Cristal's Blog


January 16, 2023

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According to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art website, "The visionary leadership of Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree is responsible for the transformation in 1991 of the large residence left to the Museum by the remarkable Katharine Dexter McCormick into an important educational resource and center for SBMA's art-making programs.” Today, this place plays a vital role in the Museum's mission to integrate art into our lives. And while the Museum's Ridley-Tree Education Center (RTEC) at McCormick House has evolved over the years, the curriculum has remained at the heart of that mission, along with more than 27,000 pieces on display at the main Museum spanning 5,000 years of human creativity.

A little girl in a pink baseball cap painting at the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House

Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House

Conveniently located at 1600 Santa Barbara St, just down the street from the Museum in the heart of downtown on State Street, RTEC plays an important role in bringing arts and culture to Santa Barbara, especially for the younger members of our communities. Today, it is home to many of the Museum's interactive art programs for children designed to bring out their creative and innovative thinking through art.

Perhaps best known for its winter, spring, and summer art camps and workshops, the Ridley-Tree Education Center has a lot to offer. The site is home to after-school classes, teacher workshops, docent board meetings, an adult studio, parent-child classes, rehearsals, student art exhibitions, and receptions. In addition, the four classrooms are sunlit studio spaces open to the outdoors and serve as offices and studio prep rooms for the Museum's Teaching Artists.

A small group of kids doing art under an outside canopy at the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House

Over the years, RTEC has adapted to circumstances and requests from the Museum's non-profit partners. For example, it serves as classroom space for Crane School when that campus is closed due to the debris flow and fire, along with an extension of the classrooms of VADA and Knox schools. The center is also the site of innovative partnership and planning meetings with the library, poets in the schools, Opera Santa Barbara, AHA!, and the Santa Barbara Poet Laureate.

Perhaps the most dramatic, transformative role for RTEC began in 2017 when the Museum designated an apartment attached to RTEC as an artist residency. Since then, SBMA has hosted several distinguished, award-winning artists, writers, musicians, and scholars, making it possible for them to stay for extended periods in order to deliver lectures, readings, classes, performances and workshops, and participate in collaborative community programs with UCSB, SBCC, Westmont, and the Santa Barbara Symphony. A partial list of those in residence includes internationally renowned artists Valeska Soares, Charles Long, and Marshall Brown; writers Colm Tóibín, Rachel Cusk, Carmen Boullosa, Jane Smiley, Richard Rodriguez, and Patricio Ferrari; and composer-musician Ted Nash.

Two youngsters at an arts table working on a project at the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House

When Lady Ridley-Tree first envisioned the studio art-making potential of RTEC, she may not have even realized the importance of this timeless transformative teaching space. It is a rich and rare resource given by an even rarer woman of foresight, wisdom, grace, and generosity. The promise embodied in that initial gift is renewed in every drawing, painting, performance, and partnership made within its walls.

Ridley-Tree Education Center is just a part of the amazing art and culture offered in Santa Barbara. The Museum itself is home to some of the most important art ever created, including the most extensive collection of works on the West Coat by legendary French Impressionist Monet. In addition, the museum's "Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932," is known for being the nation's only intact mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about RTEC, an important part of our local culture, bringing visual riches to those of us fortunate enough to live here. If you're considering moving to any of our wonderful Santa Barbara area communities, please look at my comprehensive website. Then call me at (805) 886-9378, or email me at for a complimentary consultation.

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch