.Best of Santa Cruz County 2020: Arts & Culture

Find out what readers voted as the best arts and culture.

Best Author (Local) 

K.M. Rice

  1. Rice is an independent author of six published books. She dabbles in dark fantasy, political drama, young adult, historical fiction and romance.
  2. She contributed writing and research to the book Middle-Earth From Script to Screen: Building The World of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, an in-depth behind the scenes examination of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster film franchises.
  3. Rice hosts a J.R.R. Tolkien-themed web series with her sister Alex called Happy Hobbit. The series covers actual agrarian and culinary topics that any Middle Earth hobbit would absolutely adore.
  4. Rice wrote and illustrated her first book, The Haunted House, while still in kindergarten. Two decades later, she wrote her first published novel Darkling after stumbling into a haunted house
  5. Her books feature “brave young women,” as opposed to “strong female characters.” She prefers brave because strong implies that women are inherently weak. 

Aaron Carnes

Best Mural 

Mission St. Ocean Mural

  1. This was once an unsightly cinder-block wall separating Bay View Elementary School from busy Mission Street. But now, it’s a nearly 600-foot-long mural vividly illustrating the need to rid the oceans of plastic.
  2. The mural’s creation was spearheaded by painter and muralist Taylor Reinhold, Santa Cruz born-and-raised, who also founded Made Fresh Crew, a local artist-based collective that markets original designs on street clothes.
  3. The mural comes by way of the Fresh Walls Project, which recently announced in June it will host “Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans,” a 10-day event that its organizers are calling “the most significant urban beautification project in Santa Cruz history.”
  4. Over its long canvas, the mural depicts a dizzying variety of marine life in realistic detail, including sharks, squids, orcas, and many species of fish, presented in a continuum of ocean depth, from the shallows featuring human divers to the deep seas.
  5. The mural is just around the corner from another, smaller mural, by one of the county’s most prolific and popular muralists, the late James Aschbacher.

 Wallace Baine

Best Museum 

Museum of Art & History

  1. This place is a two-fer. Since its charter, the museum everyone lovingly calls “The MAH” has devoted equal measure to Santa Cruz County’s rich history along with exhibits of artistic expression meaningful to local audiences. Come for one and experience the other as a bonus.
  2. OK, it is really a three-fer. For the past decade, the MAH has been transformed into a kind of community center where friends and neighbors meet to experience their common interests.
  3. Abbott Square, adjacent to the MAH, has emerged as the de facto town square of Santa Cruz, putting the museum and its mission at the center of civic life.
  4. The MAH has a new executive director, Robb Woulfe, who takes the spot of transformational leader Nina Simon. It will be intriguing to see where Woulfe leads the institution in coming years.
  5. The MAH’s new exhibition, “Beyond the World’s End,” envisions the future of a climate-changed world and showcases the museum’s partnership with UC Santa Cruz.

 Wallace Baine

Art Event

Capitola Art & Wine Festival


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RUNNERS-UP First Friday, Open Studios Art Tour 

Art Gallery (Retail)

Artisans Gallery

1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8183, artisanssantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP R. Blitzer Gallery, Radius Gallery

Artist (Local)

Ed Penniman


RUNNERS-UP Marie Gabrielle, Yeshe Jackson

Author (Local)

K.M. Rice


RUNNERS-UP Laurie R. King, Jonathan Franzen 

Dance Lessons (Studio) 

Motion Pacific 

131 Front St. E, Santa Cruz, 457-1616, motionpacific.com

RUNNERS-UP Pacific Arts Complex, Tannery World Dance 

Festival (Art/Film)

Capitola Art & Wine Festival


RUNNERS-UP Santa Cruz Film Festival, Watsonville Film Festival

Festival (Music)

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music 


RUNNERS-UP Mountain Sol, Redwood Mountain Faire

Festival (Street)

Greek Festival 


RUNNERS-UP Capitola Art & Wine Festival, Pleasure Point Street Fair

Kids’ Art Program

Studio Sprout  


RUNNERS-UP Art Factory, Blue Apple Art

Movie Theater


210 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, 359-4523, landmarktheatres.com/santa-cruz

RUNNERS-UP Capitola CineLux, Del Mar Theatre

Mural/Public Art

Mission St. Ocean Mural

RUNNERS-UP Day’s Market, Shopper’s Corner


Museum of Art & History 

705 Front St., Santa Cruz, 429-1964, santacruzmah.org

RUNNERS-UP Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Photographer (Local) 

Shmuel Thaler 


RUNNERS-UP Devi Pride, Kendra Stone

Poet (Local)

Ellen Bass 

RUNNERS-UP Danusha Lameris, Gary Young 

Radio Personality (Local)

“Sleepy” John Sandidge  

RUNNERS-UP Rosemary Chalmers, “Ralph Anybody” Jeff Juliano 

Radio Station




Theater Company

Jewel Theatre 


RUNNERS-UP Cabrillo Stage, Santa Cruz Shakespeare

Read the full e-edition of the Best of Santa Cruz County 2020 magazine: bit.ly/BestOf2020Print


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