April 4th, 2024

View from Stearn’s Wharf, in Santa Barbara, California.

In our blog series, “Our Artists’ Guide,” we embark on a journey guided by our Gallery MAR artists and team members, exploring some of the most artistic cities across the country. In this series, we’ve explored the Southwest art mecca of Santa Fe, NM, the mile high city of Denver, CO, and the Paris of the South, Asheville, NC.

Now, join us as we venture virtually to beautiful, sunny Santa Barbara, California — home to two of our artists, Fred Calleri and R. Nelson Parrish, and a favorite travel spot of our gallery owner, Maren Mullin. 

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, discover the top spots for dining, coffee, parks, and artistic inspiration in this coastal city. Explore the local art scene and gain insights into what makes living in Santa Barbara so creatively fulfilling for our Gallery MAR artists.


The Best Santa Barbara Eats:

Fresh fish tacos, like those served on the Santa Barbara coast

Fred Calleri: For fabulous, fresh, locally sourced Mexican Food, try Corazon Cocina in the Public Market on Chapala St. For the best Fish Tacos, try On The Alley –  in the SB Harbour – just a few yards from the unloading of that day’s catch.

Nelson Parrish: There are plenty of good places to eat, depending upon what you want to do. East Beach Tacos has a very deep menu of eclectic fusion-style tacos right next to the batting cages. Brophy Brothers is a fish joint IN harbor – can’t get much fresher. The Plow & Angel Speakeasy is a great upscale burger in Montecito, and if you want to go lower brow, In’N’Out Burger and The Habit are solid. Tri-Tip sandwiches at Cold Springs Tavern or The Deer Lodge in Ojai.  Don’t forget Bob’s Well Bread in Paso Robles has just won the James Beard Award. Rori’s is hand made gelato. There is everything on both ends and everything in between.

Maren Mullin: The Nook or anywhere in the Rosewood Hotel.


The Best Santa Barbara Park:

A view of the Santa Barbara coastline from a scenic overlook

Fred Calleri: Franceschi Park is small and out of the way. It provides a near bird’s eye view of our small city by the sea. It’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic.

Nelson Parrish: Mission Park and Rose Garden is a great place to spread a blanket down and watch dogs play. Elings Park is a sports complex complete with a BMX track and a paragliding runway. Douglas Preserve is a leashless dog area, and Alameda Park has Kids World which is a large wood construction for kids.


The Best Place to Be Inspired:

Parrish swimming through the open ocean, as captured by his friend and photographer Jonas Jungblut

Fred Calleri: A walk on the bluffs at Campus Point on the campus of UCSB. Also, The Douglas Family Preserve; a beautiful forest and ocean bluff combination overlooking the islands off the coast. Whales can be seen from here at certain times of year.

Nelson Parrish: There is Inspiration Point, which is about an hour hike up into the hills, but it is extremely popular, especially on Sundays after church. Personally, I like going to places where people are not. East Camino Cello is a one-lane road that rides the Ridgeline to catch great sunsets and to car camp. The Gaviota Coast just north of Santa Barbara is almost untouched. The Channel Islands is a National Park that is full of open space. And of course the ocean — and I mean IN the ocean. I swim between 100-150 miles year round in the ocean. Not very many people there and a great way to study all the interactions of blue.

Maren Mullin: The beach!


The Best Santa Barbara Coffee Shop:

Coffee by the seaside

Fred Calleri: Dune Coffee on State Street & Figueroa

Nelson Parrish: Handlebar

Maren Mullin: Lighthouse Coffee or Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro


The Best Santa Barbara Art Site:

Bioresin and wood commissioned flitches by R. Nelson Parrish on the beach in Santa Barbara

Fred Calleri: The Santa Barbara Museum of Art: small and beautiful, rooted in history, willing and eager to explore contemporary ideas. Also has an excellent permanent collection of amazing works.

Nelson Parrish: Sullivan Goss is right across the street from the Museum of Art. They are both good.

Maren Mullin: Santa Barbara Museum of Art


Why Our Artists Love Their City:

Gallery MAR owner, Maren Mullin, and her family on a trip to Santa Barbara, where their baby girl, Jane, dipped her toes in the ocean for the first time.

Fred Calleri: Due to the natural boundaries of ocean and mountains, there is very little room for suburban sprawl; and the inevitable growth is thoughtfully done… for the most part. There is beauty everywhere – nature, architecture, and gardens. Also, the community loves its animals. The dogs frolicking on the beach are delightful any time you are around them.

Nelson Parrish: It is quiet for California. You can get just about anywhere in town in 17 minutes or 14 min if you have a Vespa. The vast majority of my work is exhibited outside of Santa Barbara. No one really knows that I am here, so I can just focus on making work. My kids can ride their bikes to school year round. However, every place has its cons: In the twenty years I have lived in Santa Barbara, it has only snowed in the hills four times. Compared to Utah, the skiing here is terrible. 

Maren Mullin: I love traveling to Santa Barbara; not only do we have several artists in the area, but the ocean views are some of the best on the West Coast. Ten years ago, my husband Matt and I took a drive down the PCH and stopped in Santa Barbara. It was our first trip to the ocean with our new baby Jane, and she dipped her toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, screeching with delight. Recently I took friend and designer, Jennifer Gode of Gode Haus Interiors, on our own PCH adventure and we had a ball in Santa Barbara, even stopping to witness the solar eclipse as we sipped coffee and enjoyed pastries. The shopping in Santa Barbara is unique and fabulous — where else can you visit a Gwenyth-curated collection inside a regal, boutique hotel? Let’s just say I hope to be back again soon. 


Written by Veronica Vale, Maren Mullin, and Gallery MAR Artists Fred Calleri and R. Nelson Parrish