The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

Today is Sunday, February 18: Open 10am-8pm
Directions & Admission

About the MAH

Hi. Welcome to the MAH.

We’re a different kind of museum, one that focuses on building community here in Santa Cruz County. We build community through exhibitions, events, and projects that connect people to art, history, ideas, and each other. We believe that art and history are for everyone, and we work hard to offer experiences that connect people from many walks of life: across generations, ethnicity, and background. That means multi-cultural festivals, exhibitions filled with wonder, partnerships throughout the county, and surprising, fun connections with people and ideas across our community.

The MAH is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We believe it is vital to build community and that art and history are killer tools to use to do it. We also believe that building an equitable community means welcoming everyone, regardless of how much they can pay or what language they speak. We rely on donations from individuals and foundations to do our work–and we hope you’ll consider joining us as a member to help our community thrive.

And if you want to learn more about our model for community participation, here are some resources, including publications, workshops, and trainings we offer.


Here are the big ideas that guide our work:

Our mission is to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections. We accomplish this mission when we bring people together around art and history through dynamic exhibitions, events, partnerships, and programs. When we are successful, our work helps build a stronger, more connected community. That’s the impact that we seek.

We visualize this transformation from activities to impact with a theory of change:


We measure our impact in the community by tracking:

  • the number and diversity of people who participate in our various programs. This number keeps rising–attendance has tripled over the past five years. Last year, we had over 52,000 visitors to the museum. These visitors reflected the age and income diversity of our county, and we’re working hard to make the museum more welcoming to Latino families so we can reflect our community’s ethnic diversity too.
  • our reach throughout Santa Cruz County. The Pop Up Museum and other programs allow us to extend museum experiences beyond our walls. We work with about 5,000 people annually at partner projects across Santa Cruz County, presenting Pop Up Museums and art enrichment at community festivals all year long.
  • opportunities for artists, historians, and community organizations to share their work and learn from each other. We support about 2,000 community partners annually. These partners share their art and history through exhibitions, 3rd Friday festivals, outreach events, and research projects in the archives. Many artists and community groups were introduced to each other at the MAH and go on to start new partnerships because of their experiences together at the museum.
  • the health of our finances and the diversity of our support. Museum members, donors, and grantmakers all contribute to the museum’s ability to expand our programs. Over the past five years, we’ve been able to double our budget and build up reserves, which allow us to expand our programming in a sustainable way.

This work is exciting, but it’s only as good as our ability to involve you in it. We know lots of people in Santa Cruz County are not currently connected to the MAH, and we’re doing the hard work to engage new participants. We need your help to make this happen. All of our events and exhibitions are created in partnership with community collaborators, and we’d love to find a way for you to get involved.

So poke around a bit. Share your own vision of the future and how the Museum can support your creative, social, and intellectual interests. The MAH is only as good as the members, donors, volunteers, and enthusiasts who support it–and we hope that you will soon count yourself as part of our family.

If you have any questions or ideas about our approach that you’d like to discuss, drop by the Museum 11-5, Tuesday to Sunday, or contact any of us directly.


Want to know more about the theory of change? Click play on this presentation. (Note: there is audio, so turn up your speakers.)


  • Where can I get information to submit a proposal to exhibit artwork in the Museum.nDonna

    • Contact Susan Hillhouse at curator (at) to learn more about this. We don’t tend to exhibit based on unsolicited proposals, but you can learn more about our curatorial program from Susan.

  • Rveir

    Do you have any info about a local artist, name of Cor de Gauere, 1930’s ’40’s?

  • Dqueen

    How can I email feedback (and photos) from the interactive sculpture garden cards we played with last Friday? bounced back with errors.

    • Hm… sorry about that. You can send it to me at nina (at) and I will get it to the right people!

  • Thanks Nina for you energy and vision for the future…we would love to be involved !

    Michael  and the Santa Cruz Chorale



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  • Lee Allan Sanders

    Is this thing on?

  • Clair

    I don’t normally involve myself with your organization, but after watching this presentation of your philosophy, I hope that your Theory of Change would have more discussion around it, this sounds like a psychopath wrote it… why are you trying to control human behavior? I know you are trying to be cutting edge, but this is naive. The product of an art museum is not engagement, every organization needs to do that (you could use this flow chart for Louden Nelson). The product is art and history. Why can’t art and history be more central to your Theory of Change?

    • Elise Granata

      Hi Clair– thank you for bringing this up. At the MAH, art and history are central to the Theory of Change in action. The MAH couldn’t exist without it. The Theory of Change wouldn’t exist without it. Art and history are the vehicles upon which a stronger and more connected community is built, block-by-block.

      We provide the great experiences around art and history, and engagement flows from here. Engagement is not a product. It’s an impact that ignites through stellar experiences with art and history in this museum.

      We’re proud that the MAH is a place that builds community–like Louden Nelson and other community organizations and institutions. The specific way we build community is by bringing people together through art and history. We believe that art and history empower people in unique ways to express their own creativity and tell their own stories–and to learn from the diverse stories and artistic expression of others.

      I invite you to experience this in action soon at one of our upcoming 1st or 3rd Friday festivals, or by exploring our current exhibition Art Works– a show featuring artists working in temporary studios with the public all day, everyday.

      All the best,
      Elise Granata
      Community Catalyst

  • Kelsey McMorrow

    Hi, it says on this page that last year you had 52000 visitors, i’m just wondering, is this last year as in 2015? 2014? etc. Just wondering when the page was last updated.

  • Kelsey McMorrow

    hi i’m just wondering when this page was last updated and what year the MAH had the mentioned 52 000 visitors

    • Elise Granata

      Hey Kelsey– this was updated last year, and for 2015-16.