February 23, 2024
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Editorial: New Bellosguardo board faces daunting challenge


In a move that may come to define her political career, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider has announced the 19 members of the board of the Bellosguardo Foundation.

The foundation’s role will be to determine the future of Bellosguardo, the estate located on the bluffs overlooking Santa Barbara’s East Beach. It was owned by the late Huguette Clark, who died in 2011 after leaving the property and an eclectic collection to a new foundation with a mandate to foster the arts.

Named to the board were a number of well-known tri-county community figures including Anne Towbes-Smith, Peter Jordano, Morris Jurkowitz, Sandi Nicholson and Jim Petrovich. Others include representatives of the Clark family, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Robert Day, who chairs both the Keck Foundation and Trust Company of the West in Los Angeles, film and television producer Dick Wolf and Jim Hurley, retired attorney to Huguette Clark.

The foundation remains very much an organization in formation. The Santa Barbara Independent reports that at least a year of work remains to straighten out arrangements between the estate and tax collectors.

Meanwhile it remains far from clear whether there is a consensus among community stakeholders about how a museum located at the estate might work in terms of public access and traffic management, providing funds for maintenance and operations at the estate and finding appropriate levels of staff to maintain the gallery.

Fortunately the board includes heavy-hitters such as those named above as well as Stephen Clark, vice president and general counsel at the J. Paul Getty Trust, who can guide the creation of a new museum.

The naming of board members is an important step in advancing the legal settlement with the New York Attorney General, family members and the New York Public Administrator’s office.

But the same question remains unanswered: Is there a reasonable chance that a new museum and arts education center can reasonably be created within the limits of the Bellosguardo property as it currently exists? Until we have a framework for an answer, the future of Bellosguardo is as big an enigma as Huguette Clark herself.