Sunday, May 20, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 15th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 10

Art in the parks

Santa Maria brings a hands-on art program to local parks with help from local groups


Visual art has gone through quite an evolution since its birth. From the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, to the Sistine Chapel, and even through contemporary abstraction, art is always moving forward. The city of Santa Maria’s Recreation and Parks Department has prepared a program that educates the community about famous artists while allowing participants to join art’s continuous march.

A community collaboration:
The city of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department’s “Art a la Carte” public art series includes demonstrations by professional artists who then guide participants in creating their own pieces.

“Art a la Carte” is a program that features a city-owned trailer packed with art supplies making its way across town month by month with public art demonstrations and creation sessions in local parks.

“The general idea behind the whole program is not just to expand arts in our communities, but to teach communities in our area about art masters,” said City Recreation Supervisor Dennis Smitherman. “We do a 20-minute art lesson on a particular art master and then we give the families a chance to create a piece of art in the style of that artist.”

Smitherman, who’s also involved with the People for Youth and Leisure Inc. (PLAY Inc.)—a sponsor of the event—wrote the grant for the program, which is funded by the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. The Orcutt Children’s Art Foundation is involved, providing the program-leading artist.

“It’s an absolutely free program for participants, and the grant covers a small stipend for the artist, the supplies in the trailer, and some basic equipment,” Smitherman said. “We are going to be able to hit every part of town from now until October.”

Each program boasts a different theme. The first event, held at Oakley Park, taught abstract art and allowed the kids to get their hands dirty working with paints and other art supplies.

“The kids were having a great time; they were just there to create,” Smitherman said. “The parents were really enjoying their time, just watching their kids create and have fun.”

Each event features two sessions, one starting at 1 p.m. and the other at 2:30 p.m., which allows a good number of kids to get involved.

“At this age, the kids are really positive about the work they create and the environment they are in because everybody is creating and having a good time,” Smitherman said. “When they have that outlet open, it really sparks the imagination. It’s great to watch them really get into their work.”

The next event, scheduled for May 19 at Preisker Park, will focus on paper masks—similar to the cultural masks of Africa, but with a focus on the style of Pablo Picasso. The program is set to cover not just famous, classic artists, but even living contemporary artists.

“It’s a great way to teach kids about art,” Smitherman said. “Studies show that kids who are involved in art do better in schools, so it’s a good way to teach them about art, but to teach them to be good citizens, too.”

Art comes to you
The city of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department presents “Art a la Carte,” a free mobile art education and creation program on May 19 at Preisker Park, 330 Hidden Pines Way, Santa Maria; June 23 at Russell Park, 1000 West Church St., Santa Maria; July 13 at Waller Park, 3107 Orcutt Road, Santa Maria; Aug. 25 at Jim May Park, 809 Stanford Drive, Santa Maria; Sept. 8 at Grogan Park, 1155 West Rancho Verde, Santa Maria; and Oct. 20 at the Veterans’ Memorial Park, 311 West Tunnell St., Santa Maria. Each event features two programs—from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m. More information is available at 925-0951, Ext. 260.

Other sessions include watercolor, sculpting, and other media, but the program’s focus is to get art-making out in the open in a family-friendly atmosphere.

“What makes this program different—and we are really excited about it, because it’s out in the parks where it is accessible to people,” Smitherman said. “We really do try to make all our programs and classes accessible, but this one by and far is the most accessible because it goes out into the community.”

The mobile nature of the program allows it to reach many different areas of Santa Maria, from smaller neighborhood spaces to Waller Park, the city’s largest public space. The program also serves as a reminder of regular art programs the city offers.

“I love that we can twist art history and artists into something kids can enjoy,” Smitherman said. “Art brings us together; it can bring a community together to look at beauty.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne enjoys making art in the open air. Contact him at


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