A sprawling canvas of COVID times
“This Is Now,” at the Radius Gallery at the Tannery, downtown’s Curated By the Sea and the R. Blitzer Gallery on the Westside, is an exhibition featuring 150 local artists that comes as audiences grow more comfortable returning to venues.
March could very well be a life-changing month of discovery and revelation for anyone who can check two boxes: (1) those who know zero, or close to it, about Santa Cruz’s community of visual artists and (2) those who want to change situation 1.
During the next four weeks, three art galleries in Santa Cruz are combining forces to present one, big, sprawling, uncontainable art show.
It’s called “This is Now,” and it showcases the work of about 150 Santa Cruz County visual artists in a wide variety of mediums, each of whom will present pieces of art created at some point over the course of the past two years (read: the beginning of the pandemic).
Taken as a whole, “This is Now” acts as a kind of freeze-frame or cross section of Santa Cruz’s impossible-to-pigeonhole fine arts world. To put a finer point on it, here is this community’s finest artists revealing their most pertinent and recent work.
Arts Council Santa Cruz County created Visual Arts Network as a way to reorient Open Studios artists to virtual presentation, and to establish marketing platforms for artists often not represented well online. The show draws on an enormous curated directory and catalog of local artists created in the aftermath of the pandemic shutdown, when it had to cancel the Open Studios tour in the fall of 2020. Open Studios returned in 2021, but the online VAN continued to grow, connecting artists with audiences.
Last March, three local curators — Ann Hazels of the Radius Gallery at the Tannery, Melissa Kreisa of Curated By the Sea downtown, and Rob Blitzer of the R. Blitzer Gallery on the Westside — worked together to present the first iteration of the current show, then called “450 Pieces.” That was, however, in the early days of the first COVID-19 vaccines, and audiences were not yet ready to engage in public spaces.
“People weren’t really comfortable last year,” said Ann Ostermann of the Arts Council, the director of Open Studios and the Visual Arts Network. “I’m going to go out to all three, and last year I didn’t go to any of them, because I was just too scared.”
The mandate for artists to contribute work that was created in the past two years is a new wrinkle for the 2022 show, which also gave the show its title. The curators wanted to bring an immediacy to the show, especially given, the political, the environmental, and the public-health circumstances that have defined many people’s lives since 2020.
“You can feel it’s really fresh,” said Hazels. “And it’s a way to have a conversation about right now.”
The roster of artists for “This Is Now” is being divided by gallery on the basis of the artist’s last name.
- The Radius Gallery will feature artists whose last names begin with A-F. Among the prominent names at the Radius are Myra Eastman, Andrea Borsuk, Janet Allinger, Glenn Carter, Janet Fine, John Babcock and many others. The Radius is located at 1050 River St., No. 127, in the Tannery Arts Center.
- The R. Blitzer Gallery will feature artists whose last names begin with G-O, including Shelby Graham, Dan Osorio, Cheryl Moreno, Stephen Harrington and more. The R. Blitzer Gallery is at 2801 Mission St., Santa Cruz, in the old Wrigley building.
- Curated By the Sea will feature artists whose last names begin with P-Z, including Robynn Smith, Melissa West, Christina Sayers, Beth Purcell, Joshua Salesin, and others. Curated is at 703 Front St., Santa Cruz.
Each of the three galleries will award a best in show, to be announced on April 1.
“It’ll be competitive,” said Hazels of the idea to hand out best in show awards. “And competition is a good thing. I think it makes artists work a little harder in their studios and not just reproduce what feels good, but really get into the depths of why they’re making what they’re making. Not that a best in show necessarily says all of that, but this is a way we can actually acknowledge some of the truly stellar pieces.”
“This Is Now” runs through April 9 at its three participating galleries. Each gallery will host the opening of the show Friday as part of the First Friday arts event.
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