Successful artist Inga Guzyte credits SBCC as being a key part of her artistic journey, where she was exposed to a wide array of mediums, ideas, and studio experiences. Since graduating with honors in 2010 and earning an Associate in Arts degree with an emphasis in Art Studio, her work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions, and will be included in an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2022. Out of more than 2,700 entries, Guzyte’s sculptural portrait will join just 41 others in the exhibit.
Born in Lithuania, Inga grew up in Germany and came to California to attend SBCC. In 2021, she had a solo show at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. This was one of two solo and several group shows she’s had at the gallery. Her work was well received, and created quite a stir. The show sold out quickly—the first to do so in the gallery’s history.
Around the time of her show, Inga was featured in a cover story in the Santa Barbara Independent in December 2021, Rebels on Decks — Inga Guzyte’s Art of Recycled Skateboards Takes Off.
Nina Warner, one of Inga’s professors, and the chair of the SBCC Art Department at the time, said, “I am so proud of Inga’s accomplishments —she is just a knockout artist who has worked really hard to learn her craft and understand the creative process. The faculty unanimously voted her as our ‘outstanding student of the year.’ She showed her aptitude and work ethic throughout her time at SBCC. I always tried to instill a respect for craft and problem solving in the art process. Many students just want to express their creativity and don’t have the long view of what it means to be an artist. Inga understood this, and she put in the time and focus along with her prodigious talent to develop her own vision as an artist.”
Below is Inga’s inspiring story, in her own words:
Growing up, I remember being complimented on my drawings I did at school, but I didn’t have anyone in my family to look up to when it came to art. Only in recent years have I learned that my grandfather was a hobby photographer and that one of my grandfather’s female relatives (aunt) was an artist. I was excited to inherit her sketchbooks that date back to 1900.
I came to SBCC without an artistic background. I only knew how to use a pencil and a pen, so the exposure to art at SBCC was extremely important for my artistic journey. I like to say that it blew my mind to find out what art is, or could be, and the possibilities seemed to be endless. The first classes I took that helped me think outside the box were in printmaking. I never really knew what printmaking was before taking those classes. At first, I thought this was going to be my medium, but as I continued to search and grow as an artist, it turned out to be sculpture. In the end, I was able to bring together the things I loved most—art and skateboarding. Skateboarding was a big passion of mine as a teenager, and a bit like an invisible mentor, ultimately bringing me to California.
At SBCC, I was very humbled by the fact that the art classes were taught by professional artists. All of the teachers I had were very supportive and accepted me for the shy busy-bee that I was. I spent a lot of time in the sculpture department, just working away in the woodshop with the tools supplied by the college. SBCC also gave me the opportunity to make a lot of friends from all over the world, many of whom I am still friends with to this day.
Another very important feature at SBCC is the Atkinson Gallery, which gave me a glimpse of the gallery world, where artists can submit their work and potentially win a prize or an award. I always enjoyed attending the art show openings at the Atkinson Gallery. I ended up winning a 1st Place and a Merit Award, and was also awarded several scholarships: the “Sculpture Excellence Scholarship,” a “Studio Art Excellence Scholarship,” and the “Ludington – Parshall Scholarship.”
One of my most exciting memories at SBCC was the Alison Saar art show curated by Dane Goodman. I was one of the few fortunate ones who got to meet Alison and her mother, Betye Saar (both are well-known artists), and assist with an edition of their sculpture, “Inheritance.” Little did I know back then, Alison Saar’s work would have a huge influence on my work today.
There were so many experiences at SBCC that prepared me for my post-college journey that after graduation I skipped going to university and decided to take the plunge into my art career. To be honest, I could not afford to go to university, especially as an international student back then. I did not shy away from curating my own art shows and exhibiting my work while attending SBCC, so galleries like Sullivan Goss took notice of my work. I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to university, it’s just that it wasn’t in the stars for me. I had to make up for it with a lot of hard work.
After graduating I got my courage together and went out there to pursue my art. To stand out and be heard as an artist is a challenge, and getting noticed feels kind of like a needle being found in a haystack. So, I have created a lot of artwork, grown as an artist and a person, and have had a lot of art shows. I am proud and honored that my work will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. this year. I think the most important thing for me as an artist is to be heard, understood, and appreciated. And my goal is to amplify the voices depicted in my work, as they need to be heard. This is what fulfills me as a person, and everything else just falls into place.
The best thing I’ve done since graduating from high school in Germany was come to SBCC to study art!
To view Inga’s work, visit Ingaguzyte.com.
Photo of Inga Guzyte by Chris Orwig.