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The History of Solvang, the Heritage of Denmark  
Past Exhibits

January 30 – April 17, 2016
The Evolving Perspective: Artist Joe Knowles

Joe KnowlesDebuting January 30 in the art gallery at Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is “The Evolving Perspective,” a new exhibition of two-dimensional work by artist Joseph Knowles. Viewers will find works from various periods of Mr. Knowles’ four decades as a professional artist.

The exhibition opens with a reception on Saturday January 30 from 4 to 6 pm. The public is invited to attend and meet the artist.

The major part of Knowles’ art making has been on paper, in pastel, oil, watercolor and ink. Although his subject matter varies from purely abstract to the highly representational, there are compositional and expressive ideas that carry through the body of work.

With a long-standing career in architecture, focused on geometry and sharp, man-made angles, the artist’s loose departure from those restraints is evident in many the works. As an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, he has focused in recent years on themes which also relate to his Indian heritage, including the extensive “Bison Series” of iconic buffalo images.

Some artworks are shown in diptych and triptych formats, evocative of the spiritual inspiration Knowles finds out of doors. Whether an imposing edifice of the canyons of Yosemite, or an individual blade of grass, he captures a variety of textures within his chosen medium.

Joseph Knowles was born in Santa Barbara, the son of two artists. He received bachelor of arts and architecture degrees from Stanford University, with minors in art and engineering. After college, he pursued a career in architecture, working for many years with the well-known Santa Barbara architect, Lutah Maria Riggs, F.A.I.A. In the 1960s, he entered the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam.

In the 1980s, Mr. Knowles left architecture to concentrate on art and graphic design, and also worked in a number of different areas from construction to sales. In the late 1980s and 1990s he lived in the Eastern U.S., returning to California in 2002. His art has been represented in one-person and group shows in Santa Barbara as well as in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Mr. Knowles lives on a small horse ranch and vineyard in Santa Ynez, CA, with his wife, Penny.

The exhibition remains on display through April 17.

Opening April 23
Culture and the Human Landscape of the Central Coast

This ground-breaking and extraordinary exhibit, debuting April 23, is an invitation to experience a broadly expanded way of perceiving art. The easily accessed and admirably executed work is a series of engaging portraits of local individuals, each of whom represents a part of a diverse local population. The Portraits of the Central Coast Project provides a multifaceted approach to the vision presented. Artist Holli Harmon and her inspiring team of support artists’ work illuminates the cultures that give our California region color, purpose, and meaning.


Each of these cultural portraits is an opening to how the individual person carries their culture forward and connects to the area’s community, as well as to the past and to the future. Through companion videos, each portrait subject shares their personal story and introduces the culture they represent.

In addition to the portraits, a series of monoprints explore how these cultures, landscapes, and individuals developed over time. Harmon uses layers of imagery like an archeological dig, employing repeating patterns and iconic symbols, the like Fibonacci sequence, which has inspired artists for hundreds of years. These motifs provide a web of meaning that connects our present-day culture and people to the past and opens a vision for the future.

The exhibition exceeds the usual limits of exploring subject matter, embracing and utilizing artistic approaches that include ancient practices, traditional work, and modern technology. Viewers will leave with an expanded and heightened sense of connection and community understanding.

Explanatory graphic works as well as a podcast guide the viewers through the multi-sensory exhibition. A catalog offers an overall view of how the various approaches and ways of expression are united in this show.

Exhibition programming builds upon the cultures and individuals represented with a series of dialogues with the subjects, interactive experiences, and a workshop.


Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is on the move with a pop-up gallery at the Montecito Bank and Trust, 591 Alamo Pintado Road.


Viking PaulElverhøj Museum of History & Art invites visitors to learn more about Scandinavian ancestors of long ago. The new Vikings! display includes stone age Danish tools, replica pieces, and weapons. Informative text and photographs tell of the Vikings’ role in history and in popular culture. For younger explorers, there is a hands-on display table and handouts about the Viking runic “alphabet.”  

“Viking” is a term used by modern scholars to refer to the Nordic-speaking peoples from southern Scandinavia who raided, traded and settled in Europe and the British Isles roughly between A.D. 793-1066. In addition to being the fierce warriors of popular stereotype, Vikings were sailors, shipbuilders, farmers, master artists, craftsmen, shrewd businessmen, and fearless explorers. Their activities stimulated political changes in Europe and Russia; created lasting new societies in Iceland and Greenland; and led to the discovery of North America 500 years before Columbus.

Viking axeThe museum has had the opportunity to add new artifacts to the existing collection. These items include a Viking era sword, an ornamental replica axe, and jewelry.

Schedule a private tour for your group or class by phoning (805) 686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org.

History, someone has said, is the stories we tell ourselves.  In Elverhøj’s Solvang Room, the so-called Scrapbook on the Wall — a series of large panels of photos and text — tells the stories of Solvang from 1910 to the present. A team of talented people have worked together for many months to assemble this special exhibit.
Just as with a personal scrapbook, material for these history panels has come from a variety of sources. We have rummaged through Elverhøj’s records to find historical treasures: oral history tapes, family genealogies, old letters, personal reminiscences, the museum’s extensive photo collection, local newspaper clippings, school board records, event programs, souvenirs and memorabilia, published and unpublished histories of Solvang, student theses on Solvang, and more.

The World at War      Reinventing Solvang

People have shared their personal photo albums, scrapbooks, and stories with us. Organizations have donated information about themselves. Other museums have generously assisted. A UCSB intern and a Cal State researcher contributed some expertise. Even the Danish embassy got involved and furnished photos of Denmark’s royal family.
What you can now see is a series of important vignettes or stories about key milestones in Solvang’s history rather than a complete and definitive history. The history panels start with Danish immigration to America, progress through the founding and growth of Solvang, and in a generally chronological way, guide the viewer through stories about local culture, influential people, and events. You can also read about Solvang cowboys, how the automobile came to the Valley, how Solvang reinvented itself, the three visits from Danish Royalty, and learn about ring riding and hitting the cat out of barrel, among other things.
Funding generously provided by The Valley Foundation, The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, MIS Associates, and Premier Imaging Products.


The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art encourages art exhibition proposal submissions from individual artists and artist groups. The guidelines are intended to help expedite the review of these submissions by insuring that each proposal is as complete as possible. Proposals for exhibitions at the Elverhøj must include both written and visual components.

A copy of the artist proposal guidelines is available for download.

Click to DownloadArtist Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)
Click to DownloadArtist GROUP Exhibition Proposal Procedures PDF (or DOC version)

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