Local Lowdown: Flock Soars into Lotusland

Put a Bird on It!

This spring, the otherworldly dreaminess of Lotusland transforms into a real-world call for awareness as FLOCK: Birds on the Brink comes to the garden. 

Story by Leslie Dinaberg

Inspired by the interdependency of bird species to plant species, and to the human race, this contemporary art exhibit celebrates the daily presence of birds in our gardens and communities while illustrating the critical impact of wild bird populations on our ecosystems and our own well-being. Guest curator Nancy Gifford (the same talented dynamo who brought the buzz-worthy bee-themed SWARM to the venue in 2013 and GONE in 2012) and the Lotusland team gathered artworks and commissioned installations from more than 30 local and international artists, which are displayed in the pavilion and—for the first time—throughout the garden.

“It should be quite a provocative and visceral experience,” says Gifford, who hopes to inspire action from all those who encounter FLOCK. “This year, we are covering the issues about birds…it’s about the interrelatedness of species and how important birds are.” She continues, “Plus there’s a tremendous amount of great artists worldwide who work with birds and the bird theme. It’s amazing.”

The exhibit, which opened on February 28 and runs through May 23, is amazing. Approaching the Pavilion Gallery, visitors duck beneath a courtyard “ceiling” of empty black cages titled Silent Spring, their doors open in wait for the return of songbirds long extinct. Upon entering, one quickly encounters the foreboding David Hochbaum blackbird Murmuration installation hovering over Laurie Hogin’s splashy Darwinian landscapes, Robyn Geddes’s moody color field birds, a burning crow by local artist Keith Puccinelli and embellished taxidermy specimens from New Zealand artist Karley Feaver.

Then there are various mechanical devices by Jane Edden, Juan Fontanive and Norman Reed, as well as a “chick bar” diorama by Michael Long. Next is the “nest” room full of surprises by Esther Traugot, Gayle Stevens, Philip Koplin, Liza Myers, Maria Rendon and the mesmerizing video Bobe’s Legend by Macedonian artist Robert Gligorov. Visitors then go through the pavilion into the main gallery, which features large-scale haunting bird works by Fatemeh Burnes. A robotic wing chair by Alan Macy flaps to the beat of a “bird dance” video by Robin Bisio that encircles an aviary centerpiece installation full of musical and avian surprises.

FLOCK also expands beyond the Pavilion Gallery to include six outdoor installations hidden throughout the gardens. Expect to encounter a Murder of Crows in the newly restored blue garden, Gary Smith’s human-scale nests, R.T. Livingston’s camouflaged Sitting Ducks: Hiding in Plain Sight by the lotus pool, a larger-than-life caged topiary peacock by Joe Shelton and a birdbath sound machine by Carlos Padilla and Pod Nest by Luis Velazquez in the pavilion courtyard. Other participating artists include Sharon Beals, Penelope Gottlieb, James Hodgson, Nathan Huff, Pamela Larsson-Toscher, Anne Luther, Kaoru Mansour, Cheryl Medow, Tom Mielko and Susan Tibbles.

FLOCK: Birds on the Brink is on view at Lotusland from Saturday, February 28 through Saturday, May 23. Visitors may see the exhibit as part of a docent-guided tour offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations are required. For reservations, call 805/969-9990 or visit lotusland.org for more information.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Spring 2015.

Honoring Moms at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Mother’s Day Luncheon

Thomas Rollerson, courtesy VNHC

Thomas Rollerson, courtesy VNHC

Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC) hosted its 13th Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon last week at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Each year the nonprofit organization honors two mothers—one living and one in memory—and celebrates their lives and acknowledges their contributions to the community.

This year’s luncheon raised a record sum—nearly $350,000—which will directly benefit VNHC’s mission to provide high quality, comprehensive home health, hospice, and related services necessary to promote the health and well being of all community residents, including those unable to pay.

The event honored mother and local philanthropist Jill Levinson. Guests enjoyed several tributes from her husband, VNHC Board Member Neil Levinson, as well as from their children. Jill has devoted herself to many  local organizations and causes, including the Santa Barbara Children’s Museum, Crane Country Day School  and Lotusland, among many others.

Shirin Rajaee and Andrew Firestone, courtesy, VNHC

Shirin Rajaee and Andrew Firestone, courtesy, VNHC

Also honored in memory was Barbara Ward Rollerson, who passed away in 1977. Barbara is the mother of Thomas Rollerson, founder & recently-retired president of Dream Foundation. Thomas shared a video and loving reflections about his mother, who passed away at age 44, and will always be remembered for her unconditional love she had for her five children.  As a longtime supporter of VNHC, Rollerson says that the Mother’s Day Luncheon has always been his favorite event because he didn’t have a place to go on Mother’s Day.  “Being in a room with amazing mothers, staff and board members, I’ve always left here feeling like I had spent the day with my mother.”

VHNC Fashion Show, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

VHNC Fashion Show, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

Co-Chairs Jodi Fishman-Osti and Pamela Dillman Haskell welcomed almost 400 guests to the event, which also included the first-ever fashion show. Shirin Rajaee, Fashion Show Mistress of Ceremonies welcomed guests and showcased the latest spring trends from local boutiques, which included styles from Allora by Laura, Bonita, Giuliana Haute Couture, Indian Summers, Lana Marmé, Lola Boutique and Lolë.

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Firestone opened the luncheon program with a warm welcome and introduced Lynda Tanner, President & CEO of VNHC, who then recognized the many supporters and sponsors of the event, including Premier Rose Sponsors Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz and Union Bank.

Established in 1908, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care is one of Santa Barbara’s oldest nonprofit organizations. For more information on Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, click here or call 805/965-5555.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on May 17, 2014.



Share the Gift of an Experience

GiftofExperience1-704x400Nothing beats the gift of a memorable experience…except perhaps one that you can share with your loved ones. Here are some holiday gift suggestions that can be appreciated together.

Santa Barbara Beautiful

When it comes to enjoying our gorgeous city, the options truly are endless. One of the best ways to soak in the soul of Santa Barbara is to get out on the water. In the early winter months, Condor Express whale-watching charters follow migrating California Gray Whales as they pass through the channel (805/882-0088, condorexpress.com) and Adventure Sailing Charters (805/794-8703, adventuresailingventura.com)offers boats to the Channel Islands, as well as surf trips.

Landlubbers will love a membership to Lotusland, which provides priority access to 37 acres of spectacular collections of exotic plants (805/969-9990, lotusland.org). Members of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (805/682-4726, sbbg.org) not only get free entry to this living museum, but also support the garden’s mission of conservation, education and scientific research. Garden lovers, not to mention history buffs and architecture aficionados, will love a tour of the historic Casa del Herrero (805/565-5653, casadelherrero.com), an elegant Montecito estate and National Historic Landmark. For a truly adventurous gift, take to the skies with Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours (805/845-4500, helicoptertoursofsantabarbara.com), offering wine tours, whale watching trips and Channel Islands flights.

Wine and Dine

Oenophiles will appreciate the plethora of tasting and transportation options offered by Wine Canyon Tours (805/453-7047, winecanyontours.com), Sustainable Vine Wine Tours (805/698-3911, sustainablevine.com) and Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours (805/646-3200, ccjeeps.com), among others. Got a sweet tooth? Santa Barbara Adventure Co.’s Tasty Cupcake and Wine Tour (805/884-9283, sbadventureco.com) is simply delicious.

The Show Must Go On

Why not treat that special someone to passes for Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs Jan. 30–Feb. 9 (805/963-0023, sbiff.org) and offers a variety of packages that include movie tickets, parties and tributes and awards ceremonies. Classical music aficionados will love series tickets to Santa Barbara Symphony (805/898-9386, thesymphony.org), the “Met Live In HD Series” at Music Academy of the West (805/695-7931, musicacademy.org) or CAMA’s International Series (805/ 966-4324, camasb.org). If the play’s the thing, then the Broadway Series at The Granada is just the ticket (805/899-2222, granadasb.org) for big musical performances, while the black-box intimacy of Center Stage Theater (805/963-8198, centerstagetheater.tix.com) hosts a terrific variety of plays and performances, including the locals’ favorite Speaking of Stories (805/963-0408, speakingofstories.org) reader theater series.

Catch Some Culture

Museum memberships make great gifts. Santa Barbara Museum of Art (805/963-4364, sbma.net) members have access to the museum’s renowned exhibitions, grand opening events and other special activities, as well as a connection to a vibrant community of art lovers. MCASB (805/966-5373, mcasantabarbara.org) also cultivates a unique arts community. Its members form a society of contemporary art lovers, patrons and artists who actively participate in the intellectual and artistic life of the museum. Another great way to catch some culture is via UCSB Arts and Lectures Series (805/893-3535, artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu), which has about a dozen terrific ticket series to choose from—or you can build your own.

Get Active

The gift of physical fitness is a gift that keeps on giving. Why not give golf lessons (805/968-1541, sandpipergolf.com), try stand up paddle boarding (805/881-2115, supadventuressb.com), or yoga at Core Power Yoga (805/884-9642, corepoweryoga.com) or Yoga Soup (805/965-8811, yogasoup.com). Los Padres Outfitters offers beach horseback rides, day rides or pack trips for horse lovers (805/331-5961, lospadresoutfitters.com), while Rancho Oso (805/683-5110, rancho-oso.com) in the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains is a great place for beginning riders to get comfortable with gentle horses and on guided trail rides.


Learn to paint (and sip local wine) at The Painted Cabernet (805/963-9979, paintedcabernet.com), a perfect place for a date-night gift. Market Forays cooking classes and culinary adventures are also a great gift for someone who would enjoy a guided shopping tour through local farmers’ markets and the fisherman’s market, followed by a hands-on cooking class and five-course feast (805/259-7229, marketforays.com). Brooks Institute Extension (805/690-7629, workshops.brooks.edu) offers a variety of excellent workshops for photographers of every level to improve their skills.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in the Winter 2013/14 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.


Art Luna, courtesy photo

Art Luna, courtesy photo

Designer Art Luna is planting roots in our local soil

Enhancing nature’s gifts is nothing new for Art Luna. Long before he developed a reputation as a top-notch landscape designer, he was known as a swanky celebrity hair stylist–which he still is. But more and more often these days, he’s trading his scissors for gardening shears. His formally structured, yet free-flowing creations are now gracing landscapes on both coasts, including New York City, Los Olivos, Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria.

His passion for gardening began with the creation of an outdoor garden waiting room for his Hollywood salon, then was sparked here during a visit to Lotusland in 2002, with esteemed British gardening book author Anna Pavord. She advised Luna to always remember, “Structure first, flowers second.”

Building the structure first was embedded in his approach as a hair stylist. Suddenly it all clicked for Luna: “Think of it as if you’ve built this beautiful house out of green, and then you furnish it with furniture that is flowers.”

Here, Luna shares his expert take on our local offerings:

Favorite Places

ABE NURSERY3894 Via Real, Carpinteria, 805-684-3335.
Richard Abe has lovely material. He doesn’t let anything leave his nursery that isn’t of good quality. Also, I can buy 70 to 100 of one thing to do mass plantings–that’s really important for me.”

EYE OF THE DAY 4620 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria, 805-566-0778, eyeofthedaygdc.com. “They have an amazing eye for pottery and shape. There is always really good statuary, which I think is the dying art of the garden. I think people are a little freaked out about statuary in terms of the garden. … It can be lovely if done right.”

LOTUSLAND GARDEN SHOP 695 Ashley Rd., Montecito, 805-969-3767 ext. 101, lotusland.org/shop.html. “They always have wonderful things there, such as bird feeders for the trees and bird nests for the cages.”

RUE DE LILLIE ANTIQUES 2496 Lillie Ave., Summerland, 805-695-8180, . “I go there for beautiful antique bird cages and unique things like unusual lanterns and mirrors.”

SAN MARCOS GROWERS 125 S. San Marcos Rd., Santa Barbara, 805-683-1561, smgrowers.com. “I try to buy all of my flowers from local vendors. This one is amazing. It’s all good quality, and they usually have anything that you want.”

TURK HESSELLUND NURSERY 1255 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, 805-969-5871. “If I want to buy a pot with a beautiful plant to put it on the steps of a garden, I know I’ll find something very interesting and lovely here.”

Favorite Plants
African BoxwoodI love the red vein, that it has, how small the leaf shape is, the color olive green that it is. Here in Santa Barbara, especially, the greens that are more olive and gray do well in the landscape.”

Agave “The shapes are so magnificent–it’s just mind-blowing how they can survive under the poorest of conditions and then be the focal point of a garden with their dramatic shapes and colors.”

Gardenias “You have to have the most perfect conditions for a successful gardenia–they love food. I love those glossy tropical flowers like gardenia, rhododendron, and philodendron for a border.”

Pittosporum “One of the most underrated plants ever–I love its silvery sheen.”

Salvia Waverly “I love it because it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, but not bees.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine, 2008.

Lionesses of Winter

They Take Pride in Giving Back

It takes passion, money and a lot of hard work for Santa Barbara’s most treasured nonprofit organizations to thrive. This community tradition of giving back by supporting education, caring for those in need, and sharing a love for nature and the arts has an incredibly generous cast of leading ladies at its helm. Not content to simply be the torchbearers, they are also keeping an eye toward the next generation of the philanthropic community.

“I’m trying to spread the circle,” says Shirley Ann Hurley. “I’ve brought young women into my life who care passionately about these sorts of things that I do and they stimulate me and …I love the excitement that is getting to know all of these wonderful people.”

Let’s meet a few of the women who help keep the community alive and well.

The Leading Ladies

Betty Hatch

La Belle Foundation, Granada Theatre, Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., Hospice, CAMA, Cottage Hospital, Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the Arts Fund, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Art Association, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Ballet

“My life has been dedicated to the teaching of self-esteem,” says Hatch, founder of La Belle Modeling Agency (1963-1991), and now executive director of the La Belle Foundation, which offers young women free training in self-esteem, self-development and personal and social responsibility.”

“Giving to the community is just a pleasure; it’s a demonstration of our gratitude and our love for everybody here.”

Shirley Ann Hurley
Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, Family Service Agency, Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation, CALM, Anti-Defamation League, Santa Barbara Foundation

“The things I’ve wanted to spend my time on are the things that help children and young people become the best that they can be, which means to live up to their full potential … The organization that I have probably put the most years into and time is the Family Service Agency. The concept that we could intervene early in a child’s life and with that child’s family and help them raise a more secure child was what hooked me.”

“People keep saying what do you do for fun. I said everything. All of this is fun. And it is. It’s work, but it’s fun. There’s nothing I like better than working with a group of deeply caring people. It is so exciting. And the fact that you know that together you can make a difference in somebody’s lives and your community is just such a reward.”

Gerd Jordano
Cottage Hospital Building Campaign, Westmont College Foundation, CALM

“Board members are ambassadors for those organizations. They are sort of cheerleaders and are able to sort of talk and share what that organization is and what it’s all about. It’s really an opportunity to educate people about that organization and that gives me great joy to share my passion and my knowledge about that particular organization.”

“I’m a former cheerleader so I continue that same passion, only I’m just not jumping up and down anymore (laughs). But I do get very passionate about what I get involved with and it just brings me a lot of joy.”

Carol Palladini
Santa Barbara Women’s Fund

“The concept of the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund (which will have given away more than $1 million by the end of the year) is making your time and money most effectively used by a lot of women writing checks and putting them together and doing direct fundraising, so that you’re not spending a lot of money to make money… Our umbrella is giving in support of the greater Santa Barbara area; it has to be local, to benefit unmet needs for women, children and families.”

“A lot of the work that I’ve done in the past, on and off boards, has some Heartache mixed in with the joy of it. This has been a pleasure from the beginning.”

Joanne Rapp
Santa Barbara Foundation, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, CALM, Cottage Hospital, Botanic Gardens, Laguna Cottages, Montecito Community Foundation

“I have enjoyed working with organizations that are targeted at helping youth with their educational goals, in particular the Scholarship Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation student loan program. Everything that you work on and within the nonprofit community enhances the quality of life and the effectiveness of our community, but helping the students transfers anywhere. … It will strengthen the fabric of whatever community that they land in.”

The Next Generation

Tiffany Foster
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, Howard School, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Lotusland, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families

“When I arrived in Santa Barbara four years ago … it seemed that every fabulous, intelligent person I met was volunteering for either Storyteller or Lotusland. Before I knew it I was in the center of a vibrant group of caring women and men who dedicated their energy, financial resources, and business acumen to help make a difference in our local community.”

“Storyteller Children’s Center provides daycare and preschool to homeless toddlers in Santa Barbara as well as support services for their families. Young children deserve security, safety and a stable environment. … It is difficult to find a more worthy cause.”

Kisa Heyer
Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, Crane Country Day School, Storyteller, Lobero Theatre, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, CAMA

“Even after being involved with Lotusland for so long, I’m still amazed by it–not only with its collections, design, architecture, and programs–but also with the story behind the garden. Madame Ganna Walska’s wonderland is such a benefit to our community. It’s magical to see joy that children (all 4th graders visit) and adults express after visiting the garden, and no surprise, really, that we are becoming world-renowned as a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Jill Levinson
Lotusland, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of SB, Storyteller, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Lobero Theatre, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families.

“I think everyone has a need for hospice care for themselves or their loved ones at some point in their life. I just feel like it’s very important to support these organizations because they’re necessary. If they disappeared that would be a travesty for our community. Our community is so fortunate to have so much to offer everyone. I think that’s part of what’s really special about Santa Barbara, it tries to take care of people.”

Laura Shelburne
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Stanford University, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ I spent a number of years practicing corporate law, working around the clock during the Silicon Valley boom, and I always regretted that I didn’t have enough time to do worthwhile pro bono work. While I was one of those oxymoronic happy lawyers, I have to say that now it is wonderful to be able to choose my own “clients” based on causes I believe in and use my skills and experience to help non-profits. I also feel strongly that I should set an example for my children by doing things for others and for institutions that will outlast us and continue to benefit future generations.

Lisa Wolf
Santa Barbara Ballet, CAMA, Storyteller, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Zoo, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, French Heritage Society, Laguna Blanca

“We started a group at the art museum because we had a feeling that the art museum was reaching out really effectively to kids in town, elementary school students and underprivileged kids and it was also a great resource for very very serious art collectors, but there was nothing in the middle. … So we created this group called SMART families (and it’s Santa Barbara Museum of Art, not that we think we’re especially bright) but a really wonderful group.”

“When you know that you’ve helped make it possible for somebody to attend a program or for somebody to be exposed to opera or some great cultural moment, or to just alleviate human suffering, it’s a great privilege to be able to do it.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine, 2007