Ruth Ellen Hoag’s Funk Zone Mural

Artwork Captures Decades of History

Ruth Ellen Hoag with her funk zone mural.

Paul Wellman

Ruth Ellen Hoag with her funk zone mural.

The subject of this large and brightly colored diptych adorning the Impact Hub building is nothing less than a visual history of the Funk Zone, told through portraiture. Eliding strict chronology in favor of a dreamlike simultaneity, artist Ruth Ellen Hoag has painted layers of Santa Barbara life across two adjacent panels that face across Yanonali Street toward the Test Pilot. At the bottom of both images are the rollers — skateboarders, cyclists, and bladers of all descriptions and from all eras, many of them recognizable to sharp-eyed and knowledgeable observers. At the top, surfers, sailors, airplanes, and other assorted flyers share headroom with the nearby train, which pokes into view from the southeast, just as it does behind the building in real life.

Commissioned by the Arts Fund and organized with the blessing of the building’s owners, “East of Yesterday” reflects Hoag’s research at the Gledhill Library and her interest in restoring to the neighborhood some of the characters who walked its streets decades ago. Using props, gestures, and familiar facades to contextualize her figures, she has merged past and present in a joyous celebration of the Funk Zone then and now. Fishers and surfboard shapers share the two grand scenes with brewers, vintners, fruit harvesters, and artists in a block party that defies time.

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