Jim Kearns

Kearns photo
An art classroom of the Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN) is a work of art in itself. Organized jars of every medium imaginable—colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, beads, wood blocks, and clay—line the walls. Elegant sculptures of twisted wire and beads hang from the ceiling and a quilt of manipulated paper is displayed on a wall. A class of 2nd –grade students in paint-splattered smocks work diligently on their artwork. They giggle amongst each other about their pieces. “Mine is a crazy cheeseburger!” “I’m drawing an orangutan!”

One of the student races excitedly toward the front of the classroom, beaming as she holds up a sketch of a bird.

“Do you like it?” she asks Shannon Jaffe, Teaching Artist of the class. “Do you like it?” Shannon inquires, encouraging the young girl to reflect on her work. The student nods, a proud smile on her face, and hurries away to place her artwork on a windowsill.

Thanks to the work of iCAN, moments like this happen every day at numerous public schools in Santa Barbara. The mission of iCAN is to provide high quality arts programs to all students in Santa Barbara, particularly those least likely to receive them. For ten years, students in public schools who would otherwise receive little to no arts education have had the opportunity to learn skills and express their creativity through arts and music.

One of the primary visionaries behind iCAN is Jim Kearns, who helped to establish the organization in 2005. Jim had served several nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara—the Santa Barbara Foundation, Jodi House, Santa Barbara Museum of National History, to name a few—but it was his involvement with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) that led him in a new direction.

“Joining the Board of CALM opened my eyes to a world I hadn’t known,” he said. “I became interested in our community’s critical needs because of that experience.”

One critical need was early childhood intervention in underserved schools. Jim realized that in order to give children better outcomes in education, it is crucial to provide enriching programs in schools from an early age.

Jim noted to the Santa Barbara Foundation, “If we start addressing the issues sooner rather than later, we can help more people become productive citizens capable of solving their own problems.”

Inspired by this belief, and a long-held love of the arts, Jim set out to engage the community. Due in part to Jim’s incredible generosity, iCAN now serves nearly 3,000 children in eight SBUSD elementary schools and an intensive El Sistema- inspired after-school music program that now reaches over 120 students and their families every day at two Santa Barbara sites. Over seventy percent of these children learned English as a second language and ninety percent participate in free lunch programs.


In recognition of his philanthropy and profound vision for the students of Santa Barbara, Jim will be an honoree at the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s 2015 HOPE awards. The HOPE Awards annually honor individuals, organizations, and businesses in the Santa Barbara community that have made a significant contribution to public education. The Santa Barbara Education Foundation is pleased to invite the Santa Barbara community to attend this year’s HOPE Awards to honor Jim Kearns.


As for future directions for himself and iCAN, Jim says, “In just ten years, we have seen many young lives changed by the arts. And, always looking forward, we will be actively working with our community to provide these transformative creative opportunities for so many more to come.”


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