Swooning for Artists, and their Patrons

Every year for the past 10 years, the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (CAF) chooses a Valentine’s theme name for its major fundraising event. This year, art lovers were invited to “Swoon.” Pun intended. The word conjures up teens swooning for Frank Sinatra, Elvis or The Beatles and the event is held in Paseo Nuevo to celebrate art, wine and design.

Executive Director Miki Garcia along with co-chairs Candice Assassi and Kelly Carlson were being hostesses with the mostest to the youngish crowd. Cocktail clothes ruled with Eva Gutierrez and Elizabeth Hale wearing Hale’s grandmother’s mink stoles from the ‘50s. Hale was even able to buy gloves from that era at Nordstrom’s. She could have had her choice from my drawer at home.

President of the Board of Trustees Ian Smith and Board Member Danny Scott pointed out the large silent auction of donated fine wines in a side room. There was Bridlewood wine to drink as well while looking at a gallery full of artists’ work.

Some committee members were: Dena Beard, Kim Cordova, Jen Figg, Lawrence Gipe, Wayne Kosaka, Assistant Curator Elizabeth Lovero, Holly Mackay, Teja Ream, Page Schindler and Kami Shallenberger. I missed the live auction and the live burlesque performance by Jackie O-No. Oh, no! I’m sure the guys were “swooning.”

The Contemporary Arts Forum is a non-profit, non-collecting institution that dedicates itself to promoting the “artists of tomorrow.” Drop in (upper level) next time you’re in Paseo Nuevo shopping.

For more info call 966-5373 or visit www.sbcaf.org.

Her Public Affair

The Casa del Herrero Foundation gave a special Valentine’s luncheon at the Montecito Country Club recently, featuring guest speaker and award-winning decorator Bunny Williams. Bunny had flown in from New York to sign her latest book, “An Affair with a House.” Nearly 200 fans who love gardens and historic homes were there to see slides of Bunny’s country home in Falls Village, Connecticut and hear the saga of its evolution from the 1800s to the present. The audience, though, required little introduction on historically preserved houses.

Most of the patrons in attendance had visited Casa del Herrero (House of the Blacksmith) several times and were familiar with its foundation. This George Washington Smith Spanish Colonial Revival home on East Valley Road was completed for Carrie and George Fox Steedman on June 29, 1925, the day of the Great Earthquake. When Steedman rushed from the Santa Barbara Men’s Club downtown to see the damage, there was none.

The estate has 11 acres with gardens designed by Ralph Stevens, Lockwood de Forest and horticulturist Peter Riedel. The 13th through 18th century Spanish furnishings came from buying sprees in Spain with Arthur Bynes, who helped furnish Hearst Castle. After the Steedmans died, their daughter Medora Bass lived in the house until she passed away in 1986. In 1992, son George Bass (who still serves on the board) turned the house over to the foundation, fulfilling his mother’s wishes to preserve the establishment.

Another Steedman grandson, Albert Hinckley, is also on the board and told the audience, “When as a child I visited the Casa from the East Coast, I thought I was in paradise. I remember one visit where my mother was sitting in the Casa living room looking at house plans for our new home in Virginia. When I asked what she was doing and she explained, I told her I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. And that’s what I am. The Casa is named on the National Register of Historic Places, which has about one hundred thousand listings. We are now going for the National Historic Landmark status, which only has about two thousand listings.”

Executive Director Molly Barker welcomed the audience. Event Chair Betsy Coates explained, “Bunny’s book is written like our Casa tours. We start at the front door, go in the house and then go through the gardens.”

Bunny explained that when she fell in love with her house years ago, it was a mess but architecturally sound. She had limited money and even papered her own dining room, though admitting she never did that again. She joked about her husband, John, feeding the fish in the pond so much she thinks they now have a whale. “We also have an old age home for chickens,” she says. “John won’t kill anything so everyone brings us their old chickens. Since we have too many eggs, John makes lots of meringues for dessert.”

Bunny says most of her ideas come from seeing things. When she’s on a trip her pictures are of a floor or a door, not the usual tourist ops. She likes to mix light and dark woods, modern painting with antique and oversize with smaller. “My book is about the importance of loving your home and decorating it from your heart,” she says.

Some of those attending were Casa Board of Trustees Vice-President Chapin Nolen and Cynthia, committee members Greg Corso, Cynthia Schroeder Gray and Diane Sassen, plus Barbie Henzell, Joan Jackson, Joann Rodrigue and Sue Burrows. Also, Nancy Corradini from The Stationery Collection in the Upper Village and husband, Rick, Penny and Adam Bianchi and assistant Tina Farnia from McCormick Interiors, and architect Marc Appleton (who oversaw the five-year San Ysidro Ranch project) with actress wife Joanna Kerns.

For volunteer opportunities or a tour of the Casa call 565-1262.