By Patti Rasmussen
Signal Staff Writer
Meet Jeff Barber, art supervisor for the city of Santa Clarita, a fixture in the Santa Clarita arts scene for the past 10 years.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Simi Valley, Barber said he was always a creative person. A fourth-generation drummer, Barber expanded his art exposure when he started working at the Autry Museum, first at the information desk for $6.50 an hour, then working his way up to the programs department.
After 12 years at The Autry, Barber headed up the coast for a stint at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. In 2008, he applied for the art supervisor position with the city of Santa Clarita, where for the last decade he’s curated a local appreciation for the arts among SCV residents.
“I think (Arts and Events Manager) Phil Lantis and (former city Director of Recreation, Community Services and Open Space) Rick Gould were impressed with what I had been doing,” Barber said of his interview. “I was around art, but at a distance. I just kind of made a niche for myself.”
Once hired, Barber went to work to establish small galleries around town. The First Floor Gallery at City Hall and the Westfield Town Center Community Wall were the first on the list.
Barber said staff saw the shows and kept asking for more gallery space.
“When I started there were no exhibit programs,” he said. “Now, we have seven venues for art where we are constantly exhibiting. It’s really fun to put together a theme and see what you get.”
“It awes me,” he said.
With the approval of the city’s Art Master Plan in 2016, Barber said things really began to change and art became a key element in the community. The recent State of the City event highlighted all the art programs.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste said the Master Plan is a wonderful tool for staff.
“Much of what has been happening in arts can be contributed to city staff and the Arts Commission,” Weste said. “There is all kind of talent out there and it takes a knowledgeable person to find it. That’s what Jeff does.”
Several artists give Barber credit for keeping arts alive and it’s those comments that keep Barber going.
“I’ve had many jobs, just making money,” Barber said. “I’ve been pretty blessed to get into The Autry and the Natural History Museum and now I have a job that I really dig.”
Barber believes that next on the horizon for art will be the creation of a community arts center.
“Not something huge or fancy,” he said. “Just a work space. It would mature our whole program.”
In the meantime, Barber keeps busy looking for more artists to exhibit. He is also in charge of the city’s Note by Note and 10 x 10 programs at The Main in downtown Newhall. He arranges several seminars throughout the year to help artists that covers such areas as finances and social media. And just in case he’s not busy enough, Barber also plays drums for his group — Hell Toupee — “just an old school punk band,” he said.
Barber said his mantra in life is to share his creativity and believes he fulfills that in his work and personal life.
“I hope the work I do is valued,” he said. “After all, what isn’t there to love about art?”
Patti Rasmussen is a member of the city of Santa Clarita Arts Commission.