With strength in numbers, Made Fresh Crew gets original art out of the studios and into the streets
“The hardest part about being an artist is getting seen and distribution,” says Taylor Reinhold. “You can be the best artist in the world but if you’re sitting in your studio and you never leave and you don’t talk to anybody, you’re just not gonna make it in this world.” His Made Fresh Crew aims to help with that platform.
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Most would agree that the world would be a much more drab, boring, even unenlightened place without the contributions of visual artists. Yet, the path to actually making a living as a painter or illustrator — especially without completely capitulating to the demands of commercial art — is slim indeed.
In Santa Cruz, however, talented visual artists at least have a resource to help them make it possible to continue to do their art. It is a collective of individual artists, operating from the general principle that, in the realm of getting access to the marketplace, there is strength in numbers.
They call themselves Made Fresh Crew.
You know the name if you’ve paid any attention to the ocean-themed murals known as “Sea Walls” (see gallery below) that came all at once, as if in a wave, to Santa Cruz in the fall of 2021. MFC and its leader, Taylor Reinhold, were responsible for transforming downtown Santa Cruz with compelling, large-scale art.
You might know the name if you’re a regular on the California music festival scene, such as the recent Cali Roots festival in Monterey, one of the venues where Made Fresh Crew sets up shop to not only sell its merchandise, but also present a parallel to the music and its chill aesthetic in the form of “performance painting.”
And sometime this summer, you’ll encounter Made Fresh Crew if you happen to visit the Capitola Mall, where you’ll be able to visit Artrageous, the retail arm of the Crew’s art, rendered onto T-shirts, hoodies and beanies.
The dozen or so core artists affiliated with the Crew — with several dozen more in the outer circles — can use the brand as a kind of springboard to land muraling jobs, to get gigs painting at festivals, and mostly to sell merch.
Particularly in the past few years, MFC has made inroads in creating a vibrant new visual style associated with Santa Cruz and its surf/skate/iconoclast style in visual art. It’s actually a crowded field, dominated by the NHS Santa Cruz Skateboard brand, which includes the “red dot” logo, the “Screaming Hand” and their endless variations and offshoots. But in a town where the graphic T-shirt is both a fundamental element of everyday clothing and an important lifestyle marker, Made Fresh Crew is giving artists a way to express themselves, connect with their community and make a few ducats.
Santa Cruz lifer Reinhold — he’s the son of world-renowned glass artist Ann “Annieglass” Morhauser — established Made Fresh Crew back in 2009. “Mainly, it was a small cast of artists in my garage printing T-shirts,” he said.
As a teen, Reinhold, now 35, loved attending reggae and hip-hop shows, particularly festivals where he saw painters creating their works in front of an audience. He was particularly inspired by Santa Cruz psychedelic painter Matt Jones, who became his mentor and chief influence. Soon, Reinhold was not only painting at festivals, but also heading up the art element of some festivals as a curator and organizer.
“Some of the events,” he said, “they would put us right in front of the main stage with a big 30-foot wall and four or five of us would collaborate on a mural.”
As Reinhold — known widely in the local art world as “Tay Lion” — began to bring in more of his friends and fellow artists from Santa Cruz, the Crew came into shape. Erika Rosendale, a childhood friend of Reinhold and a classically trained painter, got the fever early on.
“I would just go to festival and see other artists do that, and think, ‘I want to do that,’” said Rosendale. “There’s the energy of it, the more immersive and collaborative nature of it, because you’re not alone in a studio somewhere. You’re out there in the mix of all these things that creates a real richness, potentially.”
Unlike the musicians on stage, artists are not going to get wealthy at festivals, said Rosendale. “I can’t say it’s all that lucrative,” she said. “But there’s a lot of perks to it. You can sell merch. You can sell your work. You can get exposure in a way that you can’t confined to a gallery.”
In partnership with Andrew Pastor, the owner and manager of Natural Motion Screen Printing, Reinhold soon pivoted beyond the festival circuit into muraling and merchandising. Much of the stock of merchandise goes beyond Made Fresh Crew logo wear to original designs by many of the group’s resident artists on everything from socks to bumper stickers. Those artists include prominent muralists such as Scotty Greathouse and Elijah Pfotenhauer, and multigenerational Santa Cruz artists Jasper Marino (son of well-known artist Will Marino) and Jimbo Phillips (whose father is the creator of the Screaming Hand, as well as other NHS designs, Jim Phillips).
“We’re kind of a one-stop shop for branding local artists,” said Reinhold. “So we kind of just want to bring everyone up around us at the same time, and teach them how to make good-quality clothing and to get some money in their pocket.”
Erika Rosendale grew up in Santa Cruz but earned a degree at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. In 2021, she helped Reinhold organize and staff the ambitious “Sea Walls” project, which produced 20 large murals in downtown Santa Cruz in a matter of days, importing famous muralists from around the world to collaborate with local artists. With its emphasis on illustrating the environmental stresses acting upon the ocean and marine life, “Sea Walls” was touted as a prime example of “art-ivism.”
“It was a life-changing experience for me,” she said, “in that I absolutely made the choice at that moment that OK, full-time art is possible for me.”
“The hardest part about being an artist is getting seen and distribution,” said Reinhold. “You can be the best artist in the world but if you’re sitting in your studio and you never leave and you don’t talk to anybody, you’re just not gonna make it in this world.”
Made Fresh Crew is not, Reinhold stresses, a service for artists to help them get exposure and to navigate the art world. It’s merely a platform that’s already developed some muscle in the local art market, which allows the individual artist to reach a wider audience. In the meantime, Tay Lion himself is landing more gigs as a mural artist; he has upcoming jobs from Watsonville to Indonesia.
Rosendale said that Reinhold and his career continues to be an inspiration for her and others looking to create a life as an artist.
“He started out just selling T-shirts out of his backpack at festivals, in that renegade style. And then he got this name for himself because of his style. So [as he demonstrated], what’s the best way to get your art out? Well, just get it out there, in front of all these people who are hyped on cool stuff. You don’t have to play the regular art game. You can play your way.”