Montecito Magazine Spring 2019

Featured Oak Group Artists in this issue of Montecito Magazine — Meredith Brooks Abbott, Whitney Brooks Abbott, Marcia Burtt, Jeremy Harper, John Iwerks, Hank Pitcher and Thomas Van Stein CONSERVATION Still going strong, the Oak Group holds “paint-outs” on land sometimes inaccessible to the public and hosts exhibitions of the resulting paintings, with half the sales proceeds going to causes such as The Nature Conservancy, The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and the Environmental Defense Center. The respected group has had a hand in saving tens of thousands of acres from development over the decades. (Visit for details.) “Rayused to saywewere artists for preservation, and that’s true,” says Arturo Tello, landscape painter and owner and director of Carpinteria’s Palm Loft Gallery. “Once these spaces were gone there would not be any rural feeling to the land,” he says. “It would just be urban.” The group now has about 25 active members, with several emeritus members who participate in special events. “We have an established protocol for adding new members,” notes Arturo. “When we have space, we invite people to show with us as our guests and get to knowwhat their participation is like. First we befriend them, then we ask them to be part of the group. It all works through mutual respect.” RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS Through their art, the Oak Group raises awareness as well as funds. “The Oak Group purposely paints endangered landscapes and a lot of them are places people have never seen,” says emeritus member Hank Pitcher. “If you’ve never seen a place or know about it, you don’t care about it. People see the paintings and become more motivated to help save the land. That’s really what the Oak Group is all about: a love and respect for the land.” RAY DAY Each year on January 3rd the group celebrates the birthday and legacy of its “painting father,” Ray Strong, with a paint-out and picnic (above, on Ray Day 2019). Known as Ray Day, the gathering is documented by the sole photographer in the group, Bill Dewey. “It’s a group that’s dedicated not only to their art, but also to the goal of preserving those places all of us need,” notes Marcia Burtt. u EXHIBITIONS Ray Strong: A Collector’s Passion , Wildling Museum, Solvang, through July 8, 2019. Icons of Preservation , Sullivan Goss–An American Gallery, Santa Barbara. Oak Group paintings of the beaches and coastal canyons of Santa Barbara County, June 29 through August 27, 2019. Celebrating & Preserving The Natural Environment Through Art n a vivid example of using powers for good, the Oak Group has been making a difference in the Santa Barbara landscape for more than 30 years. In 1986 renowned landscape painter Ray Strong joined forces with fellow artists Michael Drury, Arturo Tello, John and Larry Iwerks, Skip Smith and Erika Edwards to form a collective of preservation painters. Soon added to the group were Meredith Brroks Abbott, Donald Archer, Marcia Burtt, John Comer, Hillary DeFay, Nancy Noble, Hank Pitcher, Richard Schloss and Jon Wilsher. They all had a passion for painting outdoors, and became one of the country’s first groups to exhibit their art to help preserve open spaces and to protect land from development. Ray Strong, who passed away in 2006 at 101 years old, was a native of Oregon who studied in San Francisco and New York before moving to Santa Barbara in 1960 to paint diorama backgrounds at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. I By Nancy Ransohoff T HE O AK G ROUP Painting With A Purpose