By Shamara Carney
I am in my final year at UC Santa Barbara and I have yet to discover all of the buildings and resources my remarkable campus has to offer. I am not alone in this. When I approached 10 random students near the University Center to ask if they have ever heard of the Arts, Design, and Architecture (AD&A) Museum on campus, seven out of the 10 answered that they had no idea there was a museum on our campus. Two of the three that had heard about it said it was merely because they had to visit it for a course they took.
It was not until the summer of 2017 that I finally visited the museum – a visit that both impressed and shocked me. I was impressed by the rich diversity of the exhibits, which represent many different cultures from African to Mexican. What shocked me– in a good way - was the immaculate layout of the museum’s galleries, on par with what you would encounter at the Los Angeles Community Museum of Art (LACMA).
The university constructed the AD&A Museum in 1959 for its art education department and now it is a fully independent gallery free to anyone who wishes to visit. The small size of the museum allows for a warm, personal ambience that can be difficult to find in the larger, more popular exhibition halls of major cities. The type of art shown in the galleries varies from photography to paintings to sculpture and even video.
I recently took another visit to the museum to check for any new installations. I was immediately drawn in by a striking, abstract painting that features a perfect mixture of colors and geometrical shapes. The piece was created by Mitchell Robles, who is known for depicting Native American themes in his pieces. The painting that grabbed my attention, Ancient Images, was made specifically as a tribute to the artist’s Chumash ancestry.
I may not be particularly talented artistically, nor do I have a critic’s expertise to describe the intricate details of abstract art. But I know what I like. This painting held my attention for about 20 minutes, which speaks volumes.
Later in my visit, I moved from acrylic on canvass to digital art. A yellow room held a television and two pairs of headphones. Curators change what is shown inside that room periodically to cover a variety of themes. The feature I viewed, Pan American Highway, was created by the artist Pablo Helguera. In it, the viewer follows Helguera as he travels from Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America. The audiovisual feature sheds light on issues of immigration and globalization, relating those issues to Panamerican culture and history.
Since my first visit to the AD&A Museum last summer, I have felt compelled to revisit the art housed less than a mile from where I live. I can experience the videos and sounds of historical events in between my classes. I can read about some of the Panamerican history Pablo Helguera discovered in his journey from Anchorage to Tierra in the summer of 2006, while I wait for my bike to be fixed at the Associated Students Bike Shop. It took me until my final year to find an oasis of art and contemplation within my college routine. Now, my hope is that other students will discover it sooner.
Shamara Carney is a Senior studying Communication at UC Santa Barbara.