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“Here Comes the Sun: Celebrating 50 Years of Santa Barbara Summer Solstice”

June 7 @ 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm PDT


Every promotional poster heralding Santa Barbara’s unique Summer Solstice Celebration for the past 50 years and hundreds of photographs documenting its early years are among the many items in a new exhibit “Here Comes the Sun: Celebrating 50 Years of Santa Barbara Summer Solstice” on view at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum through June 27.

In just 50 years, a small caravan of artists and mimes organized by Michael Gonzales has grown to a three-day extravaganza of street performance, dance, “people-powered” floats, and live music. The Summer Solstice Parade now features more than 1,000 participants and is watched by thousands more.

The Museum holds a complete collection of official Solstice posters, which are a mix of works by well-known professional and talented amateur artists, and were chosen by competition each year. Arranged chronologically, some are signed by the artists. An interactive digital portal allows visitors to read about each poster and artist.

In the museum’s large Sala, the focus is on the celebration’s expansion from its inception in 1974 with hundreds of historic images of the artists working in preparation, the parade itself, and associated celebrations. A 2018 video about Solstice by Justin Gunn, current president of the Summer Solstice Celebration, is also running on a loop.

The largest collection of images was contributed by photographer Nell Campbell who began photographing Summer Solstice in 1977. Campbell came to Santa Barbara in 1969 to attend the Brooks Institute of Photography, and became a visual documentarian, especially known for her images of civic protests.

In addition to the poster and photo displays, the exhibit features a 9-foot-tall wearable “walking puppet” and several puppet heads and masks on loan from the Summer Solstice Celebration, along with items from the Museum’s collection of colorful handmade banners and masks. Two paintings by the event’s founder Michael Gonzales are on loan from the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture. Each was showcased in the annual posters, one in 1981 (the last year he directed the parade) and another in 1982.


June 7
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm PDT
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Santa Barbara Historical Museum
136 E De La Guerra St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101 United States
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+1 805-966-1601
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