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Oct 06th
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Birth of a Wearable Art Ball

ae_mah_TobinKellerTheRoseQueenMAH’s bold Halloween outing promises to be a visual treat

Give a Santa Cruzan a reason to don a costume and he or she will not disappoint—the chimerical and freakish are celebrated on the streets of downtown each Halloween in all their outlandish splendor. As if Halloween alone were not reason enough, this year marks the first ever Wearable Art Ball at the Museum of Art & History (MAH), with the easy-to-work-with theme, Fractured Fairy Tales. Imagine the modern open space as a blank canvas on which to paint a whimsical Halloween portrait the Brothers Grimm would be proud of—the idea is simply a match made in, well … Santa Cruz.

“We are looking forward to having a great party where we can celebrate with our community,” says Karen Bush, membership director as well as head coordinator of the MAH’s Wearable Art Ball. “We are looking forward to seeing all of the amazing wearable art pieces that our creative community produces—that, and that it will become an annual staple of Halloween in Santa Cruz.”

It’s about time that the fanciful mayhem of Halloween has a reasonably controlled outlet for Santa Cruz citizens to express their creativity come Halloween night, a sentiment that Bush wholeheartedly agrees with. She shares that the Ball is something that she has pondered for years, and when she finally proposed the idea to Nina Simon, executive director at the MAH, it was a quintessential “aha” moment.

ae_mah_AngelaGleason“Santa Cruz is such a Halloween centered town, but we often hear ‘what’s the big event?’ or  ‘what’s going on downtown?’” Bush explains. “So we said, let’s be that cultural hub and the conversation evolved from there.”

According to Simon, the Wearable Art Ball was mainly inspired by the fact that Halloween is the Santa Cruz national holiday, and yet there's no anchor event downtown for revelers. “Santa Cruz is a community of Burners, masqueraders, and artists, and thus deserves a great event for such an energetic community,” she says.

The next step was to figure out the logistics of throwing such a grand scale Halloween costume party, but the gals at the MAH had a brilliant idea. Collaborate with FashionART Santa Cruz, which hosts the yearly wearable art fashion show—this is where the alchemical magic between costume party and wearable art gala truly takes place. “We called some of the folks from FashionART Santa Cruz and they were absolutely positive about the collaboration,” Bush explains. As part of this partnership, many of the wearable art pieces from current and past FashionART Santa Cruz shows will be on display at the MAH during the event to help set the stage for the evening.

ae_mah_RoseSelleryAmong the FashionART group that is participating in the event is Tobin Keller, who wears the many hats of gallery director, curator, instructor and co-chair of the Cabrillo College Art Department and art gallery. Keller simply hopes that the Wearable Art Ball will bring more fun into Santa Cruz for Halloween. “[With] the great setting of the museum, this couldn't be more perfect,” he says. “[The Ball will bring] a level of sophistication and creativity combined in a reasonably priced event with dancing and captivatingly outrageous costumes.”

And speaking of the costumes, what exactly can one expect to find at the first annual MAH Wearable Art Ball? With a theme like “Fractured Fairytales,” there is no telling what will pop up. Ludicrous versions of Little Red Riding Hood or Rapunzel? Perhaps a Cinderella on acid? The choices are only limited to one’s imagination, and for most Santa Cruzans, that situation should not pose an issue.

The credit for this year’s alliterative theme is due to Rose Sellery, artist coordinator for FashionART Santa Cruz. “We wanted a theme for the Ball,” she explains. “As I was thinking of traditional costume choices; fireman, pirate, wicked witch, fairy princess … I remembered, in the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons there had been a segment that was titled, ‘Fractured Fairytales.’ I always thought these were one of the best parts of the show. They took traditional fairy tales and tweaked them. What a great idea for a costume ball,” Sellery says. Thus the phantasmagorical theme for the event emerged.

In addition to the erratic array of costumes both worn by partygoers and models displaying pieces from the FashionART Santa Cruz runway shows, the Wearable Art Ball will feature a live DJ, specially created art, signature drinks at a no-host bar, costume contests and a sprinkling of Halloween surprises throughout the building.

ae_mah_SpringBrideDespite the talk about how Santa Cruz’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and the streets of downtown are a snazzy soirée of sorts, residents have voiced concern about the safety of parading down Pacific Avenue on Halloween due to the potential of violence. However, with the creation of this new event, excited All Hallows revelers will no longer have to worry about the ne’er-do-wells skulking about and can instead focus on flaunting their costumes to the best advantage.

Not that we need another reason to dress up for Halloween than the actual day itself, but creating a specimen of your own fractured fairytale—think crazy, twisted combos—into Halloween perfection takes the celebration from fun to phenomenal. And Santa Cruz lived happily ever after. The end.

The Wearable Art Ball comes to life from 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Museum of Art & History. Advance tickets are available for $20 at Tickets will be $20 with a costume or $25 without a costume. For more information visit


Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Leslie Lambert, October 31, 2011
Very creative costumes. Wish I had seen them in person. Great event idea!

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