This exhibition seeks to explore the visual imagination of the Dutch artist through immersive community participation.
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Immersive exhibits dedicated to the art and life of Vincent Van Gogh have become a worldwide phenomenon. There are currently dozens of large-scale digital shows that celebrate the Dutch artist, with more slated to launch in the next few months. And while they are certainly worth a visit, if you're looking for a truly immersive experience, a trip to Santa Barbara, California in March might be the way to go.

Santa Barbara visitors will not only be treated to a world-class museum exhibit, "Through Vincent's Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources" on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), but their exploration of the fascinating world of Van Gogh will continue after leaving the museum, too. That's because 17 organizations within Santa Barbara will offer a large range of events throughout the entire community; music, dance, theater performances, gallery installations, a virtual reality experience, and art workshops are all on the calendar.

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), The Wheatfield, 1888.
Credit: Courtesy of Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Richard A. Cooke and Family in memory of Richard A. Cooke, 1946

Highlights will include a series of six massive sunflower sculptures created by local artists and installed on Santa Barbara's State Street, a staged reading of the play "Vincent," about Van Gogh's life and work as told by his brother, performed at Ensemble Theater, and participatory art classes at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History dedicated to exploring the colorful world of natural pigments used by artists, as well as wine painting.

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), Road to the Outskirts of Paris, May-June 1887. Oil on canvas.
Credit: Courtesy of Private Collection, Larry Ellison

"Vincent Van Gogh's larger-than-life legacy continues to inspire art creation both locally and internationally. Our community was thrilled about this special opportunity to host the artist and his work, and to visibly celebrate by creating a new public art experience in Santa Barbara's historic built environment," Sarah York Rubin, the executive director of Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture, shared in an email.

Of course, the main event remains SBMA's exhibition, which opens on Feb. 27. It will display 20 paintings by Van Gogh along with works of art by another 60 artists and 75 objects that "seek to place Van Gogh in his late 19th-century context," according to the Santa Barbara tourism board.

From left: Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883), Peonies; Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), Bridge across the Seine at Asnières, Summer 1887
Credit: From left: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Joan Whitney Payson, 1975; Courtesy of Private Collection, Larry Ellison.

"Visitors will come away with a much richer understanding of Van Gogh's indebtedness to, not just other artists but authors who helped him develop his own approach to social realism," explained Eik Kahng, SBMA's deputy director and chief curator.

You can see the full schedule of events and participants here, and buy advance tickets for the exhibition on the museum's website.