Preserving Precious Spaces

The gardens of Casa del Herrero were the site for an elegant afternoon fundraiser, “Preserving Precious Spaces.” No silent auction, no live auction, and no speeches. Guests came, enjoyed browsing the art show and chatting with friends while the music of Bon Trio played softly in the background. Hors d’oeuvres were passed, wine was sipped and best of all paintings were purchased with 40% going to the Casa.

Twelve artists were asked to provide paintings of places dear to them and many came to the Casa to paint its myriad nooks and crannies–an artist’s op. Their canvases are preserved for posterity in paint and pastels while the Casa is more literal, being preserved in paint, tiles, and grout.

Casa del Herrero is a George Washington Smith (he was born on the first president’s birthday) house built in the 1920s for George and Carrie Steedman from St. Louis. The Courthouse was also being constructed at that time. Since the extra tiles were coming from the same Chemla factory in Tunisia, the Steedmans had to wait a couple of years to complete their order. The factory was too busy supplying the Courthouse. The Steedmans and William Randolph Hearst were using Arthur Byne as an antiquarian. Consequently Hearst Castle and the Casa both have a ceiling from the same convent in Spain.

When the great earthquake of June 29, 1925 struck, Steedman was staying downtown at the Santa Barbara Club. He rushed to Montecito to see what damage had occurred to his newly finished home. Not even a crack appeared and he moved in that day. The original eleven acres still exists, as does the home filled with the Steedmans’ priceless antique furniture.

The day of the art show, Sydney Baumgartner drove her 1930 Ford Roadster into the Casa’s motor court to add to the atmosphere. It had belonged to one of the main landscape artists for the Casa, Lockwood de Forest. It was his work vehicle, which he called The Buffalo because of its buffalo hide seats. Another of the guests, Executive Director of the Historical Museum David Bisol told me, “I am a ninth-generation Cota and they once had an adobe on this very property.” Small world!

Co-Chairs Diane Sassen and Joan Jackson put together the totally underwritten party along with committee members Executive Director Molly Barker, Betsy Coates, Greg Corso, Cynthia Schroeder Gray, Jean Parry and Olga Rogers. Kudos to the local artists who made everything possible: Meredith Brooks Abbott, Whitney Abbott, Dennis Doheny, James Dow, Kathleen Elsey, Ellie Freudenstein, Rick Garcia, Glenna Hartmann, Ray Hunter, Ann Sanders, Thomas Van Stein and Ralph Waterhouse.

Two of the Steedman grandkids still serve on the Board–Albert Hinckley, Jr. and George Bass. They tell great stories about their memories of visiting Grandma and Grandpa in the grand old days when the butler wore tails to serve dinner.

The Casa, 1387 East Valley Road, is open for docent-led tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 am and 2 pm. Other days for groups. Call 805-565-5653 for information and reservations.

Theatre of Life For Children

If Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney could “put on a really big show,” why not three ladies from Santa Barbara: Patricia Henley, Linda Laurie and Janet Matthews? It all began when Patricia was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Being a thirty-five-year smoker she decided to go after a big tobacco company hoping to inspire children not to smoke. After seven years she won a settlement and beat cancer. With a portion of this money and help from Linda and Jan she established the Patricia Henley Foundation and created the program, “Theatre of Life for Children” (TLC).

At the beginning of summer, a casting call went out. One hundred kids from ages 8 to 16 auditioned. Fifty were chosen for TLC’s first production, “A Tribute To The Musical.” For the next six weeks, professionals taught the kids how to do it “big time” and they became a team.

These special people were many. Singer (her first hit record was as a teen) and songwriter, producer Linda Laurie was Artistic Director; Access Theatre’s founder Rod Lathim was Program Director; Peter McCorkle was Director-Choreographer and Norma LaTuchie served as Conductor, Arranger, and Musical Director. She has performed professionally for over 35 years as a classical and jazz flutist and keyboardist. Assistant Choreographer was Rosalina Macisco, with 15 years as a professional performer. Nothing “small time” about this group!

Celebrity performers and mentors with credits too long to mention were BarBara Luna, Leata Galloway, Jane Maurer and Stephanie Sivers (also on staff as Executive Assistant). Staff is headed up by Linda Laurie as Executive Director, Janet Matthews as CFO, Judi Weisbart Executive Producer, Trisha Geyer Accountant and Poppy Tuomi Office Manager and Program Coordinator. Production Staff had Kaia Rose as Stage Manager, Patricia Frank Scenic & Lighting Designer, Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinbert Director of Design and Rose Ary as Costume Designer.

Lots of names, but the most important are the 50 kids and the electricity they spread throughout the Marjorie Luke Theatre singing and dancing their hearts out to a live orchestra, never missing a beat or fumbling a line. As the English would say, “It was absolutely top drawer.” I would say, “First class” and Judy and Mickey would have been proud.

After the Saturday night performance there was a gala in the Santa Barbara Junior High courtyard for patrons who got to meet and mingle with the “stars.”

The Foundation’s goal, “To inspire the creators of tomorrow through the performing arts today,” was fulfilled and will begin again in 2008. If you’d like to know more call 805-730-1950 or log on