For decades Santa Barbara has had a bohemian tone to its art and culture. From the fantastical floats and costumes of the Solstice Parade to the old artists’ lofts of the Funk Zone, the area has long played with whimsical art and culture. And over the years, no organization has been at the core of this quirkiness more than the nonprofit art collaborative, Fishbon. Since 2002, this organization has been bringing imaginative art to the community while helping countless local and visiting artists grow their creative skills and understanding.
Fishbon is less the heart of the local art scene and more the misshapen mass that you were kind of worried about but then found out was harmless. There are no membership dues or applications. If you want to become a part of Fishbon, sign up for the newsletter, and just start showing up and being a part of it. The obscure nature of the organization can be challenging for some, but really the vague objective is usually what draws in its longtime members. Fishbon has no formal entry process but it does ask new members to walk fearlessly into the unfamiliar and help with its ongoing search for meaningful creativity of a nonsensical nature.
While many may have heard about Fishbon over the years, unless you’ve come to an event, it is hard to know what the organization actually is. “Yeah but what does Fishbon… do?” is probably the most common question I’ve been asked during my years of involvement with Fishbon. And honestly Fishbon means something different to each person. I’ve called it an “artist sanctuary where artists can go to be artists.” It is often just referred to as an “art incubator” but really Fishbon serves as a multifaceted tool. There are workshops and classes that are taught during the week and throughout the month. Over the years it has helped support struggling artists (including myself) with event space, materials, and other art resources. But most importantly, it provides a priceless network of knowledge from its talented and diverse member base. Of course it is most well known for hosting wacky, irreverent events.
From the landscapes of Mars to inside the human body (think “Fantastic Voyage”), Fishbon has hosted some epic themed events over the years. But the party-side of an event is often only what the public sees. It is the planning and building of the event where Fishbon achieves its mission and realizes what it actually does, even if that path is littered with non sequiturs and silly string. Each event takes anywhere from a few to a few dozen volunteers and creatives working together to create it. Each collaborator brings a unique skill, or may try their hand at a new one. For the Mars party, I painted my first wall mural, an abstract painting to go in the alien autopsy room. For the human body, I collaborated with a friend on a brain bar and neural forest. Using fabric, aluminum ducting, and a whole lot of staples (among other things) we figured out how to make the bar look like it was inside the human brain. Each one of these experiences has grown my skill and confidence as an artist. And ultimately, that is what Fishbon does. It allows one to explore, enjoy, and learn about art in an accepting and low pressure environment so that they can grow themselves as an artist while sharing their own art with others. Or sometimes it’s just a fun party to go to.
If you’ve never attended a Fishbon event, you’re in luck. On Saturday, January 24, they will be hosting an encore performance of the San Pesci Legends International Film Festival (SPLIFF), written and produced by Bryan Snyder, at SBCAST. This satirical, immersive theater event gently pokes fun at film festivals, celebrity ego, and fandom, and with a red carpet entrance, celebrity stage interviews, and sizzle reels, you will actually feel like you’re at a real film festival. Learn celebrity gossip, watch “film entries” (done by Fishbon members of course), and enjoy themed drinks as you watch a story unfold that is like a Christopher Guest movie come to life. This satirical film festival will be held during the actual Santa Barbara International Film Festival and a documentary by Justin Gunn on the original SPLIFF performance and Fishbon’s other immersive theater events was accepted into the real film festival. Yes it is that meta and this perfectly embodies just how serious Fishbon can be about not being serious. Visit spliff.eventbrite.com for more information and tickets to SPLIFF. To find out more about Fishbon’s events, sign up for the newsletter at Fishbon.org.