Quick Take:

With its new ‘Take Aways’ art show, Pajaro Valley Arts in Watsonville is reminding local art fans of Santa Cruz County’s creative legacy — and how to put it in their own homes.

If there is some kind of hybrid creature between a traditional art gallery and the corner home-furnishings store, this spring the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery in downtown Watsonville might be the thing.

Now through May 23, the PVA Gallery is hosting “Take Aways: Art to Go 2021,” featuring the original art of 79 Santa Cruz County visual artists. In all respects, the new exhibit is exactly what you would expect from a traditional gallery show, a dazzling diversity of styles and mediums from an impressive roster of local artists. But there’s one key difference.

In this gallery, you can buy the art right then and there. You can take it off the wall and bring it home.

Figurines are among the art pieces.
Figurines are among the art pieces. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Visiting the charming old Victorian on Sudden Street in Watsonville, I got a sense of how this concept works. Participating artists are mostly displaying many small works — for example, Ann Thiermann’s small wildlife acrylics, or Melissa West’s socially conscious linoleum-block prints.

That means, when a piece is sold, the artist returns to fill in the newly blank space on the wall with another small piece in the same style or theme.

Though it retains the aesthetics of a gallery show, the “Take Aways” set-up also embraces a kind of variety that is a hallmark of retailers, featuring everything from paintings to sculptures to jewelry to pottery.

If you’re not drawn to Liz Crain’s beguiling porcelain-yarn creations, you might be drawn to John McKinley’s amusing cartoon-like portraiture.

(Because pandemic protocols remain in place, “Take Aways” is only open by appointment and only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Only 10 people at a time can be in the building.)

John McKinley's humorous portraits are part of PV Arts 'Take Aways' show in Watsonville.
John McKinley’s humorous portraits are part of PV Arts ‘Take Aways’ show in Watsonville. Credit: Via PVA

Naturally, the price tag has to play a role in a show of this nature. In this case, the show is a fundraiser for PV Arts, one of the most active and dynamic visual-arts organizations in the county. In the spirit, the price is capped at no more than $300.

“Many of these artists sell for much more,” said Chris Miroyan, one of the show’s two curators. “To keep the price range at $300, they are just naturally going to do smaller work. And that’s why, in part, people get so excited about this show, because some of these artists are out of their reach, and this puts it within their reach.”

The small scale makes the art more approachable, as well. Rose Sellery, the long-time gallery curator at Cabrillo College, usually creates much more expansive work. But here, she’s offering small figurines of angels wrestling with booze and drugs, in keeping with the dark and light interplay in her work.

“Take Aways” coincides with another PV Arts production, a Zoom poetry reading similarly called “Pandemic Take Aways,” in which three local writers will be reading works reflecting on the pandemic year.

The live reading takes place April 16 at 6:30 p.m. and includes Watsonville writer/poet Alex Rocha, filmmaker and producer Gabriel J. Medina, and journalist and UC Santa Cruz grad Claudia Melendez Salinas.

Small pieces, big statements.
Small pieces, big statements. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Shirley Flores-Munoz, the coordinator of the poetry reading, said the event is an effort to begin to take stock of the lost pandemic year. “It’s basically writing about what you’ve experienced during the pandemic, and what your ideas were,” she said. “It’s about telling stories of loss in the family, and in the community.”

Taken together, the art show and the poetry reading represent the first post-pandemic coming out period for PV Arts. The “Take Aways” art show, much like the annual Open Studios tour, is a bracing reminder of the artistic legacy of Santa Cruz County. Its variety of professional and experienced artists serves as a cross section of the county’s artistic community.

During the show’s first week, co-curator Jane Gregorius gave me a tour of the gallery in its long-time home, a house more than a century old. (PV Arts has been working to purchase the historic Porter Building in downtown Watsonville, a process that hit a bureaucratic snag last month).

The show features many familiar touchstones of the county’s arts scene, such as Will Marino’s signature sculptures built from rolls of raffle tickets, and reminders of the unheralded artistic greatness that exists in this community—internationally recognized paper artist John Babcock presents in the show a saffron-colored parchment with a Pablo Neruda poem carved out of it.

The old Victorian that houses Pajaro Valley arts in downtown Watsonville.
The old Victorian that houses Pajaro Valley arts in downtown Watsonville. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Other well-known artists featured include Sara Friedlander, Dee Hooker, Lynda Watson, Jamie Abbott, Peter Koronakas, Daniella Woolf and many more.

“We’re just excited as we can be about this show,” said Gregorius, an artist in her own right and a longtime Cabrillo College art instructor. “In the beginning of the pandemic, we had put on this great show here that was all set up. I mean, it was so beautiful. And no one ever saw it. The closure came so sudden and so fast. So it’s exciting to be able to see people again.”

For reserving a time to see “Take Aways!: Art to Go” at the PV Arts Gallery, 37 Sudden St., Watsonville, go here. To register for the poetry reading “Pandemic Takeaways” on Zoom April 16 at 6:30 p.m., go here.

The 'Take Aways' lineup

Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...