Love Letters

Public Art

The Challenge

As part of an extensive renovation headed by Gensler of a mixed-use open-air retail center located in the historic Puebla district of downtown Santa Barbara, the client requested a mural which would speak to their commitment deepening engagement with visitors and the local community and create a space celebrating the culture and historical landscape inherent to the site. With limited spatial options and city parameters dictating the scope, the opportunity to beautify a space adjacent to the parking garage was an unexpected ideal site for orienting a public art activation.

The Solution

Partnering with the center’s on-site tenant, the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, we commissioned local artist Cassandra C. Jones to realize a project translating her digital-based practice into a large-scale installation entitled Love Letters. Spanning 470 sq ft, the artist expanded reference to the region’s heritage through a mural that is a kaleidoscope of intricate patterns. Fabricated in ceramic, each tile is in itself a vibrant artwork juxtaposed together to form a pattern: Spanish guitars form beautiful flower patterns, the fans of flamenco dancers take on intricate formations, surfboards combine into a complex structure. Each image reflects Santa Barbara’s culture, providing a visual narrative that is truly a love letter to the community.

The Result

With 36 unique compositions among 230 tiles on two walls, the artist explores and embraces the nuance and poetics of collage. Experienced as a whole from a distance or examined up close, Love Letters is a homage to the artist’s home and reveals something to discover for any visiting vantage point. Despite the COVID limitations during the installation completion in July 2o2o, the project unveiling encompassed videos, socially-distanced scavenger hunt incentives and a community contest to leverage engagement. Love Letters received city-wide acclaim and print editorials, with the center receiving the city’s 2020 Business In Art Award for the collaborative initiative.