The Imagine More Campaign at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Imagine More Campaign at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art


The Santa Barbara Museum of Art plays a critical role in the local community by offering educational programs and connecting residents and visitors to truly amazing works of art. Recently, the museum kicked off a major renovation project that includes the launch of the Imagine More campaign, an ambitious fundraising initiative that will provide for better gallery space, more community space, necessary updates to the building, and an all-around better museum experience. The museum aims to raise $50 million in capital to achieve these goals through the Imagine More Campaign.

The project allows for the preservation of the historical character of physical building while also providing for state-of-the-art upgrades. In addition, through enhancements like seismic upgrades, both the building and the tens of thousands of pieces of art inside will be better protected. The project also creates 25 percent more gallery space to make the museum an even more important center of the Santa Barbara community. In all, the renovation project is the most comprehensive ever undertaken by the museum.

The campaign and the associated renovations will take place over the course of about six years. All changes will be completed in stages so that the museum can stay open to visitors throughout the entire process.

Major Goals of the Imagine More Campaign


The Campaign has four primary goals:


  1. Improve Gallery Space: Ultimately, the museum has the goal of creating more space for exhibitions so that more of its permanent collection can be displayed. Altogether, eight of the existing galleries will undergo renovation and four new galleries will be created: a photography gallery, contemporary art gallery, and two Asian art galleries, one focused on India and the other on the Himalayas.


  1. Increase Community Space: Understanding its important role in the community, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art aims to create new places for people to meet and share their interest in art, and also interact with teachers and artists at the museum. The renovations will allow for new meeting spaces, a new rooftop terrace garden and pavilion, upgrades to the public auditorium, and new studios that students from local elementary and high schools can use to create art.


  1. Enhance the Overall Museum Experience: The renovation includes a complete overhaul of the museum design. These changes aim to improve the flow from one gallery to another and provide for a more seamless experience. In addition, the State Street and Park Wing entrances will receive overhauls. To make the facility more environmentally friendly, the museum will employ sustainable building practices, invest in green products, and seek LEED certification. Other projects to improve the visitor experience include new heating and cooling systems, new restrooms, better lighting, and improved elevators.


  1. Address the Facility’s Critical Needs: Since the museum building is more than 100 years old, it needs a number of essential safety upgrades. To meet this goal, the campaign will fund the replacement of the roof and mechanical systems, as well as the creation of a new loading dock to move works of art safely. New spaces for storage and conservation will also be included. The amount of space that currently exists is insufficient to safely house the museum’s growing collection.


The First Step of the Campaign

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art – Image courtesy user La Citta Vita on

In November 2015, the museum celebrated the official launch of the Imagine More campaign with a public “Wallbreaking” event that also marked the start of the renovation project. The event included the literal breaking of the first wall in the renovation, as well as a free, open house event for the community. People from the community had the opportunity to learn more about the renovation plans and talk with museum staff.

Stage one of the renovation project will continue for about 18 months. This part of the project will see the replacement of the entire roof, as well as seismic retrofitting for added safeguarding against earthquakes. During this period, the McCormick Gallery will be closed for renovations and the new contemporary art gallery will be constructed directly above the McCormick. This phase of the renovations will also improve the facilities used to conserve and prepare works of art before they are displayed, as well the areas used for shipping and receiving. In addition to the McCormick Gallery, the Sterling Morton East and West, Asian Art, Von Romberg, and Emmons Galleries will also be closed.

How to Support the Campaign

Individuals who want to support the campaign can give in a number of different ways. People can make a cash donation directly to the campaign through the Imagine More website at The museum also accepts donations of stock and securities, as well as real estate and personal property, which can help sustain the campaign through the entirety of the renovation process.

Throughout the renovation, individuals can visit the museum’s website to view regular updates, an outline of the plan for the next phases, and schematics that illustrate how the new spaces and galleries will look once complete.