A walk with Art Walk’s Founder Kerrie-Kilpatrick Weinberg

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, founder of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, found of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

“Through positive self-expression the doors of opportunity will open,” is the mission statement for the nonprofit Art Walk for Kids/Adults. It could also be the motto for the life of Art Walk’s founder, Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Art Walk has opened so many doors for me in Santa Barbara, friendships, the areas I work. It’s amazing how things flow into one another when you’re on that right path,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who trained as a set designer in England before developing Art Walk in Santa Barbara in 2000. The program–which is suitable for all but designed for at risk and special needs students–uses the creation of art projects to teach students other academic skills like math, problem solving, reading and understanding directions.

Working around the schedules of her two sons, Ben (now 15) and Sam (now 10), Kilpatrick-Weinberg–who was then a single mother and met her husband Henry Weinberg through Art Walk–began the program as an informal art camp in her backyard. From there she segued into working with the home schooling community, then Devereux’s developmentally disabled students.

She credits her brother Nigel, who was autistic, for inspiring her work. “The hyperactive, the kids with ADHD, the kids who some people call special needs, I just call creative,” she says. “I’ve always done art with any kid that has a learning difference. That seems to be my area, my gift. I don’t find it challenging, I find it really my normal comfort zone because of Nigel.”

With a full art program soon in place at Devereux, Kilpatrick-Weinberg set her sights on expanding to the Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential correctional/treatment facility for teens.

With the support of the County Arts Commission and the County Education Office, and some funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began her journey into what she calls “the golden triangle,” of Los Prietos Boys Camp, Juvenile Hall and El Puente School, which serves students who have been expelled or imprisoned and are transitioning back to school.

“I would develop this relationship with a kid in Juvenile Hall, then I would see them at Los Prietos for six months, then if things went well they went back to school and they went back to El Puente, so I would have another relationship with them,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Some of those kids I knew two years, from beginning to end. It was great to see how well they were doing because a lot of them had given up on themselves, and I’m not saying it was just Art Walk, but the whole process … was immensely life changing for them.”

That continuity of relationships is important. “A lot of the people we work with don’t like too much change,” she says. When Devereux announced closure of its residential program, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began Chagall House so that her autistic adult students could continue to create art. They meet every Wednesday night, have showings of their work around town, and get together for dinner regularly at the Weinberg house, where they catch up socially and discuss and critique their art. Henry, Ben and Sam all take part.

“These are my friends, they’re not just people I create with. They’ve become part of our family,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

Another important part of the Art Walk family is Brandon Sonntag, an artist and teacher who has been collaborating with Kilpatrick-Weinberg since 2001. “It’s just the two of us. There’s something very nice about having two people who get along, who know how to bring out the best in our clients,” she says.

In addition groups already mentioned Art Walk collaborates with a host of other organizations, including local elementary schools, Hillside House, Patricia Henley Foundation, United Nations, Summit for Danny, United Way, Red Cross, Cancer Hope Foundation, Camp Reach for the Stars, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Symphony, Lobero Theatre, and I Madonnari, among others.

One would think her volunteer plate was overflowing from Art Walk, but Kilpatrick-Weinberg still finds time to help at her sons’ schools, and serve on the board of Sarah House, where she and Henry have hosted an annual Oscar Party benefit for the past three years. For the second year, she is also chairing Sarah House’s annual holiday fundraiser–“Light Up the Night: The Artizan’s Ball”–on December 8 at the Santa Barbara Women’s Club.

But Art Walk has opened the door to so many other things for Kilpatrick-Weinberg–including Sarah House, where she first became involved by creating an Art Walk art tree that was auctioned for “Light Up the Night”– that it’s Art Walk that’s closest to her heart.

“Art Walk is a healing program in many ways, it isn’t just about at risk or special needs; it’s about anybody who wants to create. It’s art walk for kids and adults. What it probably should be is art walk for everyone because that’s what it is,” she says.


For more information about Art Walk for Kids/Adults visit http://www.artwalkforkids.org.

Originally published in Coastal Woman, 2007

Las Positas residents urge council to get a plan

“We need a general plan update, and guess what, it’s happening,” said Santa Barbara City Councilman Brian Barnwell, hitting the heart of the city’s response to a group of Las Positas Valley residents who called for a comprehensive plan to address the development and traffic issues in their area.

An estimated 75 people packed the council chambers on March 1, representing groups such as the Allied Neighborhood Association, Veronica Springs Neighborhood Association, Hidden Valley Residents Association and others who were concerned about piecemeal planning in that area, parts of which are under city control and parts of which fall under country jurisdiction.

Critics of the planning process cited two pending projects — the Hillside House proposal of up to 127 units and the Veronica Meadows project (owned by Mark Lee), which calls for 24 two-story homes off Las Positas Road — as particular areas of concern. The rebuilding Cottage Hospital, potential development at Elings Park and the future of Earl Warren Showgrounds were also mentioned as projects that would impact the quality of life in the Las Positas Valley.

Speaking for the Allied Neighborhood Association, Lloyd Applegate said, “If Santa Barbara is to live within its resources, it behooves us to determine just what the city’s resources are before risking to do further damage to our quality of life.”

Others contended that Santa Barbara already has a thorough planning process and there’s no need to undergo a comprehensive study of the Las Positas valley.

“It’s incorrect to assert that the city considers projects on a piecemeal basis,” said county planner John Polansky, who works with the city on many projects.

“We are very comfortable with the city’s current planning process,” said Pam Flynt, executive director of Hillside House, which elected to annex its property to the city, rather than remain in the county during this development phase.

The council will have a joint session with the Planning Commission on March 10, at which time the Las Positas area will be discussed as part of the overall General Plan.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on March 3, 2005.

New housing inches its way into town

Housing projects from Habitat for Humanity, the Mental Health Association and Hillside House are all inching their way to reality. Here’s an update on these three projects:

Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County cleared a final hurdle to start with plans to build three homes for low-income families last week when the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), backed by the Santa Barbara City Council, gave its final approval of a $240,000 loan to aid in the purchase of land on Via Lucero near upper State and Calle Real. It will be the first major building project for Habitat for Humanity here. Escrow was cleared last week.

Supported by local churches, corporations, foundation and individual donors, Habitat for Humanity has raised 70 percent of the nearly $800,000 needed to pay for materials, design and permit fees.

“I am looking forward to seeing many community volunteers out there swinging hammers,” said Mayor Marty Blum.

The organization will now recruit volunteers to help build the houses and determine who will live there. A requirement for homeowners is they must contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” for construction.

The Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County’s “Building Hope” capital campaign to build up to 50 units of housing has raised 58 percent of its $4.1 million fundraising goal, organizers announced this week. Half of the homes will be reserved for MHA clients and half for affordable housing for downtown workers.

As I understand it, in the recipe of capital campaigns, reaching that 58 percent goal is really significant, said executive director Annemarie Cameron.

The total project cost is $17.3 million but with the City of Santa Barbara’s commitment of $4.6 million in Redevelopment Agency funds, bond financing and the donation of all development costs by Bermant Development Company, only $4.1 million will come from fundraising.

In addition to housing, the new facility at 617 Garden St. will also accommodate the MHA offices, a resource center for families and the Fellowship Club, where people with mental health disabilities can meet for social time and life skills learning.

Hillside House and partners Bermant Development Company and the County Housing Authority have been working closely with neighbors and the Planning Commission to develop a master plan for the site at 1235 Veronica Springs Road. The conceptual proposal for the 26.74 acre site, reviewed by the Planning Commission this week, included 38 residential buildings with up to 127 homes, public pedestrian, equestrian and bike trails and 17.74 acres of open space with 9 acres developed.

I think the neighbors are not as worried as before, said Kirsten Ayers, spokeswoman for the development group.

The project is planned in two phases to ensure that the 59 residents of Hillside House will be able to remain on the property continuously. Groundbreaking is not anticipated until early 2006.

This story contains additional reporting by Sally Cappon.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on September 23, 2004.

Hillside House, neighbors at odds

Hidden Valley residents decry ‘out of context’ expansion.

One of Santa Barbara’s last parcels of open space — in Hidden Valley — may be turned into apartments and condominiums if Hillside House’s development proposal is approved.

The project was presented to the public as a way for the nonprofit Hillside House to ensure its financial future, which has become precarious in the wake of Medi-Cal cutbacks and the increased costs of nurses, worker’s compensation and the like.

Hillside House owns 27 acres set in a valley off Veronica Springs Road, of which about 10 are developable.

The idea of developing on the property has been floating around for at least 10 years, said Hillside House Executive Director Pam Flynt. But it wasn’t until last summer that Hillside House contacted the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara about building on the site. They’ve since put together a development team — Bermant Development Company, Hillside House, the City and County Housing Authorities and Peikert Group Architects — which is proposing to build 138 affordable and workforce apartments and 40 market-rate condominiums.

While the City of Santa Barbara was quick to approve annexation of the property from the county, “(The proposed) 178 units is a huge development for a city development,” said Mayor Marty Blum. “This is a big deal.”

The unpretentious neighborhood, off Los Positas Road near Portesuello Avenue, still looks much like it did in the 1970s, without the obvious remodels and McMansions to which so many local tracts have succumbed.

Not surprisingly, many of the neighbors are in a swivet about the project’s mass and potential traffic impacts. “It doesn’t fit into the neighborhood … the size seems completely out of context,” said Shannon O’Bryan, a neighbor who spoke to both the City Council and Planning Commission.

“You’re looking at a perpetuity of traffic jams,” said Brian Burd, another neighbor, who also expressed concern to the City Council that the project would be “greasing the wheels for high-density development of the surrounding neighborhood.”

Neighbor Ken Balmy spoke about the “rather callous disregard for the quality of the neighborhood.” He complained that the project is being “steamrolled through the process.”

While acknowledging that she anticipated a negative response from the neighbors, Flynt disagrees that they should have been informed about the plans earlier. “It was the appropriate time, before we were talking officially to the city. We certainly discussed going to them earlier, but we needed to wait until we had something to tell them. We were putting together … our plan in terms of ideally what we would like to do.”

“I have not heard anyone criticize what we do here or the fact that maybe it’s a service that’s needed and necessary. I think the criticism is about the project and how they feel that’s going to affect them,” said Flynt.

In addition to providing apartments for residents, Hillside House is hoping to be able to provide affordable housing for some of its 75 employees, 15 of whom now commute from outside the South Coast.

The Planning Commission’s initial concept review telegraphed a lot of compromises if the project is to go forward. “I don’t think that the mass, bulk and scale of this is compatible with the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Harwood White, describing the development as “a high-density intrusion into the largest chunk of open space in the region.”

“I wonder about the feasibility, given the serious traffic impacts,” said Commissioner Jonathan Maguire. This is really just the beginning, he said, advising the applicants to expect the Planning Commission review to take a year or more.

The Hillside House team plans to return to the Planning Commission with revisions.

Community Development Director Paul Casey emphasized that the project would require a lengthy review process. “We’re just kind of getting started. … We’ve got a long way to go.”

Hillside House’s new program less restrictive

Along with providing affordable housing for its employees, if the development project is approved it will bring a significant shift in the lives of Hillside House clients. Currently the program’s 59 residents — primarily with cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation and epilepsy — live together in a dorm atmosphere, with a licensed nurse there 24 hours a day, said Executive Director Pam Flynt.

In the new set-up, residents would live in a less restrictive environment, about six people to an apartment. Rather than an exclusively Hillside House population, the second and third floors of the complex would be rental units.

The opportunity to mainstream residents of Hillside House is a positive value, said Mickey Flacks, who sits on the County Housing Authority.

The Tricounties Regional Center (which makes referrals to Hillside House) would also like to see smaller units and smaller programs, said Flynt. “In each home, there would be a living room, a kitchen (and) they would have some say in creating their own dinner.” She also noted that residents who were capable would be able to help with laundry and other chores.

While there would still be a staff member in each house whenever residents were there (during the day residents are out in the community participating in day programs), 24-hour licensed nursing care would only be available in selected houses whose residents require that level of care.

Reaction from the families has been a little bit mixed, Flynt said. “We’re going to have to work through who’s going to need what level of care, and we’ll be able to have some variety in the types of care that we have in different homes and we can then work with placing our residents in the program that’s going to best meet their needs.”

Other projects pending

Hillside House’s proposed project is just one of many potential changes to the Hidden Valley neighborhood.

The Santa Barbara School Districts owns property nearby. “Originally this site was going to be used as a school site but the development costs are prohibitive and there is declining enrollment,” said Dave Hetyonk, director of facilities and operations. The board recently created a Property District Advisory Committee, tasked to make recommendations about the use of property that is not needed for school purposes.

“They could advise the board to sell, lease, rent or do any number of things,” said Hetyonk, who is hoping for a recommendation by September.

“We’ve tried (to master plan the Hidden Valley area) and made a real effort with the school district about five years ago,” said Community Development Director Paul Casey. “The cost of a connecting road (to Los Positas) was very difficult. … It added $4 million to the school site cost.”

Another player in the area is Valle Verde Retirement Home on Calle de los Amigos, which proposes to convert 63 one-bedroom units to two-bedroom units, potentially doubling its occupancy.

Bill Bertka also owns 57 acres at the end of Alan Road that he would like to develop someday. He told the Planning Commission he would support the Hillside House development and urged them to take other future developments, such as his, into consideration when planning the project.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on March 18, 2004.