Save the Arts in Santa Barbara

Opera Santa Barbara’s Advocacy

In these trying times, Opera Santa Barbara’s focus has always been on keeping the balm of music flowing into the soul of our community. We have enjoyed putting on digital streams of our operas but have missed the joy and power of putting on live productions. As we enter our sixth month of performance shutdowns, know that Opera Santa Barbara is still creating content for you while working behind the scenes to get us back up and running.

We are strongly advocating for small, socially distanced, outdoor performances in the meantime and hoping to work with local and state authorities to get theaters on a timeline for eventual reopening. 

We take your concerns seriously and health and safety is our first priority. That is always at the forefront of our advocacy not just for our company, but for all performing arts here in Santa Barbara. We believe we can create live experiences that are both safe and enjoyable and are looking to other industries and programs who have already been able to do so as a template for what we can achieve. We’ve enjoyed connecting with you all online and creating new fans these past few months, and are eager to reconnect in real life as soon as it is safely possible.


The State of Performing Arts in Santa Barbara

  • The State of California’s Industry Guidance to Reduce Risk completely ignores performers and performing arts organizations and venues, while it provides guidelines for movie theaters, movie, music, and TV production studios, as well as churches and cultural ceremonies. The State must include our sector in the reopening plans, with industry-specific guidelines.
  • Santa Barbara County Health Order includes a blanket prohibition of live performances without any exception or recourse. This order effectively makes performers the only class of workers to be 100% excluded from the reopening, and is unique to Santa Barbara.


Santa Barbara Public Performance Task Force

City officials must advocate for us to the County and State. Not pass the buck. Currently co-chaired by Kostis Protopapas, Artistic and General Director of Santa Barbara and Steve Epstein, local musician and real estate agent, the Public Performance Task force is an advocacy group of over 20 industry professionals in Santa Barbara, including executives from Opera SB, Santa Barbara Symphony, Granada, Lobero, and Music Academy of the West, as well as the CEO of the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization. The Task Force is confident that our industry can guarantee safety protocols for activities such as street musicians and outdoor, socially distanced performances with controlled access, that make these activities as safe, if not safer, than restaurants, gyms, or churches.


Reopening Arts Safely Statewide (RASS) Taskforce with Californians for the Arts

Kostis Protopapas has also joined two dozen arts executives and Labor leaders from across California for the first meeting of the “Reopening Arts Safely Statewide” (RASS) Taskforce, organized by Californians for the Arts. RASS will guide lobbying efforts with the Governor’s office to address our industry. During the meeting everyone agreed that the two main reasons why the performing arts are being excluded from the recovery are that a) we have not successfully made the case that our industry is essential and b) we have not educated the public and officials about our capabilities to keep people safe during the pandemic.



Santa Barbara Performers Push for a Little Live Music – SB Independent
Live performers propose socially distanced shows –  Santa Barbara News Press
COVID-19 Restrictions for Performing Artists – “The Artist Response” on KZSB AM 1290 (Audio recording)
Public Performance Revitalization Proposal –  SB Independent
Steve Epstein: A Proposal to Revitalize Santa Barbara’s Public Performances – Noozhawk


Why the Performing Arts are Important

Because of the pandemic and in the interest of public health and in compliance with local health advisories, non-profit performing arts companies had to cancel various performances, educational programs, and other public events/activities.

The creative economy is an important and unique contributor to the overall economy, as well as to state and local economies. Here in Santa Barbara alone it provides thousands of jobs, significant tax revenue, and contributes to the overall quality of life for individuals and families.

The unexpected loss of event-dependent revenue and declines in charitable contributions is negatively impacting the ability of various businesses and nonprofit organizations in the arts sector to provide important public programs and initiatives.

In Santa Barbara, this is about the economy and the livelihoods of thousands of performing artists.  The 2017 Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 report, compiled by the Santa Barbara Office of Arts and Culture and Americans for the Arts demonstrated that the 95 participating county organizations supported 5,857 jobs and generated almost $200 million dollars, delivering $19.1 million in local and state government revenue over one fiscal year. Art matters and it makes an impact.


What You Can Do For Your Local Performing Arts Organizations

  • Donate to any of the local SB performing arts organizations
  • Reach out to your local elected officials and let them know that the arts matter in our community
  • Check out any livestreams on their platforms

Contact your local officials and let them know that it is time to get live music back, for the sake of our community and our economy.

Gregg Hart, Chair, Chair SB County Board of Supervisors

Das Williams, First District SB County Board of Supervisors 

Monique Limón, State Assembly Representative for Santa Barbara 

Hannah Beth Jackson, State Senator for Santa Barbara

Governor Gavin Newsom



Opera SB’s Balcony Concert Series: