.Pajaro Valley Arts Reopens Gallery, Welcomes New Executive Director

After a year of being shuttered due to the pandemic, Pajaro Valley Arts (PVA) has once again fully opened its gallery to the public.

On April 9, the organization welcomed back the public with the start of its annual fundraising exhibit, “Take Aways: Art to Go!” Now in its eighth year, the show invites art lovers to come browse and take home pieces the day of purchase. A portion of the sales supports PVA.

A few days before opening, curators Jane Gregorius and Chris Miroyan were busy putting on the final touches at the gallery at 37 Sudden St. in Watsonville.

“We’re over the moon to be back,” Gregorius said. “It’s just so nice to be here, to see real art. It’s real stuff—it’s not on a screen.”

PVA had just opened its exhibit “Campesinos: Workers of the Land” when everything shut down in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The nonprofit got to work bringing it and other shows to a virtual format, and even held a modified version of its annual “Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” exhibit.

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“Which was lovely,” Miroyan said. “But definitely not the same.”

This year’s “Take Aways” includes close to 800 pieces by 79 local artists, covering a multitude of mediums. While the exhibit usually features more established names, this time, about 10% are emerging artists.

“We wanted to open it up a bit this year, and give more opportunities to newer artists,” Miroyan said.

All of the work is priced under $300, which Miroyan says makes the show a lot more accessible and, thus, more is sold.

“It’s an opportunity to buy some really fabulous art by some incredible artists, at a very reasonable price,” Miroyan said. “And the artists really want to see us thrive … and they’re making money, too. It’s a win-win-win.”

As its gallery reopens, PVA is also welcoming some new faces to its staff. On March 22, Valeria Miranda took over as the organization’s new executive director. She replaces Linda Martin, who had held the position since January 2019.

Miranda, who is originally from Brazil, has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. Artistically, Miranda’s primary medium is dance, but her professional background is in arts museums, both working in and consulting with them, as well as arts education. 

“I’ve always been so passionate about how exhibitors and art have the power to change people, the way they think, the way they imagine the world,” Miranda said. 

Miranda has been in Santa Cruz County for the past two decades, and during that time observed PVA and its projects. She says she is honored to join the organization at such a transitional time.

“PVA is working on so many amazing projects and is really poised for growth,” she said. “That was definitely one of the things that got me into applying for the position. It’s such an amazing opportunity to join the organization at this time.”

In addition to Miranda joining PVA, the organization’s board has changed over the past year. Gabriel Medina of Digital NEST and Calavera Media has stepped in as president, and the board has several new members.

“We’re really excited,” said PVA’s Judy Stabile. “Quite a few of the new board members are so enthusiastic, so willing to work, wanting to make the organization better.”

Added Miranda: “I think it’s exciting that the board has such a meaningful range of ages, backgrounds. Everybody is really united about the growth of the organization.”

PVA is also continuing to look for a new home. Last month, its purchase of the historic Porter Building in downtown Watsonville was halted due to the Surplus Land Act, which requires jurisdictions to make certain properties available to affordable housing developers before being sold.

Stabile admitted that they were disappointed, but said they aren’t giving up just yet.

“We’re practicing our patience,” she said. “I know this is a delay, but it doesn’t mean it’s over. There’s still a chance we could end up with the Porter building. But I think it’s important that we look at all our options because really, what we’re trying to do is serve the community. And we’re really outgrowing our little space.”

For now, the organization will celebrate its reopening and start reconnecting with the community.

“Being able to work with the artists … seeing people laughing, having fun in the gallery, it’s just incredible, being able to connect one-on-one with people again,” Stabile said.

Miranda said that joining PVA just as art galleries across the state begin to reopen feels “amazing and auspicious.”

“This is what we do,” she said. “We thrive on people’s reactions to the art. Being in a gallery with folks is what we live for. Personally, it grounds me, and reminds me why I do what I do.”

Pajaro Valley Arts’ gallery is open by appointment only, Friday-Sunday 11am-4pm. To make an appointment to see “Take Aways: Art To Go!” visit pvarts.org/appointment.

A poetry reading to go along with the exhibit will be held Friday, April 16, from 6:30-8:30pm via Zoom featuring Medina, Alex Rocha and Claudia Meléndez Salinas. More information can be found here.

“We are extremely proud of how the show came together,” Gregorius said. “And we’re so glad to have people back.”


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