Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is one of the many great cultural attractions in California. Relatively small, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in content. Western American paintings from the early 20th century and Asian art from the 19th and 20th centuries are among the main highlights. This wonderful institution is also known for its collections of antiquities and Chinese ceramics. The permanent exhibits are often complemented by temporary ones, so repeat visitors can usually expect to see something new whenever they choose to go.


The Santa Barbara Museum of Art opened in 1941 and has since been expanded. Today, it has 60,000 square feet of space. Occupying much of this space are exhibition galleries that put the focus on paintings, pottery, photographs, prints, and drawings. The various works of art range from ancient to contemporary and come from places both near and far. Examples of specific pieces that are on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art include a sixth century terra-cotta water storage jar from Greece, a 16th-17th century opaque watercolor on cotton from Tibet, an Henri Matisse oil on canvas, a John Singer Sargent painting, and a Picasso drawing from 1919. Santa Barbara Museum of Art visitors can take guided tours that offer insight into some of the institution’s most renowned works.

Hours & Tickets

Hours & Tickets
Hours & Tickets  Image: Jay Sinclair, SBCVB & FC

There are few things worth noting if you are planning on adding a Museum of Art visit to your list of things to do in Santa Barbara. For starters, the museum’s general hours of operation are 11 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday. On Thursday evenings, it remains open a little longer, allowing visitors to enjoy free admission between the hours of 5 pm and 8 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Members get in for free. So too do children under the age of six, Santa Barbara County teachers, and active military people and their families. Teachers and military people must provide a current ID. Discounted tickets are available for visitors ages six to 17, seniors, and all Santa Barbara County students who can furnish a current ID and proof of local residency. The museum’s location at 1130 State Street puts it in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

Top image: La Citta Vita (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
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