Cliff Sponsel Mural Unveiled


Cliff and Juliette Sponsel pose in front of the new mural. Photograph courtesy of Scott Gibson.

As the English writer Gilbert Chesterton said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is, whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” Cliff Sponsel, a talented individual and generous benefactor, has always lived life to the fullest, grateful for every experience that has come his way. Never taking a moment of his 102 years for granted, Cliff has expressed his gratitude by being a passionate philanthropist in this county for over 60 years. For his great commitment to Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation has honored his life and philanthropic stewardship with a mural permanently installed in the Juliette and Clifford W. Sponsel Boardroom.

The 160 square foot mural, made in the traditional seventh century Spanish Cuerda Secca style, is the product of a team of artisans led by artist Michael O’Kelly in association with Sean McLean and Richard Irvine of California Pottery & Tile Works (CPTW), and with design implementation, supervision, and lighting effects by contractor and designer, Juliette Cummins Sponsel.

The hand glazed mural is titled Giving Back - From Birth through Education to End of Life. Since moving to Santa Barbara in 1954, Cliff has led many Santa Barbara nonprofits to financial maturity and his stewardship has contributed to the stability and success of several key organizations, enabling them to bring lasting benefit to our community. The mural reflects many of Cliff's charitable passions including Planned Parenthood, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, and the Santa Barbara Foundation.

The mural also depicts the story of Cliff’s humble beginnings and his business career. Born in Cambria, New York, Cliff later went on to several professional roles with companies such as General Motors Corporation, Bell Aircraft Corporation, Ryan Aeronautics Corporation, Spectral Dynamics, Brooks and Shield, and American Car & Foundry. He was also the owner of Western Design and Manufacturing in Goleta, which manufactured aviation parts for missile guidance that are still being used in outer space today. The artwork features Cliff's creative endeavors as well, including aircraft he designed and engineered during the war years and his invention of the modern day thermostat, an important breakthrough for the American automobile industry.

“Cliff Sponsel is a talented individual and generous benefactor, and has always lived life to the fullest, grateful for every experience that has come his way,” said Ron Gallo, president & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Cliff has expressed his gratitude by giving back to his community. For his great commitment to Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation is honored to house this mural permanently installed in the Juliette and Clifford W. Sponsel Boardroom, named after the couple for their steadfast support of the foundation and its mission.”

Santa Barbara Foundation | 1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Main: (805) 963-1873 | info@sbfoundation.org