Experience Van Gogh in Santa Barbara

14 Ways to Experience Van Gogh in Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) and their community partners are going all out for the highly-anticipated Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources exhibition. On view February 27 through May 22, 2022, the temporary exhibition showcases 20 masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, along with 75 artworks and objects the Dutch painter admired. Collectively, the immersive installation features more than 60 artists and is being touted as an “unprecedented opportunity for visitors to dive deeply into the rich, visual culture of Van Gogh’s late 19th-century world.” Further enhancing the transportive art viewing experience in the museum’s galleries, several community partners will help bring Van Gogh’s legend and artistic view to life through a tapestry of public art, music, dance, and theater performances. Plus, there will also be complementary museum and gallery installations, a virtual reality experience, and hands-on art classes. 

Book Your Stay

See below for 14 ways you can experience the visionary Van Gogh in Santa Barbara this spring. 

Tour the Exhibit

Naturally, the first item on our list is viewing the headlining attraction—the exhibition itself. SBMA is open every day but Monday, so time your visit accordingly. Securing timed ticketed reservations in advance is highly recommended and tickets are on sale now via SBMA’s website.

Check-In to El Encanto

The elegant El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel will be offering a special Van Gogh-themed lodging package. But you don’t have to be a hotel guest to get in on their Van Gogh tribute. El Encanto will be mixing up a Van Gogh-inspired cocktail intended to be enjoyed under the stars at their Cafe Terrace overlooking the city. Plus, the hotel will host a themed speaker series, poetry readings, and live music inspired by Van Gogh’s art. 

Museum & Gallery Hop

Pop into Sullivan Goss – An American Gallery to see their specially curated exhibition, En France Encore. Leon Dabo was a French-born American artist who became well known before the First World War as a Tonalist painter. His work took a dramatic turn towards post-impressionism with pieces that show an influence of Van Gogh’s work. Other downtown arts venues and galleries—including Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Colette Cosentino Atelier + Gallery, and 10 West Gallery—will also be hosting exhibitions, events, and activities. And in the Funk Zone, Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative will be dipping a paint brush into the Van Gogh festivities at their Community Arts Workshop space. 

Gaze at the Sunflowers on State

The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture is sponsoring a public art installation of larger-than-life sunflower sculptures painted by local students. These will be on view as you stroll State Street approaching the museum.

Enter The Night Café

 Family-friendly MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation will bring Van Gogh’s iconic The Night Café scene to life with an immersive, environment that allows visitors to explore his world through virtual reality. 

Admire Local Artists’ Works

La Cumbre Plaza’s La Cumbre Center for Creative Arts will present Inspired by Van Gogh, a juried art show featuring works by local artists. 

Hear the Sound of Music

The Santa Barbara Symphony curated two special concert programs inspired by Van Gogh’s cultural era. Sonic Boom (March 19-20, 2022) will feature Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ and Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony. For Romance in a New Key (April 23-24, 2022), guest artists, the Silver/Garburg piano duo, will perform an interpretation of a piano concerto for four hands by Schumann and interpreted by Brahms, which was originally written in Van Gogh’s time. 

Reach Operatic Heights

Opera Santa Barbara will “pop-up” at SBMA to perform two works: The Starry Night by Jake Heggie with texts from Anne Sexton, Van Gogh, and Emily Dickinson; and Dear Theo by Ben Moore which are based on letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo. Learn More

See Van Gough on Stage

Ensemble Theater Company will present a staged reading of the play Vincent at The New Vic. Written by Leonard Nimoy, the one-man play explores Van Gogh’s life and work as told by his brother. Learn More

Paint by Nature

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will host Art Meets Science: Pigments from Nature, during which participants can explore the colorful world of natural pigments used by artists for centuries. Attendees can also try their hand at painting with wine. 

Go to the Garden

Ganna Walska’s Lotusland in Montecito will offer family-friendly, Van Gough-inspired art classes in their majestic garden setting. Upcoming classes include a Family Painting Workshop (February 27, 2022) and Earth and Sky: A Plein Air Painting Inspired by Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources (March 5, 2022).

Shop, Sip & Sup

SBMA neighbors La Arcada Plaza, one of Santa Barbara’s signature outdoor shopping paseos. Its restaurants, galleries, and shops will be offering special menus and Van Gogh-centric delights.

Be Crafty

The Crafter’s Library, a cool, new co-working artistic and makers space, will be hosting Van Gogh-themed workshops and classes.

Get Schooled

Santa Barbara Museum of Art will host a symposium on March 13, 2022, bringing together art historians, conservators, and museum curators. The public will also have access to lectures by Van Gogh experts such as Sjraar van Heugten, a former curator of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Other public gallery talks on the agenda throughout the exhibition’s run include “Van Gogh the Anglophile: Looking Through his Eyes at Victorian Art” (April 17, 2022).


Header Photo Credit: Vincent van Gogh, “The Wheatfield,” 1888. Oil on canvas. Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Richard A. Cooke and Family in memory of Richard A. Cooke, 1946, 377.1.