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Sculptour uses downtown Santa Cruz as a gallery

sculptureusesdtscgalleryThree-dimensional artists bring art to the avenue

She may have had a highfalutin job and a six-figure income, but Marilyn Kuksht wasn’t living a fairytale. She was 40 and a senior vice-president of a bank in San Francisco. But something didn’t feel right. So she took a little time off to go scuba diving. Somewhere, floating through the deep blue, she came across a stunning site off the coast of Cozumel.

“I remember this beautiful brilliant blue and a gorgeous coral reef and it … resonated in me,” Kuksht says. “I had a rosewood appointed office and 25 more years to look forward to (in the banking business) and [I knew] that was not where I wanted to be. I needed something tangible.”

So within two months after returning from her scuba diving adventure, Kuksht moved on from her banking job and started her own small company, where she decided to take the vision she had seen in the ocean that one day, and somehow bring it to stale, corporate office environments. At first, her mission was to create moss gardens, but she soon learned that her new creative idea didn’t exactly work well indoors. (Moss has a tough time inside.) So her concept began to morph into floral designs for businesses. Keep in mind that she had no former experience as a florist or artist of any nature.

But her fairytale was about to begin. At one point, she created a floral display for a gallery on a waterfront in San Francisco that was 13-feet long by 7-feet tall. “I used the chewing gum and bailing wire approach,” she says. “I made a bargain with the Universe. Let it hold together and I’ll take a welding class and learn how to …  safely support something like this.”

She quickly got into an automotive repair welding class and things took off from there. “My friend saw some sculptures [I began making] and took them to an art gallery where I was doing the flowers and set it on a desk … they sold my first piece of art for me. … One of the great things of having no training was that I was trained for failure. A lot of art schools tell people they can’t make a living so keep your day job.”

But Kuksht decided not to take that route. By then, she had already ditched her day job, and she began moving into making sculptures. For the last 15 years she has been making her living as a working artist, creating large-scale metal sculptures that are displayed in galleries across California and beyond.

One of her pieces, “Virgin Moon,” will be on display near Jamba Juice on Pacific Avenue, as part of a public art program called Sculptour. The project goes like this—seven artists have been chosen to display their sculptures for the next year or two at designated locations on our main drag. Crystal Birns, arts coordinator for Santa Cruz City Arts (an art program for the city), is the go-to person for the project. Her department is working with other city agencies on this beautification program.

Besides Kuksht and her “Virgin Moon,” other artists included in Sculptour include Michael Eckerman, Ron Lion, Kirk McNeill, Jamie Abbott, Aaron Van de Kerckhove and Paul Cheney.

“For most three-dimensional artists, there are not a lot of galleries to showcase [their work],” says Birns. “Some [of the pieces in Sculptour] are abstract, some are figurative. The largest sculpture is about nine or eleven feet. Pacific Avenue is a really colorful place and Santa Cruz is an incredibly rich and creative place. It’s going to be a really accessible exhibit for a lot of people.”

“I get a lot of chances to share my work publicly, but not in my home town,” Kuksht says. “This is a wonderful chance to get work out in my own community.”


Sculptour, presented by Santa Cruz City Arts and other local agencies, will present seven sculptures along Pacific Avenue for the next year. A reception will be held in honor of Sculptour and its artists from 6-7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21 at the Museum of Art & History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. Admission is free.

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