Santa Cruz Good Times

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Mar 30th
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Art Scene Reboot

ae_artsceneA new generation steps up to lead in Santa Cruz
Over the next few days, an air of intensity thickens around Santa Cruz—formerly the laid-back capitol of the Monterey Bay, now a pumping hub of interconnected creative outpourings in film, dance, visual, digital arts and music featuring plentiful opportunities to participate, rate, twit and stream video, soon appearing on a screen near you. Really.

The Santa Cruz Film Festival opens its tenth season with more local filmmakers than ever joining the international lineup. Tomorrow, as part of the First Friday Art Walk, UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media program melding arts, engineering, humanities and sciences premieres 10 multidisciplinary works created by master of fine arts graduates along with a talk by art/technology guru Steve Dietz and a performance of a new interactive opera.

Meanwhile, at the Museum of Art & History, filmmakers will hear about collaborations between MAH, the Film Festival, and the Art Walk: a contest for the best three-minute film created in five days.  Later, on the Westside, the Digital Media Factory premieres a pilot proposed for national television: Junk Art Scramble featuring teams of local artists. In the adjacent industrial building, Westside artists hang their Edge show at the R. Blitzer Gallery. Good thing the Art Walk now features a special iPhone application to keep track of friends.

“The previous generation left us with an incredible environment, vibrant institutions and beautiful community,” says Mayor Ryan Coonerty. “Many of us grew up taking SPECTRA arts classes, experiencing that kind of imaginative education. A new generation is stepping up to add our imprint.  Arts are at the center of our future economy, the creative economy.”

“Who will be the next generation of arts leaders?” says Michelle Williams, executive director of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County. “There is a new reality, audiences are asking for a different kind of experience.  Organizations have to be flexible, nimble and learn from all directions.”
Earlier this week Nina Simon assumed leadership of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History with a commitment to make the museum “a thriving, central gathering place for our community around art, history, ideas, and culture.” Recognized as one of the museum world’s most innovative thinkers, Simon is a declared change agent. In her writing, international museum consulting practice and interviews, Simon espouses an audience-focus for museums.

“I think there are a couple of key shifts-—away from a museum as a once a year or once a lifetime destination toward museums as a place for everyday use,” Simon says. “This museum has huge unrealized opportunity to reach out to and connect with a much broader part of community. …The energy of First Friday is growing, people coming out to have a personal experience around art. MAH can act as the content hub. I’d like to collaborate with the business community and also reach out to makers and crafters, opening up for artists in the lobby and plaza. A lot of kids in their early 20s are curious about the museum but never had a reason to connect.”

Artist Adrian Rasmussen, mainstay of the now defunct Hide Gallery when it was a magnet for young artists and audiences at The Mill, agrees. “Our way has always been to bring lots of people to work together, own it, use social media to tell their friends, everybody comes,” Rasmussen says. “Our museum should represent the global discussion—people need to see things that push them forward and inspire them. But there’s a bridge that has to be connected.  Most artists don’t deal well with bureaucracies, but they’ll do whatever’s needed.”

A few blocks away, the 418 Project has been an incubator for young performing artists for decades, director Ana Elizabeth welcomes MAH’s new direction. “Young people know what collaboration is, we just need to open up and follow that example. It’s a shift to consciousness about how you work together and create together … no matter what we’re doing: community, health, art, its all about how we relate and how we create together.”

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