Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara to close

Dave Mason / Press News
Since 1990, the Santa Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art (originally called the Santa Barbara Forum for Contemporary Art) has been located on the top floor of Paseo Nuevo, across from the Center Stage Theatre.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara announced Wednesday that due to ongoing financial problems, it must close by the end of August.

Museum officials said that after nearly 50 years of service to the community, the museum, which is located on the top floor of Paseo Nuevo, will close its doors on August 28.

It was the first museum in Santa Barbara dedicated to contemporary art.

“Through the wonderful work that the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara has done to invite and highlight artists whose work has given context to our pains, joys, desires, and fears, we have always sought to break down barriers in order to provide a truly unique and innovative service,” said Laura Macker-Johnston, Chair of the MCASB Board of Directors, in a statement.

“Anyone who has meaningful interaction with our programs or exhibitions can attest that MCASB has served as a cultural hub deeply committed to listening and responding to the diverse needs of our community.”

She noted that the museum has faced financial pressure for many years now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognize that we are one of many art institutions and nonprofits that, as a result of the pandemic, is in this insurmountable position,” she said. “Despite our efforts to expand our donor base within the region, we have not been able to meet the fundraising goals necessary to maintain operations, and the Board of Directors intends to act responsibly at this time to respect the foundation’s legacy.”

Since its creation in 1976 as the Santa Barbara Forum for Contemporary Art, MCASB has been known for its dedication to examining the human condition. It is a safe place that supports the voices and opinions of members of its community, museum officials said, and “provided an important platform for investigations into our past and potential future.”

From grassroots gatherings of artists and activists, to educational programs created to support previously underserved communities in Santa Barbara County, MCASB has held at its core an approach to service, according to officials.

Over the course of nearly five decades, thousands of visitors have witnessed what the museum describes as “distinctive and socially relevant” exhibits. Artists behind these exhibits have included John Baldessari, Ed, Nancy Kienholz, Wayne Thiebaud, Sanford Biggers, Joan Tanner, Jim Shaw, Michaeline Thomas, Mario Ybarra Jr., Genevieve Jennard, Barry McGee, Rimini Protocol, Shana Moulton, and others.

MCASB was founded as an alternative arts space called the Santa Barbara Contemporary Art Forum in 1976 by artists and art supporters looking for a venue dedicated solely to contemporary art.

These initial organizers envisioned a “forum” for the presentation and discussion of artworks being made today, both locally and in the larger national and international art community. CAF found its first home in the historic Balboa Building in downtown Santa Barbara, before moving to the current 3,500-square-foot venue on Paseo in 1990.

In 2013, CAF became the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara with an expanded mission toward education and the arts. In 2016, MCASB became an accredited institution by the American Alliance of Museums.

MCASB has continued to operate as a non-university, not-for-profit museum dedicated to the education of innovative, experimental contemporary art and the arts.

Officials said that while the museum will close its doors, it has begun talks with community partners and supporters to assess the feasibility of maintaining the highly respected and successful emerging leaders programs in the arts and collective arts in teens.

To stay informed of upcoming changes, visit and sign up for the MCASB mailing list.

Its programming and final events will take place this month.

The museum presents an exhibition by Adam Janke of the Department of Applied Geography in Santa Barbara from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be available through Sunday.

On Saturdays, from 2 to 3 p.m., Dalan Moreno, owner of Rascal’s, a vegetarian restaurant in Santa Barbara, leads a series of presentations and demonstrations. He will be joined by Rodalfo Rios of Super Cacas, the first taqueria restaurant established in Santa Barbara. They will discuss the history of burritos and show how to wrap them.

The event is free, but due to limited space, reservations are required.

And on July 30, from 5-8 p.m., the museum will celebrate the cultural fabric of the Filipino A/S community and diaspora in Santa Barbara County.

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