knows it has a treasure in its backyard. Nestled between Cooper Street, Vino Cruz and the back entrance of the MAH, Abbott Square is a peaceful enclave nobody really knows about.
The largest public plaza in downtown Santa Cruz, it's a quiet space with a fountain percolating at its center, cut from the same stones that were used to make its steps down to the street. The problem is, Abbott Square is a public space that nobody's really using.
"It's really underutilized just because it's tucked away," said Stacey Marie Garcia, director of community programs at MAH. "We'd love to see more families using it."
When took over as MAH's director, she listed revitalizing the stone square as one of her top priorities.
To get a new following to flock to the square, the MAH is sponsoring four Saturday "Art Markets" here throughout July.
The markets are designed to give a handful of diverse local artists a space to sell their art every week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Furthermore, it gives pedestrians a reason to come and linger for awhile.
"It's also a way of giving back to local artists who have been supportive of the museum," Garcia said.
On Saturday, July 7, the first market kicked off to a mellow start, with five artists selling pottery, paintings, collage, textiles and jewelry. Although it was quiet, all of the artists made a profit, according to Garcia.
"It's been kind of a slow day but it's been fun," said Ed Smiley, an artist at the market. Smiley's work mixes media compositions with layers and layers of color. "I brought all of my equipment to work on some pieces, it gives me a chance to talk to people."
"I'm in love with textures and colors and layers," Woods said. Her signature style is layering pieces of colored rice paper—creating third and fourth colors from the overlapping paper.
Woods has also taken up encaustics, the practice of amber-shellacking old book pages with wax and "hitting it with a torch." Her pieces are unique, to say the least, and affordable—a well-crafted necklace that seems like it could go for over $100 sells for just $20.
Saturday's Market Hosts an Eclectic Collective
This Saturday marks the second Abbott Square market. This time, five women from the Look Collective will be occupying the square with "wearable relics," "shrunken treasures," carvings, woodcuts, textile designs and much more. To see examples of their work, check out the Look Collective Etsy website.
The collective began in 2005 with house shows, which the group keeps up twice a year. Saturday's show is its first-ever public art show with all five members participating.
"A few of us had done shows where you pack everything up in the car and drive across San Francisco or something, and then we realized that we have a really great community here in Santa Cruz and we have always felt supported," said Bridgit Henry, a collective member who works at UC Santa Cruz in the print making department. She specializes in woodcuts.
The five female members started to host house shows, inviting supportive women whose work they liked and also got along with. Over the years, Henry said it's been inspiring to watch her peers grow as artists.
It's thanks to this openness to audiences and creative input that allows the Look Collective's members to go out on a limb with in their art, if that's where they want to go.
"That's the other thing, we don't really have a limit of what we can show," Henry said. "We're just encouraging each other to try different things."
The collective's house shows are typically held during the summer and in December, a few weeks before Christmas. Interestingly enough, the tanking economy seemed to actually do the opposite to their sales: people started delighting in picking up homemade, local gifts. The group's loyal followers and fans don't hurt sales, either.
If Saturday's market is anything like their house shows, in which attendees have to show up fifteen minutes early to get first dibs, then Abbott Square should be a very happening place to be.
"[The Art Market]'s definitely experimental, but if it works out then we'd like to do this again, maybe in the winter," Garcia said.
The Abbott Square Saturday Art Market is from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. in Abbott Square, located right behind the Museum of Art and History at 705 Front Street (across from Trader Joe's.)