran el aire de arte contemporáneo de la zona, y muchos de los artistas son vecinos del lugar. Después tenemos la galería ‘Gone Gallery’, la galería de arte burdo y atrevido, dirigida por el artista Skye Gwilliam, también conocido como “GONE”, cuyo estilo de gráficos audaces y de arte de callejero se puede observar en muchos murales, postes telefónicos y señalizaciones de calles por la zona. La gran mayoría de los comerciantes del barrio están contentos con esto. Cruzando la calle, se encuentra la galería ‘WallSpace’, que se especializa en fotografía. Escondido en lo que solía ser una unidad de refrigeración gigante, funciona ahora el taller de Philip Koplin y Dan Levin, donde el primero trabaja en diferentes técnicas sobre papel y el segundo hace ingeniosos ensamblajes. A una cuadra, en una estructura destartalada que era parte de la industria pesquera de la zona, Lindsery Ross tiene ahora su taller de fotografía al aire libre, donde hace retratos con técnica ferrotipo usando cámaras antiguas. Hay mucho arte en el lugar, y mis disculpas a aquellos que no mencioné.

Esto es lo pasa: es mucho más fácil experimentar el lado gastronómico y de bebidas del Barrio Funk ya que están ahí, delante de ti. Desde la taquería ‘Mony’s’ hasta el lujoso restaurant ‘The Lark’, y la música retumbante de estos establecimientos puede escucharse desde lejos. Pero los talleres y galerías, por no mencionar las tiendas de muebles, salones como el ‘MichaelKate’ y ‘Cabana Home’ que duplican el tamaño de las galerías, a veces se esconden a plena vista.

A pesar de que los artistas se quejan de los altos alquileres, este verano se inauguraron dos nuevas galerías: ‘GraySpace’ y ‘Gallerie’ a los lados opuestos de la avenida Gray. Y el Paseo Bimensual de Arte del Barrio Funk que se realiza el cuarto viernes de cada mes es una gran oportunidad para conocer a los artistas que continúan haciendo del barrio funk, lo que es. La zona está evolucionando, cambiando pero no terminando, y es donde late el corazón idiosincrásico de Santa Bárbara.  

Foto: Sacco Nazloomian, ciudadano de Goleta y amante del vino, disfruta de una velada de cata en “The Valley Project” en el Barrio Funk de Santa Bárbara. Fotografía de Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ted Mills para Vox Orbis, 2015 / Traducido por Natalia del Castillo / Editado por Ana Pearson

BLOG: My First 1st Thursday in Santa Barbara

Photo: During 1st Thursday at CASA Magazine, Harold Kono, at the piano, entertains guests with his music as Olivia Gleser, far left, and Rachel Boerema sing along. Gail Fisher/ Vox Orbis

Photo: Left, Julie Jordan and Max Dial swing dancing in the center court of Paseo Nuevo to the tunes of the Santa Barbara Trombone Society during 1st Thursday evening’s events. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Heather Tipton

1st Thursday is a monthly celebration in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. The event, sponsored by the Bank of Santa Barbara, showcases the city’s rich variety of arts and culture. Galleries open their doors and pour wine, dancers share their choreography in the streets, and musicians play on corners and on the steps of pavilions. The event is free and on Sept. 3, I attended my first 1st Thursday.

Paso Nuevo Center Court, State St. and Ortega St.

Cornered between a cellphone station, Teavana, Aveda and Bebe clothing is Paso Nuevo’s red-bricked Center Court. On 1st Thursday, I watched as a quartet of players from the Santa Barbara Trombone Society took center stage, dressed in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts, and played a set that included everything from Renaissance music to John Williams. With vine-covered stucco arches as a backdrop, they propelled their bold and dulcet brass over the patio toward children dancing wildly and out of rhythm and passersby holding shopping bags and cellphones. Julie Jordan and Max Dial glided gracefully with gentle steps and twirls in the cool air of the evening.

Viewers kept time to each song faithfully with clenched fists and quiet humming.   

Photo: Angelita Eiller, director of Hula Anyone, performed Hawaiian hula and Tahitian dance with her dance troupe on Marshall’s patio during September’s 1st Thursday for the Santa Barbara crowds strolling down State Street. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Marshall’s Patio, State St. and Canon Perdido St.

A decently large crowd collected on the steps of Marshall’s as the dancers of Hula Anyone lined up in formation for their next dance. Director Angelita Eiller stood tip-toed at the mic in a dancer’s pose and promised we would “see the melody” in the next performance. With their arms reaching upwards and their hips slung low, the troupe spun out slow movements and padded their bare feet almost soundlessly on the flat pavers of the patio. The tone of the song was gentle, relaxed and a little melancholy and with each finessed turn their shell-bead necklaces clattered together, lulling the late afternoon into a light sleep.

I spoke with Jim Clark, also known as “Ukulele Jim,” in between performances. This was his first time playing at 1st Thursday, though he and his family are avid attendees of the event. Clark said his inspiration to learn the ukulele came 10 years ago when his wife was pregnant with twins.

“I always wanted to grow up in a house full of music,” he said before taking the stage.

Once onstage, he offered a tongue-in-cheek warning to the crowd that he would not be playing Hawaiian music. Instead, he lifted his richly honeyed ukulele and began playing a soft cover of “You’re the One that I want” from the musical Grease. Next he launched into his own take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but not before notifying the crowd that it wasn’t going to sound like the infamous version played by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole. Despite that humble explanation, Clark’s version of the song was soft and sweet, gentle and beautiful, and completely enticing. With a backdrop of dancers preparing for their next hula, he plucked rich iterations of popular music.

CASA Gallery, Canon Perdido St.

As the evening wound down and the streets grew dark, I made my way back to the Vox Orbis office on Canon Perdido. While walking, a gentle piano rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Edelweiss,” played by Harold Kono, floated out on to the sidewalks from the offices of CASA Magazine. Kono’s playing was accompanied by spirited singing against a backdrop of captivating figurative artwork. In front of a pixelated portrait of Frida Kahlo—composed entirely of small, round beads—Kono played out “Raindrops On Roses” while two girls sang along happily. The executives of CASA explained the nuance of the art on the walls and pointed out their favorites before explaining artist Colleen Kelly’s Naked Under Her Clothes exhibit, comprised of nude sketches with paper clothing pasted on top of each body. The moment was the most casual of the night, the most connected, and for me added the perfect punctuation to a gratifying first jump into Santa Barbara’s culture.   

Heather Tipton for Vox Orbis, 2015

Die Evolution der “Funk Zone” vom Industriegebiet zu Santa Barbaras Hipster-Stadtteil

Foto: Ein Wandbild von Elkpen, das die örtlichen Weinanbaugebiete Santa Barbaras zeigt und als Landkarte dient, ziert das Valley Project, eine der zahlreichen Weinstuben in der Funk Zone. Robbie Stewart schenkt Amy Balliett (rechts) und Jessica Trejo (links), zwei Besuchern aus Seattle,Wein ein. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Synopsis von Chloé Frommer, Kulturanthropologin: Die durch Gentrifizierung hervorgerufenen Veränderungsprozesse, die der Autor Ted Mills in den vergangenen fünf Jahren in Santa Barbaras Funk Zone dokumentiert hat, zeigen eine klare Progression: es wird definiert, welche Sorte von Menschen, Dingen oder Produkten erhalten bleiben und welche letztendlich weichen müssen. Und doch, das ist Kultur: immer an einem Ort verwurzelt, aber auch durch vielfältige, sich überlappende und zeitweise widersprechende Sichtweisen räumlich und örtlich differenziert.

Ted Mills

Es ist gar nicht allzu lange her, da war die Funk Zone in Santa Barbara noch ein gut gehütetes Geheimnis: Grunge-Kultur im Industriegebiet. Noch vor ein paar Jahren rollten Sattelschlepper, vollgeladen mit Baumaterial, regelmäßig die Yanonali Avenue hinunter. Ruß und Abgase hingen in der Luft und vermischten sich mit dem Gestank von Fisch und anderem Meeresgetier, welche in einer nahegelegenen Fabrik verarbeitet wurden. Maschinen brummten hinter geschlossenen Rolltoren oder brüllten aus offenen Fabrikhallen. Tagsüber sah man ein geschäftiges Treiben in den Industriebetrieben und Künstlerateliers. In diese bekam man nur Zutritt, wenn man die Künstler kannte oder wenn man etwas kaufen wollte.

Am Abend spielte sich das Leben in zwei Lokalen ab, wobei je nach Wochentag immer nur eins davon geöffnet war. Nachdem der Schwung der Abendessengäste verköstigt war, blieb im Bay Café die Bar geöffnet für die Spätfeierabendler wie mich. Wenn man dann abends das Café verließ, trat man hinaus in die feuchtkalte Meeresluft, hinaus in eine Geisterstadt mit spärlicher Straßenbeleuchtung. Um die Ecke, ein paar Straßen weiter, lag schon der Pazifik und an manchen Nächten hörte man das laute Gekläff der Seeotter.           

Foto: Das Santa Barbara Surfing Museum auf der Helena Avenue wurde 1992 gegründet, damals, als die Funk Zone laut Ted Mills noch ein “ gut gehütetes Geheimnis” war, eine Gegend mit “Industriebetrieben und Künstlerateliers”. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Seit 2005 komme ich immer wieder in die Funk Zone. Zu dieser Zeit gehörte Red’s Coffee Shop, das damalige In-Café, eher noch zur State Street, der Haupteinkaufstraße Santa Barbaras. Als jedoch Red’s als Bar im Jahr 2009 neu eröffnet wurde, ging es Schlag auf Schlag: Beim Erkunden der Funk Zone per Fahrrad fiel mir auf, dass immer mehr Künstler ihre Ateliers öffneten für interessierte Besucher. Es wurde zu Partys und zu Events geladen. So langsam lernte ich die Einheimischen kennen. Municipal Winemakers, zwar nicht die erste Weinkellerei in dieser Gegend, aber sicherlich die angesagteste, eröffnete im selben Jahr.

Ein paar Jahre später hat sich alles verändert. Die Funk Zone ist nun ein lebendiges Stadtviertel, in dem sich die Weinstuben, Restaurants und Bars aneinander reihen. Es gibt Live-Musik und die Menschen kommen in Scharen. Aber auch die Künstler sind immer noch da. Sie versuchen, ihren Platz zu finden und zu überleben in ihrem alten Kiez, der von der Gentrifizierung unaufhaltsam überrollt wird. Die Mieten steigen weiter an, immer mehr Ateliers weichen neuen Geschäften.

Foto: Einige Geschäfte in der Funk Zone in Santa Barbara. Hier sieht man the Blue Door, ein Kunsthandlung, die Werke von lokalen Künstlern zur Schau stellt und auf drei Etagen Vintage-Kollektionen und moderne Sammlungen zeigt. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Im Jahr 2012, nicht lange nach dem bejubelten “Focus on the Funk Zone Kulturevent im Oktober, überschlug sich dann auf einmal alles. Die Künstler öffneten ihre Ateliers, während sich die Bars und Weinkeller erhofften, neue Besucher anzulocken. Eine Straße wurde abgesperrt und ein Straßenfest wurde organisiert. Das Viertel begann sich zu verändern und fiel letztendlich seinem eigenen Erfolg zum Opfer.

Ich konnte es beobachten. Der Kiez wurde zum angesagten Reiseziel. Es gab Artikel in der L.A. Times und, jawohl, in der New York Times.

Was die Funk Zone eigentlich darstellt für ihre Besucher, ist genauso nebulös, wie die genaue Festlegung der Straßen, die ihre Grenzen bezeichnen. Manche schätzen die Weinstuben, beinahe ein Dutzend davon, die Weinproben anbieten und allesamt zu Fuß erreichbar sind. Viele der ansässigen Künstler zählen zu meinen Freunden und für mich ist die Funk Zone eine Kollektion von Ateliers und Galerien, ein Ort, an dem ich mich mit Freunden treffen kann, entfernt vom Touristenschwarm und doch mittendrin, wenn wir uns im Red’s verabreden zu einem Bier, beim Lucky Penny einen Kaffee trinken oder die Mittagspause im Metropulos verbringen.

Und dann gibt es natürlich noch all die anderen Etablissements: Ein Fitnessstudio, eine Metzgerei, die bald auch belegte Brote anbieten wird, eine Tierfutterhandlung, eine Autowerkstatt, ein Hostel und einen Strip-Club.

Foto: Thomas Blumer, (Mitte vorne) trainiert mit einer Gruppe von Fitnessenthusiasten beim CrossFit gym auf der Gray Avenue in Santa Barbaras Funk Zone. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Meiner Meinung nach gehört alles, was an der südlichen Grenze zur Zone entlang der State Street liegt, nicht zur Funk Zone. Sorry, Hotel Indigo! Sorry, Nuance Restaurant! Nicht alle werden mir hier zustimmen, sicherlich nicht diese beiden Etablissements. Ebenso ist Cabrillo Boulevard in Richtung Osten und direkt am Meer viel zu touristisch, um funky zu sein. Und was für einen Unterschied ein paar Meter auf der Helena Avenue ausmachen, wo der Fahrradverleih nicht funky ist, ohne Zweifel aber das Surf Museum, welches auf jeden Fall einen Besuch wert ist.

Foto: The Blue Door befindet sich auf der Yanonali Street in Santa Barbaras Funk Zone und zeigt auf drei Etagen Vintage-Kollektionen und moderne Sammlungen, wie zum Beispiel die Arbeit in Öl auf Leinwand vom in der Funk Zone ansässigen Künstler Michael Armour, die am Eingang des Ladens hängt. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Santa Barbara Arts Fund ist in dieser Gegend die älteste Galerie und ich will hier nicht verschweigen, dass ich zum Vorstand gehöre. Die Galerie zeigt Werke von Künstlern aus Santa Barbara und Umgebung, weiterhin werden hier auch junge Künstler mit sachkundigen Mentoren zusammengebracht. Die monatlich wechselnden Ausstellungen zeigen die ganze Palette der zeitgenössischen Kunst, die vor Ort produziert wird. Viele der Künstler sind Nachbarn. Dann gibt es noch die Gone Gallery, die flippige Galerie, die vom Künstler Skye Gwilliam, aka “GONE”, geleitet wird, dessen verwegene Grafiken und Street-Art-Stil auf vielen Wänden, Telefonmasten und auf Straßenschildern zu sehen sind. Gleich gegenüber befindet sich die WallSpace Gallery, die auf Fotografie spezialisiert ist. Philip Koplins und Dan Levins Atelier liegt ganz versteckt in einem ehemaligen Kühlhaus. Während Ersterer mit verschiedenen Medien auf Papier arbeitet, erstellt Letzterer täglich aufs Neue fantasievolle Assemblagen. Einen Block weiter befindet sich in einem etwas klapprigen Schuppen, einst der Fischereiindustrie zugehörig, das Outdoor-Fotografie-Studio von Lindsey Ross. Sie benutzt alte Kameras, um Portraits im Tintype-Stil zu schießen. Natürlich gibt es noch viel mehr an Kunst zu entdecken in der Funk Zone und ich entschuldige mich bei allen, die ich an dieser Stelle ausgelassen habe.

Es scheint, dass in der Funk Zone die Gastronomie oft im Vordergrund steht, an den vielseitigen kulinarischen Köstlichkeiten kommt man einfach nicht vorbei. Von Mony’s Taqueria bis zum noblen The Lark, der Sirenengesang dieser Etablissements kann von weither gehört werden. Die häufig eher versteckten Künstlerateliers und Galerien und nicht zu vergessen, die Innendesign-Showrooms MichaelKate und Cabana Home, die gleichzeitig als Galerien fungieren, werden mitunter einfach übersehen.

Obwohl die Künstler sich über hohe Mieten beklagen, haben in diesem Sommer zwei neue Galerien eröffnet: GraySpace und Gallerie Silo, wobei beide an entgegengesetzten Enden der Gray Avenue liegen. Der Funk Zone Art Walk, der alle zwei Monate am vierten Freitag des Monats stattfindet, bietet eine gute Gelegenheit, all die Künstler kennenzulernen, die mit ihrer Kreativität die Funk Zone immer wieder neu beleben. Das Viertel entwickelt sich weiter und es verändert sich, aber das Ende ist nicht in Sicht, denn es ist hier, in der Funk Zone, wo das eigenwillige Herz Santa Barbaras schlägt.

Foto: Sacco Nazloomian, ein Weinenthusiast aus Goleta, genießt eine abendliche Weinprobe beim The Valley Project in der Funk Zone Santa Barbaras. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ted Mills für Vox Orbis, 2015 /  übersetzt von Eva Nagel

Blog: The Postcards of Santa Barbara

Photo: As they stroll down lower State Street in Santa Barbara, pedestrians observe murals like “Welcome to Santa Barbara,” a mixed media on canvas, created by local artist Jonathan Paul Hernandez, a leader of the Outsider Street Art initiative at Youth Interactive. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Heather Tipton

Late in the afternoon Thursday, Sept. 3, I walked down lower State Street in Santa Barbara, Calif. Nearby, a street sweeper kicked up smell of soap, dust and water while chopped slats of sunlight burned down through a narrow corridor of metal scaffolding. Behind the scaffolding, framed with black tape against green wooden walls, a series of large-scale murals hung, each depicting a different facet of life in Santa Barbara.

Photo: Ginny Brush, Director County Arts Commission, applies a few more strips of tape to “State Run,” paint and screen print on canvas by artist Earl Arnold who has been creating custom t-shirts and designs in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone since 1996. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

The murals are part of the Postcards of Santa Barbara exhibit, organized by Youth Interactive. The exhibit features 16 8-by-6-foot murals created by local artists of all ages. According to Youth Interactive’s website, the exhibit is meant to “beautify the lower block of State Street” by offering a visual counterpoint to the long-term construction in the area.

Photo: Combining their skills as graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker, painter and muralist, artists Anke Gladnick and Sara Wilcox collaborated on “The Gratitude Mural,” an acrylic on Canvas. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

That chosen locale is itself engaging. While the large size of each mural begs us to step back to view the whole scene, the narrowness of the sidewalk forces us to step in, get close and appreciate the details.

Photo: Artist Matt Rodriguez, a local Funk Zone artist and muralist created “Home,” exploring line, shape, color rhythm and balance with his appreciation for Santa Barbara. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

It is those small details of Santa Barbara that seemed to inspire the artists behind the murals. Through these large-scale postcards, each artist describes, in detail, what is beautiful and interesting about their hometown of Santa Barbara. 

Photo: Artist Barbara Eberhart created “Barbara Santa Barbara Mission Joy,” believing that art is a way to spread joy and loves painting acrylic on canvas murals and in this case sharing her art with pedestrians on lower State Street. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

The Postcards of Santa Barbara exhibit will officially open to the public during an unveiling street party at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at 121 State Street. This free event will feature live music and dancing.

Heather Tipton for Vox Orbis, 2015


Foto: The Valley Project, uno dei locali per la degustazione della Funk Zone, con un murales che mostra una mappa delle zone viticole nella zona di Santa Barbara disegnato da Elkpen e Robbie Stewart mentre serve del vino a una coppia di Seattle, Amy Balliett (destra) e Jessica Trejo (sinistra). Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Via Chloé Frommer, Antropologo CulturaleIl processo di cambiamento e riqualificazione avvenuto negli ultimi cinque anni nella Funk Zone di Santa Barbara e documentato da Ted Mills, mostra in una chiara progressione quali persone, cose o prodotti possono rimanere e quali devono essere rimossi dalla zona. Eppure, la cultura funziona così: si trova sempre radicata in un posto, ma è modificata (nel tempo e nello spazio) da diversi, spesso sovrapposti (e talvolta contrastanti) punti di vista.

Ted Mills

Non molto tempo fa, diciamo verso la fine del decennio, la Funk Zone di Santa Barbara era una zona sconosciuta, tranquilla e puzzolente. Di giorno ospitava stabilimenti industriali e atelier di artisti che ti facevano entrare solo se ti conoscevano o se volevi comprare qualcosa. Fuliggine e gas di scarico uniti alla puzza di un vicino stabilimento ittico. Camion che attraversavano Yanonali Avenue per scaricare o portare via materiale edile. Macchine che ronzavano dietro a saracinesche chiuse o che ruggivano in spazi aperti.

Di notte c’erano solo due bar e durante la settimana spesso uno solo era aperto: il Bay Cafe, che quando finiva di servire la cena teneva aperto il bar per quelli che smontavano dal lavoro – come me. Uscendo dal locale ci s’immergeva in una città fantasma con pochi lampioni e l’aria umida della brina dell’oceano, che iniziava a pochi isolati di distanza. A volte riuscivi a sentire le lontre di mare fischiare in lontananza.

Foto: Il museo del surf di Santa Barbara in Helena Avenue, inaugurato nel 1992 quando la Funk Zone “era una zona sconosciuta, tranquilla e puzzolente che ospitava stabilimenti industriali e studi di artisti”, secondo le parole dell’autore, Ted Mills. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ho cominciato a frequentare la Funk Zone nel 2005 ma anche allora il locale per conoscere gente, il Red’s Coffee Shop, sembrava legato principalmente a State Street, la via principale a un isolato di distanza. Poi il Red nel 2009 ha riaperto come pub e le cose sono cominciate a cambiare. La Municipal Winemakers, che certo non è stata la prima vineria della zona ma di sicuro è la più hippie, è stata inaugurata nello stesso anno. Ho preso ad andarci sempre più spesso e a fare amicizia con quelli della zona. E quelli della zona hanno cominciato a organizzare atelier aperti al pubblico, feste ed eventi.

Qualche anno più tardi era già cambiato tutto. Ora la Funk Zone ha almeno cinque enoteche, ristoranti e bar. Per strada si sente musica live e anche i locali organizzano serate. Ma gli artisti sono ancora qui, cercano di capire come emergere, anche se gli affitti salgono e la riqualificazione della zona fa sparire gli atelier per sostituirli con negozi.

Foto: Nella Funk Zone di Santa Barbara, alcuni negozi ospitano gli artisti locali, come the Blue Door, con tre piani di collezioni moderne e d’epoca. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Il processo ha subito un’accelerata nell’ottobre 2012, subito dopo l’acclamato evento artistico e culturale Focus on the Funk Zone, in cui gli artisti hanno aperto al pubblico i loro atelier e i pochi bar e vinerie hanno cercato di attirare qualche turista in più. Gli organizzatori hanno chiuso la strada al traffico e improvvisato una mini festa. Subito dopo il posto ha cominciato a cambiare, vittima del suo stesso successo.

Io ho assistito alla trasformazione. Da quando la zona era frequentata solo da quelli del posto a quando è diventata una meta per tutta la città. Sono usciti degli articoli sul L.A. Times e poi, pensate un po’!, anche sul New York Times.

Nella mente dei turisti, la Funk Zone è solo un’idea confusa, proprio come le strade qui intorno. Alcuni la considerano un posto con una dozzina di enoteche a pochi passi l’una dall’altra. Per me è un insieme di atelier e gallerie (alcune di amici) e un posto in cui fare amicizia accanto, ma non in mezzo, alla massa di turisti. Ma è anche le due cose insieme, quando ci troviamo per un bicchiere da Red’s, o un caffè da Lucky Penny o un pranzo veloce al Metropulos.

E poi ci sono tutte le altre attività che stanno vivendo il loro momento di gloria: una palestra, una macelleria che presto farà anche panini, un negozio per animali, un meccanico, un ostello e un night club.

Foto: Thomas Blumer (in centro) mentre si allena insieme ad altri appassionati con le kettlebell durante una lezione serale alla CrossFit gym di Gray Avenue nell’Art and Wine Funk Zone di Santa Barbara. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

E io sosterrò che tutto quello che si trova in State Street a sud della Zone non è la Funk Zone. Mi spiace, Hotel Indigo! E anche per te, Nuance Restaurant! Altri forse non saranno d’accordo, come i gestori di queste due attività. Allo stesso modo, Cabrillo Boulevard a est è di fronte all’oceano ed è troppo turistico per essere Funky mentre il Surf Museum, che dovete assolutamente vedere, lo è di sicuro.

Foto: The Blue Door, in Yanonali Street nella Funk Zone di Santa Barbara, ospita tre piani di collezioni di opere d’epoca e moderne, come questo olio su tela dell’artista locale Micheal Armour all’entrata del negozio. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

La più vecchia galleria della zona è la Santa Barbara Arts Fund (e io, per dirla tutta, faccio parte dell’amministrazione) che dà visibilità agli artisti della provincia e mette in collegamento i più giovani con artisti esperti. Ogni mese, un’esposizione mostra la varietà dell’arte contemporanea della zona e molti degli artisti sono davvero vicini di casa. Poi c’è la Gone Gallery, la più provocatoria di tutte, gestita da Skye Gwillima, detto “GONE”, il cui stile da street art, con scritte in grassetto, si può apprezzare anche su molti muri, tralicci e cartelli stradali della zona. In generale, ai commercianti va bene così. Dall’altra parte della strada c’è la WallSpace Gallery, specializzata in fotografia. Nascosto in un ex locale per la refrigerazione, c’è l’atelier di Philip Koplin e Dan Levin, il primo lavora su diversi supporti di carta mentre l’altro assembla splendidamente materiali diversi. Un isolato più avanti, in una struttura pericolante che un tempo faceva parte dello stabilimento ittico, Lindsey Ross ha il suo studio fotografico all’aperto, dove realizza ritratti in ferrotipo con vecchi apparecchi fotografici. Altri nuovi atelier stanno nascendo nel frattempo e mi scuso con quelli che non ho citato.

Per farla breve: è molto più facile conoscere la Funk Zone per il suo cibo e i suoi drink perché ve li trovate subito davanti. Dalla taqueria Mony’s fino al lussuoso The Lark, il richiamo di questi locali si avverte sin da lontano. Ma gli atelier e le gallerie, per non parlare degli showroom di arredamento, come MichaelKate e Cabana Home che fanno anche da gallerie, a prima vista possono sfuggire.

Nonostante le lamentele degli artisti per gli affitti troppo cari, quest’estate hanno aperto due nuove gallerie: GraySpace e Gallerie Silo, alle estremità opposte di Gray Avenue. E il quarto venerdì di ogni mese la Funk Zone Art Walk è un’ottima occasione per conoscere ciò che continua a rendere funky la Funk Zone. La zona cambia e si evolve ma non muore, è qui che batte il cuore caratteristico di Santa Barbara.

Foto: Sacco Nazloomian di Goleta, appassionato di vini, mentre si gode una degustazione al The Valley Project nella Funk Zone di Santa Barbara.  Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ted Mills per Vox Orbis, 2015 / Tradotto da Stefania Marinoni


The Evolution of Santa Barbara's Once 'Good and Grungy' Funk Zone

Photo: At The Valley Project, one of the local wine tasting rooms in the Funk Zone, a mural of the local viticultural areas in Santa Barbara by Elkpen serves as a road map as Robbie Stewart pours wine for Seattle residents Amy Balliett (right) and Jessica Trejo (left). Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Languages: Japanese (日本語) Italian (Italiano) German (DeutschSpanish (Español)

Synopsis by Chloé Frommer, Cultural Anthropologist: The processes of change through gentrification that author Ted Mills documents over the past five years in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone show a clear progression: to define what kinds of people, things, or products can either remain in, or must be moved out of this place. And yet, culture is like this: always situated in place, but differentiated—in space and place—through multiple, overlapping and sometimes contested perceptions.

Ted Mills

It wasn’t too long ago, say near the turn of the decade, that the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara was a good and grungy secret. During the day it was home to industrial works and artists’ studios, and they’d only let you in if they knew you or you wanted to buy. Soot and exhaust combined with the stench of a nearby site that processed seafood. Semis rolled up Yanonali Ave. to deliver or cart away building materials. Machines buzzed behind closed shutters or roared in open lots.

At night there were two bars, and depending on the time of week, only one would be open: The Bay Cafe, after wrapping up dinner service, would keep the bar open to those getting off of work—like myself. Leaving the cafe, one entered a ghost town with few street lights and air dank with the brine of the ocean, located only a few blocks away. Sometimes you could hear the sea otters yelping in the distance.

Photo: The Santa Barbara Surfing Museum, located on Helena Ave., was established in 1992, back when the Funk Zone was a “good and grungy secret, home to industrial works and artist’s studios” according to writer Ted Mills. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

I started coming to the Funk Zone back in 2005, but even then the place to hang out, Red’s Coffee Shop, was seen more in relation to State Street, the main drag a block away. When Red’s reopened as a bar in 2009, things started to happen. Municipal Winemakers—not the first winery in the area, but certainly the hippest—opened the same year. I found myself biking down to the area more and more and getting to know the locals. And the locals began to hold open studios, parties, and events.

A few years later, everything has changed. The Funk Zone is now a bustling five or so blocks of wineries, restaurants and bars. Live music pours out into the street, and so do the patrons. But the artists are still there, trying to figure out how to make a go of it, even while rents are rising and gentrification swoops in and replaces a studio with a retail outlet.

Photo: In the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara, some of the shops, including the Blue Door, a shop featuring local artists, and three floors of vintage and modern collections. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

The process accelerated in 2012 right after the acclaimed Focus on the Funk Zone art and culture event in October, where artists opened their studios and the few bars and wineries hoped to attract more visitors. Organizers blocked off a road and set up a mini fest. Soon after, the place began to change; a victim of its rising success.

I watched it happen. What went from a locals-only area of town became a go-to destination. There were articles in the L.A. Times and then, uh-oh, the New York Times.

The Funk Zone is as nebulous an idea in the minds of its visitors as the streets that constitute its boundaries. Some see it as a place in which nearly a dozen winery tasting rooms are in walking distance. I see it as a collection of artists’ studios and galleries—some of whom are my friends—and a place to socialize alongside, but separate from, the tourist throngs. But it’s also both, as we meet up for drinks at Red’s, or coffee at Lucky Penny, or grab lunch at Metropulos.

And then there’s all the other businesses going about their day: a crossfit gym, a butcher’s shop—soon to offer sandwiches—an animal feed supply, an auto repair shop, a hostel and a strip club.

Photo: Thomas Blumer, (center front) works out with other athletic enthusiasts with kettle bells during an evening class at CrossFit gym on Gray Avenue in Santa Barbara’s Art and Wine Funk Zone. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

And I will argue that anything along State Street at the southern border of the Zone is not in the Funk Zone. Sorry, Hotel Indigo! Sorry, Nuance restaurant! Others will disagree—like those two establishments. Likewise, Cabrillo Blvd. to the east is the oceanfront and too touristy to be Funky. What a difference a few feet can make on Helena Ave., where the bike rental shop is not Funky, but the Surf Museum, which you really need to check out, definitely is.

Photo: The Blue Doorlocated on Yanonali Street in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, features three floors of vintage and modern collections like this oil on canvas by local artist Michael Armour at the entrance of the shop. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

The oldest gallery in the area is the Santa Barbara Arts Fund, the board of which—full disclosure—I sit on, showing Santa Barbara County artists and connecting young artists with professional mentors. Its monthly shows display the breadth of contemporary art in the area, and many of the artists are actual neighbors. Then there’s Gone Gallery, the rough and edgy art gallery run by artist Skye Gwilliam, aka “GONE,” whose bold graphics and street art style can be seen on many walls, telephone poles and a street signs in the area. For the most part, the Zone merchants are happy with this. Across the way is WallSpace Gallery, which specializes in photography. Hidden in what used to be a walk-in refrigeration unit is Philip Koplin and Dan Levin’s studio, where the former works in different media on paper and the latter works daily on witty assemblages. A block over in a ramshackle structure that used to part of the Zone’s fishing industry, Lindsey Ross has her outdoor photography studio, where she shoots tintype portraits on vintage equipment. There’s more art going on, and apologies to anyone I left out.

Here’s the thing: It’s much easier to experience the food and drink side of the Funk Zone as it’s so out there in your face. From Mony’s taqueria to the high-end dining of The Lark, these establishments’ siren songs can be heard from far away. But the studios and galleries—not to forget the furnishing showrooms like MichaelKate and Cabana Home that double as galleries—sometimes hide in plain sight.

Despite artists complaining about high rents, two new galleries opened this summer: GraySpace and Gallerie Silo at opposite ends of Gray Ave. And the bi-monthly Funk Zone Art Walk on the fourth Friday of every month is a great chance to get to know the artists that continue to make the Funk Zone funky. The area is evolving, changing, but not ending, and it’s where Santa Barbara’s idiosyncratic heart beats.

Photo: Sacco Nazloomian, Goleta resident, wine enthusiast, enjoys an evening tasting at The Valley Project in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Ted Mills for Vox Orbis, 2015