Arts Fund SB’s New Executive Director

By Joanne A Calitri   |   March 1, 2018
Torrie Cutbirth, newly appointed executive director for the Arts Fund SB

Our Town’s latest millennial superstar is Torrie Cutbirth, artist, arts community enthusiast, and recently appointed executive director of the Arts Fund Santa Barbara [AFSB]. She is making headway as the youngest E.D. for the organization with an art background, education, and passion to move its mission forward. 

I met with Torrie at the AFSB gallery to talk about it:

Q. How did you come to the AFSB and explain your evolution to executive director?

A. My experience with AFSB and evolution to its executive director role has really come full-circle. I grew up in Santa Barbara and first experienced AFSB in high school participating in its Teen Arts Mentorship Program. Like many other students who went through the program, the work I created contributed to my scholarship award to attend Cornell University for my undergraduate art degree. Upon graduation, I reached out to AFSB to volunteer. I feel fortunate because I was able to work with Marcello Ricci (former executive director) on a number of projects, and later hired as assistant director. I gained experience and knowledge in all of the amazing programs that AFSB does. In late 2017, Marcello decided to move to New York City, and I applied for the executive director position, which I was granted in November. I am so excited and happy to be able to be part of such a great organization that truly focuses on fostering the arts in Santa Barbara County.

Your art background, education, and interest in art…

I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was 5 years old. Some of my earliest and most fond memories were sitting at the kitchen table painting with my grandma. I continued to pursue art through school, obtaining my BFA from Cornell. Prior to volunteering at the Arts Fund, I worked with Marcello in the Funk Zone at Gone Gallery and GraySpace doing exhibition installations and E-Newsletters. I have a lot of love for all art forms but am particularly interested in painting and printmaking, and have exhibited in California and New York.

As the new E.D., what is your first mission set of goals for year one?

AFSB year one for me is jam-packed. A huge focus for the organization is to continue the expansion of the Teen Arts Mentorship Program in North County and south in Carpinteria. I am also planning to meet all of our donors and supporters. The Arts Fund has 35 years of history in this community, and we have such amazing partnerships with individuals, foundations, businesses, and other art nonprofits. It is important for me to meet and connect with them all and show our appreciation.

What does 2018 look like for the AFSB Gallery and programs?

We have six exhibitions on the schedule for 2018, including a fiber arts show, mail art show, and our Teen Arts Mentorship exhibition. Programs will continue to expand. We’re offering new art classes with new teachers, and a few new mural projects are in the works for the Funk Zone Public Art Program.

Where do you see the AFSB going under your directorship?

One of the many things I love most is that the organization has always evolved with the needs of the community. As the newest director, I really want to be as involved and connected in the community as possible. I plan to evaluate how our programs are serving our county and to continue to evolve our programs to do so. We’ve expanded the Teen Mentorship classes in North County from one class in 2015 to six classes in 2017. I’m invested in continuing to expand the program further in both north and south counties. For the Funk Zone Public Art Program, I look forward to continuing our relationships with the City, artists, and property owners to continue to facilitate public art pieces being created. As always, we have some special projects in development and will announce them throughout the coming year.

The AFSB is up for a countywide recognition award…

Yes! 2018 is a big year for celebrations for our organization. We are truly honored that the SB County Arts Commission is awarding us the Leadership in Art Award, for our “significant impact on the arts and culture of our region through innovative thinking and exemplary commitment to promoting, sustaining, and advancing our quality of life through the arts.” In addition, we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the AFSB, the 25th anniversary of our Teen Mentorship Program, the 5th anniversary of coordinating the Funk Zone Art Walk, the continuing of our community gallery guest curator program, and our stewardship of the Funk Zone Public Art Project with over 15 public art projects in the Funk Zone and Santa Maria. The AFBS would not be where it is today without the continued and generous support of the community, its board members, and donors, and its co-founders, Joanne Holderman and Shirley Dettmann.

Anything else you’d like us to mention?

We invite the community to drop in the gallery at 205 C Santa Barbara Street, say hi, and learn more about our organization! I am always encouraging people to share their thoughts, needs, and vision for our community. As [part of] a nonprofit that has been serving SB County for 35 years, I want to continue to grow the AFSB with the community’s needs. We are launching our new website and donor membership in the coming month, so please check out our website for more details: and be sure to check out our Instagram @artsfundsb where we post our upcoming events and gallery exhibits.

411: and instagram: @artsfundsb


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