John & Cheryl are two remarkable individuals committed to making the Lobero a better place.
Our stage recently received a major upgrade in the form of new, energy-efficient LED lighting equipment thanks to a generous donation from this couple.
Brandon Mowery spent an afternoon with John, who is an active member of the Lobero Theatre Board of Directors and Ghostlight Society, to discuss his enthusiasm for this project, supporting Cheryl’s artwork, and enjoying live music.
Interviewed by Brandon Mowery, Lobero Theatre Director of Development
”We are citizens of the planet. Theaters are potentially huge consumers of energy, so if we can reduce that, it’s our duty.John Gerngross
How did you end up here in Santa Barbara?
Flew out to LA for a job interview, took the bus up to SB to visit a college friend, got out at the Greyhound station, took a look around and I thought to myself, I think I’ll spend some time here. Well, it’s been 40 years and counting!
Tell me a little about Condor Engineering? What did it mean to start a successful business in Santa Barbara?
Condor was a company that made electronics for big airplanes. I kept my offices downtown because I love to walk around State Street. For me it was very gratifying to start a business out of my garage, and have it do well.
What are you most proud of?
First of all, I’m most proud of my beautiful family. They are the light of my life. And of the business that I created with the help of my employees. Just proud to be here in Santa Barbara, enjoying life.
About the Lobero
What was your first show at the Lobero?
Don’t forget you’re asking an old guy that question. [laughs] I remember Poncho Sanchez and so many of Jazz at the Lobero shows, which I truly love, and Ahmed Jamal.
One of the things the Lobero does is bring new acts to town that I am not familiar with. For example we saw Future Islands, whom my wife and I had never heard of, and they were fabulous. New energy and new music like that are very memorable.
How were you introduced to the Lobero board?
I was looking to get more involved in the arts in Santa Barbara, and the Lobero had always been my favorite venue. I love the small feeling, I love that there isn’t a bad seat, I love the acts, I love the quality.
What are some of the biggest takeaways from your involvement as a Board member?
My biggest takeaway is my ability to contribute to this great theater and to be part of something bigger than myself–something that I love and enjoy. Not only does it expose me to great entertainment, but also many respected people. I’m now connected to a part of their community, and I get to know everyone a little better. It’s an exciting dynamic.
What does the Lobero mean to you and what is its role in the community?
To me, the Lobero is the oldest, most important parts of the performing arts community. To be part of that is very compelling. It’s a great way to give back and makes me very happy.
You serve as a member of the Development Committee. What makes the Lobero worthy of private support?
Good question. The Lobero is a fabulous institution. It brings so much to the community that wouldn’t be possible without additional support. To know that this season and the following will benefit from our help–providing for not only us, but the entire town–it’s immensely gratifying.
Thank you again for your influential gift this year. What about the Lighting Package project appealed to you?
I am a technology guy, and the Lighting Package is the latest and greatest tech. It’s an obvious win for the environment.
Why is it important that we strive to improve our standing as a Green business?
We owe it to our community. We are citizens of the planet. Theaters are potentially huge consumers of energy, so if we can reduce that, it’s our duty. It’s important that we keep moving in that direction.
Are there other areas that you would like to see the Lobero improve when it comes to its carbon footprint?
Concessions are a big area that we can make more efficient. Less consumption of bottles and more availability for items on tap. Less waste. Less energy. Plus, customers will also enjoy shorter lines.
What are your hopes moving forward for the Lobero?
I’m excited to see us continue to present the types of shows we are known for, and also add additional genres of music. Not letting go of the old, and embracing the new.
Your wife Cheryl is a fantastic artist. What role do you play in that creative process?
I support Cheryl 100% in her art. In our creative process, I will often take the pictures and she will use that as the model for her painting. For instance, with her most recent Backstage cover, I staged several photos of young dancers, which she ended up taking as inspiration. That’s often how we work together.