Artist Taylor Reinhold with a Made Fresh Crew mural in Santa Cruz
“I spent five years traveling, doing murals for food, housing. Find the hostel, ask if I could paint a wall for a couple of weeks free stay — then find a restaurant, trade for food.”
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
City Life

Meet the Artivists: Taylor Reinhold and his Made Fresh Crew leaving their stylized impressions on Santa Cruz

Take graffiti-style art and add activism and you’ve got artivist Taylor Reinhold, who’s the art director for an ambitious mural project coming to Santa Cruz in September. And then there’s his Made Fresh Crew’s Artrageous Clothing Store, which just opened in Pleasure Point.

If you think all artists are studio recluses, you haven’t met Taylor “Tay Lion” Reinhold and his friends.

Since Reinhold founded Made Fresh Crew (a thriving art collective as well as a screen-printing shop) in 2009, he and his team have worked tirelessly to take on Santa Cruz’s “deathly blank walls” and transform the town into a series of lively canvases.

As artivists — think artists + activists — the Made Fresh Crew make murals aiming to educate the public on topics like plastic pollution and sea level rise; you’ve likely seen their work on Mission Street on the Westside, for example, or on Day’s Market in Seabright.

Though their influence is already undeniable, the best is yet to come. Not only did Made Fresh Crew open its Artrageous Clothing Store on Portola Drive in Pleasure Point over Memorial Day weekend, but come September, Reinhold will spearhead the largest urban beautification project in Santa Cruz history as art director of Sea Walls Santa Cruz.

The program — described as “a public art initiative to give our oceans a creative voice” — is in partnership with PangeaSeed Foundation.

We spoke with Reinhold about public art, printing and his past as a nomadic muralist. Here’s what he told us (edited for clarity):

Work as an artist can sometimes be isolating — how have you seen your art collective benefit from that collaboration?

When you get a bunch of different people from different walks of lives, with different skill sets, you’re always going to create something better than what you could do with one head, one brain (as opposed to 10 brains). Because it’s more manpower and it’s more fun. And everybody gets to come back with these new friends, new skill sets. It’s this snowball effect.

A lot of other artists are just in their studios doing their thing. … Sometimes it takes hiding in your cave like a bear, just totally hibernating to create this art — but then you have to get it out somewhere. And murals are the perfect way to bring people together and, you know, have fun creating in an open space with a big message that you can put out there. The impact is a lot stronger when you have more people working together to create something better.

Taylor Reinhold with Made Fresh Crew T-shirt artwork
“The T-shirts and the clothing are there because we want to hook up young kids (and aspiring artists) and inspire people,” Reinhold says of Made Fresh Crew’s community mission. “That’s a very small part of the puzzle.”
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

In the years leading up to Made Fresh Crew, you had already painted a number of murals around the globe. Tell us about that experience.

I traveled all around the world, just trading for murals. I spent five years traveling and just doing murals for food and housing. I’d find a place I could go and set up shop. Find the hostel, ask if I could paint a wall for a couple of weeks of free stay — and then go find a restaurant and trade for food. Then I could go explore and enjoy myself and try to find more walls to paint wherever I was. So that was kind of my formula and it ended up working.

I eventually want to bring that to Santa Cruz and have walking graffiti mural tours, where people can come get educated on these resident artists from all over the world that travel and paint and tell their stories (and educate people on that side of it). That’s something that I think we’re lacking. We’re kind of behind the times when it comes to the art here. Everybody wants a dolphin. Everyone wants a wave. Everybody wants an ocean scene or a sea turtle.

Every city now is becoming a giant gallery that you can walk through and see different walks of life. And I think that’s what’s really important about mural art is finding the right collection … I’m still developing that, trying to build that.

What influenced you to start Made Fresh Crew?

Once I went on a trip to Europe and I was painting in Spain and France, and I got really inspired by the train yard from seeing graffiti art everywhere. Public art was everywhere. It’s a totally different world. You can paint on the street wherever you want. If you do get caught painting illegally, it’s a very small fine (30 euros, you don’t go to jail or anything like that).

When I was out there, I had this idea that formed. I’m like, “I want to get all my friends together and create a brand and create an art network or collective.” … I just wanted to create a way to monetize my friends’ artwork and sell it for them and help them.

How has Made Fresh Crew evolved over the years?

We started out [by telling local artists], “Give us a Made Fresh Crew graphic and we’ll print your art on T-shirts.” We’d just do this trade. It was like, “Here’s a hundred shirts, go sell them, do whatever you want and get your art out.” Then that kind of changed into, now we have a budget to hire artists to produce and pay for projects.

(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Now it’s all community work. The T-shirts and the clothing are there because we want to hook up young kids (and aspiring artists) and inspire people. That’s a very small part of the puzzle. Now, it’s bringing community together, educating people with public art, hosting events, showcasing young talent. My job has kind of turned into 10 different roads. It wasn’t what I envisioned in the beginning. It’s taken me on a whirlwind … now I get to work with artists from all around the world and feature them. It’s really fun.

We try to feature artists to do all kinds of different art, too. It’s not just graffiti art, murals and illustration, it’s videography, photography, pottery, glass blowing, you name it. We’ve got somebody in our collective who is, you know, pushing the limits, the level, pretty high on whatever creativity they’re getting into.

Tell us a little more about your clothing store, which opened Memorial Day weekend.

We’re launching a storefront called Artrageous. So it’ll feature all of our brands that we operate and print for. We print shirts for everybody in town as far as T-shirts and branding go. So we’ll be featuring local brands in Jimbo Phillips, Made Fresh Crew, Natural Motion, Lemon Tree and a number of other brands.

That’s a bold move — opening a brick-and-mortar location while online shopping continues to rise.

Yeah, we’ve got to single-handedly fight Amazon. Or we won’t survive. We’ll be the only ones.

But no, we’re for community, so we’re not for online. We want to be in front of people and we have a big, overwhelming sense of love and support. So being able to host events and bring art and bring people down to the shop, that’s what we’ve been doing. And we’re not really afraid of doing it more.

Taylor Reinhold of Made Fresh Crew in front of a mural in Santa Cruz
Taylor Reinhold says the Sea Walls Santa Cruz project, beginning in September, is aiming to paint 10 to 15 murals around town.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Then there’s your upcoming Sea Walls Santa Cruz project. What can we be looking forward to with that?

PangeaSeed Foundation is a nomadic nonprofit and they go to coastal regions and islands around the world. They find an artist like myself who’s got a big presence in the community and has a bunch of public murals, and then they kind of train you to focus on a project. They have 250 top-tier artist muralists around the world that represent them. They’ve done 350 murals around the world. I believe this will be the 37th Sea Walls.

(In September,) we’re probably doing 10 to 15 murals. We’re going to only work with local, California-based artists to keep it safe for this year, but it’ll continue. It’ll be a biannual or potentially annual event with the funding and the new foundations that we’ve worked with donating so we can try and keep this going.

And once it starts, it’s just going to spread. It’s going to be 10 days. All of a sudden, you’re going to see half the town painted with these insane murals from artists that are super well-renowned. That’s how public art spreads like wildfire.

(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Looking back, how have things changed from your years as a young artist to where you are today?

I was trying to come in and beg people to let me paint walls, to let me hang my art in galleries or shows. But I was always told no. Eventually, after just pursuing it, I started getting yeses. One mural led to five. So that started to change things and get some momentum.

And then eventually, I found these amazing foundations and organizations that work to better the planet with environmentalism, sustainability, social justice. I got plugged into these channels with these amazing people who are funding us and finding ways to get projects for us.

And I have our community here — friends that are just always constantly showing up, supporting us, spreading the word, trying to get us more jobs and connect us to more people. It’s an overwhelming reflection of how all the work we put in is finally paying off.

Made Fresh Crew’s Artrageous Clothing Store is now open at 3617 Portola Drive, Suite B, in Santa Cruz.