.Full Spektrum: The Best Local Art of 2018

This seems to be a year that everyone is happy to forget, thanks to Brett Kavanaugh’s weird flexes, crazy Kanye and an Ambien-induced Elon Musk. So long Yanny…or is it Laurel?

But saying goodbye to a year of arts is more bittersweet. I’m not sure how many times I announced to our entire office that, “Oh my god, you have to go see this” in the last 12 months—the most recent being the Radius Gallery’s “Imagine Peace Now” show centered around gun violence.

When thinking about the Santa Cruz arts scene this year, what stood out was not only the magnitude of local events, artists and creators, but the determination for progress and optimism in spite of this year’s madness. There was the Introducing the Super Stoked Surf Mamas of Pleasure Point film debut, featuring five local mamas hangin’ ten in all of their preggo glory.

Profiles of local artists like Dana Richardson, Sarah Zentz, FJ Anderson and the Wenger family proved everyone has a story worth telling, especially those who almost got swept off of a Big Sur cliff. There were several of down-and-dirty stories, like when I went fishing for the first time (okay, not technically arts) or my intimate encounter with local wildlife while plein air painting. My backpack is clean now, thanks for asking.

The year began with a Resource Center for Nonviolence exhibit on black experiences and stories in Santa Cruz, which led to not only one of our most popular cover stories of the year, but more importantly, conversations about representation on a larger scale. Next was Tom Killion’s exhibit, “California’s Wild Edge,” at the Museum of Art and History (MAH), which celebrated the best landscapes of the California coast.

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Alongside the Killion exhibit was the countywide, 11-venue Spoken/Unspoken series.

The first countywide collaboration was a testament to the strength of the arts community, but also the originality that each arts space adds to the mix. The theme of Spoken/Unspoken was open to interpretation, and with such a vague topic, it’s no surprise that the exhibits varied wildly. While the MAH hosted discussions around death and reflection, the Cabrillo Gallery interpreted the theme more ambiguously with their surreal “Cyphers” exhibit that forced people to slow down and interpret artistic encrypted messages.

As the year went on, we celebrated identity with the Louden Nelson’s new mural about queer-youth history and visibility, then covered some pretty great parties, including Motion Pacific’s new dance and drag show. We honored longtime legacies like UCSC’s Rainbow Theatre’s 25th anniversary and the public library’s 150th birthday, and said a few too-early goodbyes to Cabrillo Stage Founder Lile Cruse and renowned local artist James Aschbacher.

There were shows that made me think (sometimes more than I wanted to) like lille æske’s “Spektrum” show, which prompted our staff, and seemingly half of Santa Cruz, to head up to Boulder Creek and see what all the hubbub was about. The exhibit was capped at 12 people a night (it was in a little wooden box, after all), and although the show was extended due to popular demand, there were many people that couldn’t get in—despite begging. But a little bird told us that there’s more in store for 2019 based on the Spektrum experience, so be on the lookout for that.

Santa Cruz did a fantastic job with holiday madness—between the Nutcracker, Tandy Beal’s Joy! and Mountain Community Theater’s Miracle on 34th Street, I’ve seen enough poinsettias and holiday lights to last until the cows come home.

On a personal note, I crossed off a few bucket list items this year, like throwing a fiery flaming Skee-Ball, thoroughly embarrassing myself in an interview with Michael Pollan, and simultaneously eating pizza and deep fried oreos in a kind of pizza-oreo taco. I also stupidly revealed my favorite diet-breaking New Leaf snack. No I won’t tell you what it is since New Leaf is always out of it now, you fiends!

On the horizon, we are looking to a new season of Santa Cruz Baroque and UCSC’s new Hunter S. Thompson collection, plus the unveiling of a new mural in Watsonville. But for now, farewell to another successful, vibrant year of local arts and cheers to the new year.


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