A drive into the foothills above Santa Barbara, off of Highway 154 going up San Marcos Pass takes you into some elegant neighborhoods with large homes, and panoramic views. But, a turn down a street off of San Antonio Creek Road brings you to something truly different.
As you go down a steep driveway, you notice first one sculpture, and then another, and another. The home is called Via Maria. It’s a place where a little known, but unique non-profit which promotes the arts houses artists in residence.
It’s owned by the Squire Foundation which is named after the late philanthropist Morris B. Squire.
Foundation Executive Director Ashley Wood-Hollister says Morris Squire, who created the foundation and died at the age of 91 in 2014, wanted to share his love the arts with the world.
Photographer Lindsey Ross is one of the latest three artists-in-residence. Ross, who came from Wyoming for the residency, uses a massive, 250 pound 1920’s era camera to create modern day pictures with a historic flavor.
Ross has worked on two projects during her residency. One is an exhibition which was recently displayed at her studio in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, near the oceanfront. The second is a massive mural on the Central Coast, in the City of Guadalupe: Ross says having the foundation’s support has made it possible for her to try some big projects like the mural, which she felt was important because it takes art to the people.
The artists in residence program is just part of what the Squires Foundation does. It has hundreds of pieces of art which were collected by the foundation’s founder, and just like a library which lends books, community institutions can borrow them for display. For instance, a more than 12 foot high gorilla sculpture from the collection just went on display at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Via Maria was actually Squire’s getaway from winter in Chicago house in Santa Barbara. The foundation in jointly based in Chicago, and Santa Barbara. In addition to the artists-in-residence, and art loan programs, the Squire Foundation also operates educational programs. They connect artists with non-profits to help with hands-on arts education efforts. While the Squires Foundation may not be a household name on the South Coast, it’s quietly working in multiple ways to enrich the region’s culture.