With the fifth-largest population of artists per capita in the United States, art is part of everyday life in Santa Cruz.
A stroll down Pacific Avenue reveals an abundance of sculptures, murals, installation pieces, stencils, street artists and sidewalk performers. Many shops and restaurants fill their walls with paintings and drawings from local artists. We have regular arts events and gatherings, and an entire live/work complex—the Tannery Arts Center—dedicated to creative pursuits. Any way you spin it, Santa Cruzans love their art.
Here are five projects which showcase local talent, serve to connect and grow the creative community, and support working artists.
Ebb & Flow
June 18, San Lorenzo River
The Ebb & Flow River Arts Collaborative aims to reconnect the Santa Cruz community with the San Lorenzo River that runs through it, via a day of river-themed art and activities. With a focus on educating the community about this important water source, turning the RiverWalk into a thriving public space, inspiring new relationships between artists and environmentalists, creating art that tells the story of the river, and bringing people together, this event is one of the most exciting new arts projects around.
On June 18, Ebb & Flow invites residents and visitors to help create a collaborative, temporary sculptural event that highlights the landscape, local flora and fauna, and the history of the river. Information: artscouncilsc.org/ebb-flow.
Open Studios Art Tour
October 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, various locations
One of the high points of the year for the Santa Cruz arts community is our Open Studios Art Tour. Presented by Arts Council Santa Cruz County, the three-weekend event features more art than one person can possibly take in, and an easy way to access it via a self-guided tour of local artists’ homes and studios. Showcasing creations from painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, graffiti artists, bookmakers, metalworkers, printmakers, and much more, the tour is a fun way to connect with Santa Cruz’s art community. It’s also a great excuse to see parts of the county that you had no idea existed. Information: artscouncilsc.org/open-studios.
First Friday Santa Cruz
First Friday of every month, various locations
You don’t have to go to a gallery to see art in Santa Cruz (though we do recommend visiting some of our fantastic art spots). You can simply step into coffee shops, restaurants, salons, clothing stores, banks, and a variety of other locations to take in the finest local creations. First Friday is a fun and lively way to take it all in, as many locations host openings and special events. Grab a copy of Good Times the Wednesday before the first Friday of the month, check out the First Friday program inside, and start planning your route. Information: firstfridaysantacruz.com.
Capitola Art & Wine Festival
September 10-11, Capitola Village
The Capitola Art & Wine Festival is a long-running favorite of local artists and art lovers. Held in charming Capitola Village, overlooking the Monterey Bay, this free event features more than 160 artists, 23 Santa Cruz area wineries, kids activities, music, street performers, food and more. This year marks the 34th anniversary of this family-friendly event. Information: capitolaartandwine.com.
Public Art Walking Tour
Self-guided, various locations
One of the best ways to experience Santa Cruz’s vibrant art scene is to just take a walk. You won’t have to go far in any direction to find a mural, sculpture, or other piece of public art. If you want to get serious about seeing all that the area offers, check out the Public Art Walking Tour. Compiled by Santa Cruz City Arts, a local public arts advocacy and support organization, the self-guided tour features everything from painted utility boxes with heartwarming illustrations to sculptures of Santa Cruz historical characters to giant installation pieces big enough for the kids to climb on. Information: santacruzcityarts.com/tour.