The Santa Barbara Museum of Art opened to the public on June 5, 1941 in a building that was at one time the Santa Barbara Post Office (1912–1932). Chicago architect David Adler simplified the building’s façade and created the Museum’s galleries, most notably Ludington Court which offers a dramatic sense of arrival for visitors.
Over its history, the Museum has expanded its footprint with the addition of the Stanley R. McCormick Gallery in 1942, the Sterling and Preston Morton Galleries in 1963, the Alice Keck Park Wing in 1985, and the Jean and Austin H. Peck, Jr. Wing in 1998. The Alice Keck Park Wing was significantly renovated in 2006 to include the Luria Activities Center. Offsite, the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, a center for art education activities, was established in 1991.
Feasibility and planning studies began in 2013 for a complete renovation of the original post office building. Construction started in 2015 and completed in the fall of 2020. The 1912 building was updated from the foundation to the roof. The renovation included critical structural and seismic work, new roofs, HVAC and fire suppression systems, and an Art Receiving Facility and loading dock. In addition to addressing the infrastructure needs, the renovation produced new galleries dedicated to Photography and New Media, as well as a spectacular new Contemporary Art gallery, all of which allow more of the 25,000-piece permanent collection to be on display.
The summer 2021 reopening of the new and expanded galleries was one of the most important civic events in many years, bringing excitement and joy to Santa Barbara. The new facilities enhance the overall Museum experience and help ensure that future generations will be inspired by the extraordinary art and arts programming.