Tag Archives: public space

I think it was my mother who once told me that the thing you worry about most is the thing that likely will never happen. I live by this, in a way. When I start to spiral about an issue or a problem, I remember it, and it helps me wade out of the darkness.

In the same vein, it’s impossible to know the breadth of good that can come from your actions as well.

It’s been almost two months since we Ebbed and Flowed through Santa Cruz, with our kinetic art parade, River ArtWalk, and Celebration of our river, the Tannery Arts Center, and our whole community. I’ve not been able to write about it because ten days before the Celebration, I landed in the hospital with an extremely rare condition that terrified all of us. Six days later I was out, but utterly waylaid. I managed to show up at the Celebration and even to stand upright for almost an hour, and participated in the unveiling of our Ebb & Flow Sculpture and Gathering Spot, spearheaded by the magical Kathleen Crocetti.

But the physical and emotional cost of attending the event was massive. There were so many people, such bright sunlight, so much to see, so many well-wishers, and I felt myself turning inward to protect my soul and my stomach, where my illness was centered. Ten days prior, when I went into the hospital, my first CAT scan sent everyone into a tailspin as it indicated that I should, by all rights, be dying. I wasn’t – but we didn’t know that for a couple of days. What my husband went through, what my friends and family went through, in those first early hours, I can’t imagine. All of it barely filtered through to me, in my pain and delirium. Ten days later, the day of the Celebration, we knew I was out of the woods, but I wasn’t ready for human contact, let alone a wild, wonderful, and joyful party.

But I knew I needed to be there, and wanted to be there, and it was truly glorious to see hundreds if not thousands of people along the parade route, the dozens of kinetic sculptures, and most of all, the stunning Sculpture and Gathering Spot. We energized the whole community around our river, and we created a permanent, beautiful, artful space for everyone to enjoy here on the Tannery campus.

Two months later, after a long and quiet convalescence, I’m mostly healed. I still cannot eat normally, and my energy is low. There is still an angry red mark on my neck from a hurried port that was connected there while I was in the ER. And I still feel reflective and protective and inward-facing and I hope my friends will be patient with me while I continue to emerge.

But in the midst of this, the world has fallen apart. The tragedy here at the Tannery Arts Center is unspeakable, unbearable. All of us who live and work here, steps from where the unthinkable happened, are faced every day with how we put one foot in front of the other. So many of us in Santa Cruz, at the Tannery and far beyond, feel shattered, devastated, terrified, even, sometimes, hopeless. As a mom whose heart is entirely intertwined with those of my boys, I’ve considered running for the hills, and never letting them out of my sight again.

So many of us want to do something, to be of service to everyone who is in pain, to find some light in this utter black darkness. It’s clear, though, that our time for action will be later, that peace and love and grace and quiet may be the right course, for now. But it’s been so hard to be a person of action in the face of crisis and to sit back and be still.

Hard, that is, until I spent a great deal of time looking out the window the past few days. Every time I lift the blinds, I see people at our Gathering Spot. Small crowds, big crowds, mostly Tannery residents, community members, strangers, together, talking, sometimes smoking, sometimes pacing, sometimes staring, even if not seeing, the stunning mosaics that meander around the Spot. I see children playing on the sculptures, adults with their arms around each other as they sit at the tables. I see hearts beginning the slow process of mending, or at least, sharing the pain.

All of us who worked on Ebb & Flow gave that space to this community. It was a gift the Tannery needed, and we couldn’t have known how important it would be when we were dreaming up the project. It’s a tiny thing, in the grand scheme of life, but sometimes we all just need a safe, quiet, and beautiful space where we can sit and be together. If that’s all I can do for now – well, it’s enough.

I will continue to put one foot in front of the other. I will continue to believe that my boys will be happy and safe, and I will do my best to let them discover the world without me constantly breathing down their necks. And I will give this grieving community the same space I continue to need to find our way back to each other. If and when it’s time for action, time to possibly create something else that celebrates the sweet life we’ve lost, I’ll be there. For now, I’m here. I’m quiet, but I’m here.

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Stuff of Dreams

My four-year-old often wakes in the middle of the night, anxious for answers to important questions: “Mommy, are robots real?” “Mommy, are giants bigger than Daddy?” “Mommy – the barf that flew out of my mouth last night – can we pretend it was fire?”


Andrew, four, fire-breather and dreamer

Though I’m tired of stumbling between his bedroom and mine in the wee hours of the night, I understand that his brain is on overdrive, and I adore his insatiable curiosity. (And believe me, his questions continue throughout the day.) The blessing and curse of these nighttime wakings is that my brain starts to spin, too – and while my boy dreams about robots and giants and breathing fire, I think about spinning sculptures, water dances, and wonderful new friendships. I think about Ebb & Flow.

Just over a year ago, I brought together some of my favorite people in Santa Cruz to brainstorm an idea for a grant opportunity. The California Arts Council had just launched its Creative California Communities program and it seemed a perfect time to join sandboxes with people both in and out of the arts world – likely, and “unlikely” partners, as we like to call them. From that first meeting, the Ebb & Flow River Arts Project was born. (You can read the full origin story here.)

ebb&flow color 6-1

logo mark by Doug Ross

Fast forward fourteen months and our program has become a movement. Our partnership is now a radical collaboration in which we share leadership, responsibility, and successes. It’s put the Arts Council’s work in front of people who didn’t know much about us. Most importantly, it’s bringing the community together to think about our river and RiverWalk in new ways.

I’ve been speaking about this program both near and far, and while it’s fun to share the various bits and pieces of awesome that comprise Ebb & Flow, the important thing is to reflect what we did right, to acknowledge how much of that “right stuff” was accidental, and to make those good choices intentional, moving forward.

But let’s start with the awesome. Ebb & Flow starts on First Friday, June 5th. Indulge me in a little imaginative trip, if you will. Start your evening downtown where we’ve closed off Cooper Street. There you can join artists, friends, neighbors and strangers to build two kinetic, mobile, river-inspired sculptures. After that, follow the nearest kids to First Friday venues for a scavenger hunt of artistic river critters. Once the moon rises, take a nighttime River Walk to see aerial dancing off a downtown bridge, watch an inspiring short film about our river, and witness a lighting ceremony of a new temporary public art piece that celebrates the ancient peoples of Santa Cruz.


One of the “Guardians of the River” by Geoffrey Nelson

The next day, put your kids in a Radio Flyer wagon or grab your best friends and some pinwheels, and join the Ebb & Flow Kinetic Sculpture Parade down the Santa Cruz RiverWalk.

Fish Bike Lee

Fish Bike by Lee Myers

Not only will you see some of the wackiest kinetic art Santa Cruz artists have to offer – you’ll also witness the unveiling of ten new temporary artworks along the RiverWalk. These stunning pieces range from huge sculptural fishing rods dangling from a bridge to black metal “ghost” silhouettes of riverboats and bears that once roamed the river to massive sculptures of coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Upstream by Kirby Scudder

Upstream by Kirby Scudder

End your kinetic parade journey at the Tannery Arts Center for the Ebb & Flow River Arts Celebration. See the unveiling of Kathleen Crocetti’s and Anna Oneglia’s stunning new Ebb & Flow community-built sculpture.

Kathleen Crocetti - Ebb & Flow Table

Kathleen Crocetti – Ebb & Flow Table

Dance to Marty O’Reily, members of SambaDá, Flor de Cana, and so much more. See inspired dance by Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center Youth Company, Te Hua Nui, and even BANDALOOP dancing off the Tannery buildings. Join the kids in getting river critters painted on your face; print your own Ebb & Flow poster with Doug Ross; take a short tour of the river behind the Tannery and learn about the birds and fish that call it home; get water wise by interacting with the Coastal Watershed Council and Save Our Shores; and leave motivated, inspired, and delighted with your new friends and new knowledge about what the San Lorenzo River means to Santa Cruz County.

At least, that’s how I plan on spending the day. With just over four weeks to go, it’s no wonder that my head is spinning at 2 AM, wondering how we can make this event not just a wonderful couple of days, but a lasting movement that transforms how our community loves and cares for our river.

There’s a lot of art in this project. And a lot of joy. And through joyous art-making and art appreciating, we are realizing the goals of Ebb & Flow:

  • elevate community water literacy
  • inspire economic activity
  • activate underutilized community spaces
  • strengthen cross-sector relationships
  • build stewardship of the San Lorenzo River
  • make awesome art!

That last goal is actually the means for getting everything else done.

So what did we do right? And what can we do better next time? Stay tuned, and I’ll blog about it soon. For now, make sure you don’t miss the awesome. Book your calendar for June 5th & 6th to witness the beauty, spectacle, and wonder of Ebb & Flow.

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