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Unique Santa Barbara County Museum Mixes Art And Nature

A museum in Santa Barbara County brings together an interesting combination of elements: art, and nature.

On a nice summer morning in Solvang, tourists are everywhere, sampling the unique, more than century old Danish themed community. But, off of Mission Drive in the heart of the city, there’s a museum which helps highlight another part of the region’s heritage.

The Wildling Museum celebrates art and nature, with painting, sculptures, and other artworks focused on the natural world around us on the Central and South Coasts.

The museum features a number of galleries, as well as a workshop area for kids to create their own art, and a gift shop.

What’s currently being showcased is an exhibition called Animals A to Z, which features at least one work with an animal from every letter in the alphabet. There are more than 40 works, ranging from animals in their habitats to whimsical abstracts. They include new works from artists, pieces borrowed from collectors, items from the Wildling’s permanent collection, as well as art on loan from the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Some of the pieces have special notes so people fascinated by the animals depicted can then go see them at the zoo. There are also pieces from a National Geographic photographer, as well as a noted Canadian painter. Another gallery features some dramatic real life scenes from nature on the Central and South Coasts, many from local artists.

The museum is a bit of a rarity in that it’s not a government institution, or affiliated with a university. The Solvang based non-profit survives on admission fees, donations, memberships, and grants. It’s also positioning itself for financial stability by buying the Mission Drive building it calls home, and renting parts of it to businesses.

The Wildling is open six days a week, Wednesdays through Mondays, and has a free admission day on the third Wednesday of every month. The Museum is hoping that the works it displays will not only create a new appreciation for art, but also get people thinking about the big slice of nature which exists right here, in our backyard.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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