.How the Liminal Space Collective Fosters Strong Community Bonds Through Art

As the Circle Church nears demolition, the Santa Cruz arts hub searches for new digs

Foam clouds and Tibetan prayer flags hang above. A psychedelic liquid light show is projected behind Santa Cruz jam band Superblume. Frontman Nate Smith sports a tie-dye onesie and smiles. The music grows and bounces from genre to genre—the crowd screams over a country rock tune while clapping in rhythm. A friendly mosh pit starts. Younger concertgoers look out for some of the older attendees. The camaraderie is evident.

Dancers gyrate as Smith croons, “Put on your dancing shoes/ We just want to be with you.”

The singer tells the crowd that they canceled a show at Felton Music Hall to play the Liminal Space Collective at the Circle Church. Santa Cruz is changing, and Superblume reiterates their commitment to protecting spaces like the one they’re performing at.

SURVIVAL OF THE ARTISTS

Over several months, two hundred artists produced a creative heartbeat of art and community at the Impermanence Festival.

“This is really important,” Smith says. “Everyone in this room is important.”

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Several years after the Circle Church was sold in 2017, the Circle of Friends Cooperative housing group gave it to Liminal Space, which grew and now has 60 members. Events will continue through the end of May until the church’s planned demolition. 

The demolition is to make way for 12 single-family homes after the Circle of Friends bought the property in 2017, Brett Packer, liaison for the housing project, says. He adds that up to 20 families could live there if lot owners also built accessory dwelling units. 

Packer says spaces of any kind continue to become more expensive in Santa Cruz, making it difficult for artists and community-driven groups to stick around.

“It’s harder and harder to find an affordable space for art and community to happen,” he says. “Space is at a premium in Santa Cruz. An artist coop in midtown was active for 10-15 years and just closed after the landlord kicked them out.”

Liminal Space hopes to carve out a niche for creativity and community amid Santa Cruz’s high cost of living—the now-empty Logos building is one possible space—but it isn’t going to be easy, notes Weston Mossman, Liminal Space founder, creative director and artist.

“We’re going to need as much support as we can get,” he says. “We’re looking at places downtown, particularly Logos, a historic space in an area kind of in need, where lots of people have fond memories and friendships.”

CREATIVE SPACES

The Liminal Space Collective began in December 2021 at 11th Hour Coffee. The group made art weekly via Art Meetup Santa Cruz at Sunny Cove in Live Oak. 

“Every week, we came together to make art easy, fundamental and part of our existence. It gave me permission to make a mess and realize it was beautiful,” Mossman says. “It also provided me with a beautiful community. We’ve always had things to say and wanted to be together since we believe creativity and expression matter.”

Michael Leeds, whose Santa Cruz Ironworks is near the 11th Hour, expressed interest in Mossman’s idea and connected him with the Circle of Friends cooperative. A little over a month later, the group held their Northern Lights event, which pays tribute to liminal spaces—places in transition, between one destination and the next—between light and dark: hence, Northern Lights. 

“It was a space in transition, liminal,” Mossman says. “We’re in transition, our art, our soul and community are, and that was something that resonated with lots of people.”

Leading up to Liminal’s Impermanence event, Mossman’s partner, Tiffany Thisner, invited neighbors to a town hall where they could voice any concerns. There, they met a neighbor who volunteered to be a fiscal sponsor. Any neighbors who attended received a discount rate.

“Since Covid, everyone feels disconnected from each other and their passions, and we aim to change that,” Mossman explains. “Liminal Space is where people can come together over shared goals of expression, interaction and immersion to connect, share skills, collaborate and turn their dreams into reality.”

There are some similar spaces for expression throughout the area. Vision Sanctuary on Cedar Street provides visual art, and Idea Fab Labs provides a space for fabrication and partners with Liminal Space. There are talks of Vision Sanctuary combining its studio and gallery with Liminal soon.

Trellis is another small gallery and art space across the street from Idea Fab Labs and opens during Fab Labs’ events. Meanwhile, 17th Avenue Studios is another collective of artists that share space and create art together in Live Oak. 

Santa Cruz County officially encourages these spaces. County spokesperson Mark Hoppin says a public art ordinance requires calls-for-art for significant developments.

COME TOGETHER

Behind colorful boxes spelling out “Impermanence,” everyone lies on the floor in the main room. Psychedelic art surrounds a note-filled mandala, and calming synth music faintly fills the space.

Fire spinners and dancers twirl on a metal circle in a gym-sized room. Through an endless series of rooms, up a jellyfish staircase, there’s an ethereal area with a crawl-through chrome entrance.

Green, purple and orange messages like “You’re beautiful” and “Be Here Now” emerge from sculpted, magical trees in Wendy Frances’ room, who created the space over many months with friends, including Jes Cardenas, who crafted the entry.

“I love the blending of ideas and communication of artists,” Cardenas says. “It flows like the ocean and the water, especially Liminal Space.”

“It looks so good,” attendees said. “I can’t believe they built this up here.”

As Frances walks up the stairs, she says another show inspired her.

“I went to an exhibit in San Jose, ‘Subzero,’ which had writing like this,” she says. “My dreamscapes were like this, too. I was amazed by the participants’ love. I was telling people to write their darkest dreams and fucked up secrets; I got nothing but love in there.”

Shirin Ketab, who painted a mushroom mural, says, “This is one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of. All the art was made by 20- and 30-year-olds with their own money.”

Around the corner, Stan Land has a line out the door for most of the evening. Participants sit in a boat cart pulled through Stan’s “River of De Nile,” a portal into his mind—you look out of his eyes, kind of like Being John Malkovich. Then, you find a mirror in the “Tunnel of Acceptance” where you find yourself.

Creator Katie Gentile often works overtime; sometimes, she chooses art over sleep.

“My favorite part was the calm the day before,” Gentile says. “Everyone was tranquil finishing up installations. I walked into others’ spaces and heard their processes, how they learned about themselves by putting all this time and energy into expression.”

FUTURE SPACES

The group wants to use its momentum to grow further and use Logos to connect with the former bookstore’s history, adventure and community.

“It’s been vacant for years,” Mossman says. “We’re interested in connecting with those stories. It was expensive. We’re looking into assistance and need government and community support. We would appreciate people connecting with us—donors, real estate agents, nonprofits or people who can help.”

The group is also putting on a new series of events called Liminal Space Perseverance. While the church is planned to be demolished, attendees will be able to see updated installations, new experiences, a lounge and hear live music. The grand opening is on May’s First Friday and every Thursday and Saturday evening until demolition. Coffee and elixirs will be available for purchase at the 11th Hour.

Mossman says the events will be significant for anyone who missed the festival or loves it so much they want more.

“If anybody wants to see a new, more directed modality for the installations and a community space in the gallery, these events will be up their alley,” he says. “Please help keep community interactive art a staple in Santa Cruz.”

Visit liminalspacecollective.com for all event information and follow @liminal_space_collective

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