The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

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The Story of POWER HOUR: Q&A with Creator Elise Granata

Posted by on January 11, 2017

This week the MAH blog sat down with POWER HOUR creator–and MAH Community Catalyst–Elise Granata. 3rd Friday: POWER HOUR OF FUN is 6-9pm January 20th. Attendance limited to 150, so be sure to get your tickets in advance

Hi Elise! So tell us, what is POWER HOUR?

POWER HOUR is an hourlong experience of minute-long, back-to-back, socially connective activities. It is a time-based, immersive experience for a group of 50 people or more. Part of what inspired power hour is there are these things in the world called “Power Hours” that are related to drinking, and so there are these YouTube Playlists that exist, and it’ll be like “Hip Hop Power Hour” or “Top 40 Power Hour” and it’s just minute long clips of songs that you’re supposed to take a shot of beer to every minute. And so I was inspired by that by my roommate in college, and adapted it for the purposes of my birthday party and made it a sober if you wanted it to be experience, where it is minute long prompts, basically, for different kinds of experiences for an hour.

What’s the POWER HOUR origin story?

So I moved to Santa Cruz about four years ago to work at the MAH. I grew up in a very tight-knit grassroots arts community on the East Coast, and when I moved to Santa Cruz I felt like there wasn’t really a scene I could readily plug into, and so my friends kind of reflected that where I had a lot of acquaintances but not a lot of really close friends. I wanted to have a birthday party experience where I could be around everyone I liked but it wouldn’t be awkward. For my 22nd birthday party I held my party here at the MAH—because as a staff person here I was able to do it for free—and the party theme was called “Stranger Danger” where everyone who was invited got to bring a stranger they didn’t know. So when we were here there were a few activities like speed mixing and a few other communal activities. There were about 60 people there about 30 of which I didn’t know. Then the next year I was thinking about how to one up that party in a certain way. And this was 100 percent influence by the MAH. Everything we do has this aspect of bridging, connecting people from different backgrounds, and bonding people who are similar to each other. It was almost this mix of my mentality from growing up about how can we hack something together that’s unexpected and fun with this social theory of change.

So then POWER HOUR was born, and my best friend Pia and I sat down and brainstormed all these minutes. I put together this video, invited all of my friends, and people were stoked and came to it and it was this unforgettable, awesome evening here in the Atrium. And I think the MAH has been essential in the philosophy of it but also in providing a place to incubate it. Because everyone here on staff and in the community has been so helpful in providing feedback about it and being like “Oh my god, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were an air guitar minute?” It wouldn’t have happened without this space.

Can you share some examples of the types of activities people can expect?

High-five minute. Tell somebody about the last time you cried. Stare out the window contemplatively. Human tunnel minute. Arm wrestle minute. There’s kind of an intentional mix in there of both really fun and light hearted minutes as well as the more vulnerable ones like sharing about the last time you cried, or even the maintain eye-contact minute is kind of a tear jerker if people really commit to it. The hope for that is that it blends these high energy, low energy, vulnerable and playful experiences to ignite a connected community feel so that at the end of the night it’s like, maybe I walked in with my single friend or came alone but I feel like now I’m friends with everybody in this room.

There’s also kind of this vibe of an office party you went to and it’s like “Oh my God I had no idea John could do the splits!” It’s like, oh man, we’re in this group together, and suddenly there’s the dance off minute and there are ballerinas in the room and it’s incredible. So I think it also highlights people’s skills, either literal skills like dancers or improv skills and just ability to really throw themselves into a moment. And generally this has 50 or more people in a room together too and that’s kind of the point of it. By the end you’ve had moments where you’ve interacted with 150 people, moments where you’ve interacted with one person, maybe six in the pep-talk minute, so by the end of it you’ve had a range of experiences with everyone in the room that leads to the depth feeling.

Is there an impact you hope POWER HOUR has with each group?

It is, in its simplest form, an epic icebreaker. And that’s one of the goals with this. If you, for this hour, just feel like you get to lose yourself, then it’s a success. I think there are so few spaces where we can really feel immersed and without boundaries. Even if you walk away with no new friends, no new phone numbers specifically, it’s almost like why Yoga or working out or meditation is successful, because you get to step away from and shed your normal habits and vices just to kind of be almost primally in this moment and playful, and have permission to do that because everybody else around you is doing that too. So I think that is one of the impacts, where afterward you feel refreshed and invigorated and ready to go back and bring even more energy to your regular life.

Especially because it’s on inauguration day, we’re really going to highlight different connections that you’re making within your community, with different resources available in Santa Cruz, and I think especially with new friends. One of the benefits of this event is that it’s public. It’s pretty diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, background, and gender. It’s one of the only opportunities at an event where it’s like, Ok, I’m going to run in a circle with an older man and booty-bump with a derby girl, which is present in so many of our MAH events but this one is just really broken down, and it helps us build a broader sense of our community here too. I think ideally where I’m hoping to grow this is being able to parlay into other activities, so if it’s used as a team building activity then maybe it leads into  a brainstorm or a tough conversation. For the purposes of the MAH event it’s going to be primarily social, afterwards it’s going to break into open conversation, being able to check out the museum, and exchanging information with people if you want to.

Any favorite memories from previous POWER HOURS? 

One of my favorite stories from the first time I did this at my birthday party, I went out to the bar afterwards with a bunch of people who had been there and I introduced two people who were kind of on opposite sides of my friend world, and one of them said “Why would I have to be introduced to you? I’ve already cried with you, laughed with you, and told you I love you.”

Another favorite quote is from last year was somebody who participated in POWER HOUR and was like “I just went to Bookshop Santa Cruz afterward so I could continue being around people.” It just opens you up and disrupts your own narratives and gives you permission to participate fully. I think for so many people who aren’t children anymore that element of play is just so great, and it’s so open to interpretation.

Who should come to POWER HOUR? Is it only for outgoing people? Single people, old people, young people?

So much at the MAH we say that to celebrate nature in Santa Cruz you go to the beach or the parks, to celebrate food you get to go to any of our delicious restaurants or the Farmers Market or—soon—Abbott Square—but for our creativity, in Santa Cruz, and culture here it feels like there’s no one place where you get to go to just connect. And I feel like we try to do that at the MAH in a lot of ways, but I feel like POWER HOUR is really that experience where you get to buy your ticket, put your name on the list, and know you’re going to meet and have unforgettable experiences with 149 other people from your community.

And to answer you other question, POWER HOUR is for all ages, it’s for the extroverted, it’s for the introverted—you can definitely sit out minutes if you want to, but this thing only really works when you give it your all and go all in. It’s kind of this contagious thing where even if you’re shy, just the fact that other people around you are letting go and being goofy and vulnerable, you almost can’t help but also do that.

What can people do to find out more about 3rd Friday: Power Hour of Fun or bring POWER HOUR to their own space?

They can go to for more info on next week’s event and to to book their own — there’s a form to fill out about what your thing is, whether corporate team building stuff, birthday parties, for your organization, anything. Great for groups of 50 or more. 

Get your ticket in advance today.

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A Decade of Toy Trains: Q&A with Over the Hill Gang’s Eric Childs

Posted by on December 14, 2016


This week the MAH blog sat down with Eric Childs of the Over the Hill Gang, the Santa Cruz-based group of Toy Train aficionados who have partnered with the MAH to put on the Toy Trains exhibit for 11 straight years. The Toy Trains exhibit opens Friday during at 3rd Friday: Winterpalooza and runs through December 31st. 

Hi Eric, thanks for sitting down with the MAH Blog today! Can you tell us a little bit about the Toy Trains exhibit and how visitors can interact with it? 

Toy trains have been part of America since the late 1800s. We have representative trains from the ‘30s on up into current production, and in fact there are probably more toy trains available now than there ever have been.

The Toy Trains exhibit has four loops of trains in a 12-by-24-foot layout—5 if we include our little Thomas loop. The kids come up, and as slots become available we set them up and let them run the trains themselves. We’ll point out which train they’re controlling and explain what they can do, and work with them if they’re having trouble. In addition, we have a whole collection of carnival type rides that work, in miniature of course, so we have our whole miniature boardwalk area and on the other end we have Thomas and we have some winter scenes—so there’s always something going on on each part of the layout.

Any bells and whistles? 

There are also certain accessories that people can operate—they can push a button and blow the whistle, they can push a button and swings will go back and forth, all kinds of little things like that. Then for the littlest kids we have the Rio Wooden trains in a 3-by-5-foot layout of those. So it’s a fully decorated layout.

Can people bring their own trains to run on the tracks? 

For the kids who already have trains we encourage them to bring them in, and we can run all O-gauge and standard trains on the tracks. We have kids who have been with us for several years who now we put them behind the scenes and they control everything, and we sit in front and relax and enjoy ourselves.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Over the Hill Gang and how the exhibit came together.

The Over the Hill Gang is about 15 years old, and it was simply a group of people in Santa Cruz who like toy trains and typically would go over to a room, it was open to the public, and we had several layouts in place where we could run our trains and have fun. About 11 years ago I had the idea of, gee, why don’t we do something in Santa Cruz? Let’s talk to the Museum. I bet we could put a toy trains show there around Christmas time” — which is exactly what we did. So it was my idea originally [laughing] I’m still glad I had it. The first year we were in the MAH Classroom—needless to say it was a little crowded. It was a full room but a lot of fun.

You’ve been overseeing this exhibit for a decade now. What’s one memory that has stayed with you? 

There was this one kid, he must have been 5 or six at the time, and within half a day he had everything down pat. He could bring the train around, he could stop it at the station, he could start the announcements—he just knew everything to do with that train. To see a kid of that age learn everything so quickly was amazing.

What do you think it is about trains that so effectively captures our imaginations?

I think many children are fascinated by anything that moves. I was at my aunt and uncles house and they had just an oval of track and a few freight cars and an engine—but I could sit there and make it go. Anything where kids get to sit there and controls it is amazing. And we notice, the older kids for the most part as interested in trains, but for the younger kids, it’s a feeling of ‘Oh, wow, we can control this.’ It’s like controlling your own little world.

Eric, thank you so much for your time and your longstanding commitment to bringing Toy Trains to life. Any last words?

Come one, come all, and we hope you enjoy yourselves.

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MAH Journal Unites Congregations

Posted by on November 14, 2016

by Joan Gilbert Martin, editor Do You Know My Name?


On Sunday, November 6, the MAH History Journal, Do You Know My Name? became the catalyst for uniting two congregations, one white and one black. This came about because of articles in our journal on the founding of Calvary Episcopal Church in 1863 and the founding of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church a hundred years later in 1963. As it happens, the churches are neighbors: the Calvary Church at 523 Center Street and the Progressive Church across the street at 517 Center.

After reading about the churches, members of the Calvary Church had an idea. They asked me and two other journal authors to speak at a gathering in their Parish Hall about the history of these churches. And then they asked the congregation of the Progressive Church to join us for the talks and refreshments. The Progressive congregation came, and it was a joyous occasion.

samuel-jacksonAs editor, I discussed the journal’s focus on the history of unknown people who lived in our county. Then I passed around a copy of the journal to see who could find the cover photographs of Eliza and Joseph Boston, founders of the Calvary Church, and the Reverend Samuel Jackson, first pastor of the Progressive Church. The congregations joined forces and picked them out from the many cover images that included a number of white women, several black pastors, and a few black baseball players.


Dana Bagshaw who wrote the article “The Bostons,” spoke of her research on the young couple who founded the Calvary church. She told how Eliza and Joseph started a church despite great personal difficulties including madness and suicide in the family and the death of their only son. Dana’s research also led her to the strong possibility that young Eliza (Miss Lizzie Bull) became an abolitionist while growing up in Canandaigua, New York, and that both the Bostons were abolitionists while living here in Santa Cruz.

Stanley D. Stevens who wrote the article “African American Churches in the City of Santa Cruz,” told two personal anecdotes. He spoke of standing in the rain after a rally and holding out his umbrella for Martin Luther King, Jr.—as he said, he didn’t actually meet the great man, but he did come close. He also told of attending a memorial for Reverend King at the Progressive Church shortly after King’s death. When then Reverend Cassius Ellis, asked him if he was a Christian, Stan replied: “No I am not, but I believe in the teachings of Martin Luther King.” Ellis replied: “That makes you a Christian.”

After the talks, the congregations mingled, discussing with us their newly discovered histories and enjoying the food prepared by the Calvary Church. Then we all went from the Calvary Parish Hall to the church itself, where the two congregations spontaneously raised their voices together to sing the African American Spiritual: “I’m so glad, Jesus lifted me.”

Following the event, Reverend Eliza Linley of Calvary Episcopal Church wrote me to say, “I have the sense that this will not be the last joint effort of our congregations. So thank you, thank you for bringing us together!!”


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The MAH represents at the History Fair

Posted by on October 17, 2016

Santa Cruz County History Fair 2016

The second Santa Cruz County History Fair, hosted again by Friends of the Cowell Lime Works, took place on October 8. It was at Louden Nelson Community Center, and featured displays and activities by more than 30 local museums, historians, historical societies, and other groups. The MAH was well represented by volunteers from many of the museum’s history groups: Publications Committee (selling the new history journal, Do You Know My Name?), Historic Landmark, and Evergreen Cemetery. Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers who staffed the event!

This year’s fair commemorated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Santa Cruz as an incorporated city, and the City of Santa Cruz was a co-sponsor of the event. The fair filled most of the available rooms and even hallway space at the Community Center.
“Friends” president Frank Perry (Coauthor, Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County, California) again took the lead role in organizing and running the event, as he did at last year’s inaugural History Fair. Frank estimated this year’s attendance at about 400 – about a third more than last year’s fair. The four history talks were well-attended and well-received, with standing-room-only audiences estimated at 50-70 for each presentation.


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Journal Launch Santa Cruz County History Journal 8: Do You Know My Name?

Posted by on September 19, 2016

Front Cover of Santa Cruz County History Journal 8, Do You Know My Name?

Front Cover of Santa Cruz County History Journal 8, Do You Know My Name?

By Joan Gilbert Martin, History Journal 8 Editor

On September 2, 2016, a large First Friday crowd gathered in the MAH auditorium to hear short talks by three local historians who contributed to the latest MAH History Journal, Do You Know My Name?Martin Rizzo asked do you know the names of the Native Americans who assassinated Padre Quintana at the Santa Cruz Mission? Lisa Robinson asked do you know the names of some early eccentrics who enlivened the history of the San Lorenzo Valley? Conor O’Brien asked do we know the names of a Santa Cruz family who entertained themselves with games and visits and movies in the early days of the twentieth century.

These are just a few of the questions answered in this lively journal that tells the stories of men and women who were not in the mainstream of Santa Cruz County history, who were unknown, overlooked, or discriminated against.

Other stories answered other questions: Who were the group of squatters evicted from Rancho Bolsa del Pájaro (site of the city of Watsonville) following a quarrel between two brothers? Why did an early Hispanic settler in the Villa de Branciforte lose his standing in the community following statehood? Why did so many of the children buried at Evergreen cemetery die of so-called “natural deaths?” What were the names of the men who played on an all-black baseball team here in Santa Cruz? Who were the men and women who established the first black church in Santa Cruz? And, who were some other folk who once lived in our community, but whose stories have never been told?

Louis Berry, catcher on the all black Santa Cruz baseball team, the “California Giants,” 1909. (McKean Photo)

Louis Berry, catcher on the all black Santa Cruz baseball team, the “California Giants,” 1909. (McKean Photo)

The plan for this unorthodox history journal began over two years ago when Lisa Robinson, chair of the MAH Publications Committee, attended a memorial for the late historian Phil Reader. Phil was a local boy who spent his life researching and writing about people marginalized in their lifetime and often neglected or misrepresented by later historians. If Phil thought someone had been victimized, even if it was a hundred years ago, he set out to research their life and bring them retroactive justice. Hearing about Phil’s people, Lisa said, “Here are the subjects of our next journal.”

At the launch ceremony, authors were on hand to sign journals for the audience. Joan Gilbert Martin, editor of this eighth journal, presented Phil’s widow, Lorraine Reader, with the gift of a hardbound edition of the journal. Joan is a longtime member of the Publications Committee, a contributor to many of MAH’s preceding seven journals, and also was editor of History Journal 6, Pathways to the Past.

We are thrilled that so many attended in appreciation of this important addition to the unknown history of Santa Cruz County.

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