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Dec 22nd
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Hot Off The Press

hotoffthepress1New arts magazine hits Santa Cruz

James Lafferty looks a lot like actor Jeremy Sisto, a thespian who has made his way up the Hollywood food chain by starring in indie flicks. Sisto found a way to break into a gritty industry with plenty of chutzpah and talent, just like his doppelganger, Lafferty. But Lafferty is trying a different niche. Instead of cinema, he’s happily elbowing his way into Santa Cruz’s publishing industry—indie style.

Last week, Lafferty launched his own magazine, a thin, vibrant, colorful publication called Clocktower Arts, which takes its name as a nod to the favorite downtown Santa Cruz landmark. The title also stands for the coverage that this monthly magazine is planning to handle—stories and profiles on artists and galleries, all in the downtown Santa Cruz area. Is there a hole somewhere in the coverage by local newspapers, arts-wise? As with any publication that serves a variety of topics, the arts can only get so much space in any one paper. Lafferty recognized the reality of coverage issues and felt that it was his duty to create a publication that was solely concentrated on the area’s fine artists.

“It became clear to me that there weren’t many things tying it (all of the arts) together,” Lafferty says. “The purpose is to provide a voice for the visual arts community in Santa Cruz. I think we’re at a point where we’re achieving a critical mass. You have First Weekends, First Fridays, the Tannery Arts Project, an outpouring of support for Night Light, and we’re reaching a point where the artists are becoming really important to the community. The artists have a chance to really articulate and talk about what they’re intending and trying to do.”

Lafferty got wind of the need for artists to have more ink not long after he met two local arts movers and shakers: Joe Hencke, co-owner of the Hide Gallery, and Kirby Scudder, director of the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Arts (SCICA). Lafferty, who has lived in town for six years and works a sales job in Scotts Valley, has long had an interest in writing and publishing, going back to his college days when he helped launch a student-run publication. When Hencke and Scudder exposed Lafferty to the local arts scene, it was as if the stars (or in this case the paintbrushes) were aligned.

Three months ago, Lafferty decided to embark on a creative quest—to envision, create, design and publish a magazine. The task? A difficult one, for sure. The price? Well, he admits to having sunk all his assets into this new baby of his. The reality? He made it happen. When word began to spread that Lafferty was tinkering around with this idea, writers, editors and artists stepped forward and helped transform his concept into a glossy spread.

hotoffthepress2The magazine comes to us in 27 pages, and it’s no shabby product. Sure, there might be a few typos here and there, but Lafferty has created a strong product straight out of the gate that has enormous potential. For a first issue, it definitely looks snazzy and the content expresses originality, particularly an article by local writer Richard Schaffer, who pens a first-person story about what’s called the “Art Fence.” It’s a one-of-a-kind story that I haven’t yet seen in any other local publications. How did Lafferty and friends land this story? It appears that Schaffer is acquainted with the artist behind this edgy, controversial wall, named Julia Black, although, that may not be her real name. Schaffer writes in his article, “she is known to no one in the Santa Cruz art community except myself.” The Art Fence is, according to Schaffer, “located between Fern and Coral streets off River Street.”

Also highlighted in this first issue of Clocktower Arts is an interview with artist Spencer Dempsey Jones, whose vibrant paintings are currently hanging at the Mill Gallery. A third story in the magazine features Bryant Austin, whose heartfelt photography exhibit on whales is on display at The Attic. A poignant poem by Gary Hoffmann is allotted a page, and the issue wraps up with a feature on Gina Tuzzi, an artist who explores the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘turf.’

For now, the magazine is focusing on art that takes place in the downtown gallery scene, but Lafferty hopes to expand coverage outside of the popular area; in fact, he says he’s already been talking with people at 17th Avenue Studios for input, as well as various Open Studios participants. Additionally, he hopes to possibly get MichaelAngelo Studios, the Museum of Art & History and others on board as well. But even if things do indeed mosey outside of town, Lafferty plans for the magazine to stay purely local.

“I would like it to serve as an ambassador to the region,” he says, “and see it carried in other galleries in San Jose, so they know what’s going on here.”

Clocktower Arts sells for $3.50 at the Hide Gallery and the Firefly Café at 131 Front St. In the future, the magazine may be sold at Logos and Bookshop Santa Cruz. For more information, visit clocktowerarts.com . Queries can be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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