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Behind-the-Scenes of Our Upcoming Summer Exhibition

Posted by on February 20, 2016

I have the honor of serving as the summer curator at the MAH. This summer we are doing a four-month exhibition that includes a rotating series of artist’s residencies that we are calling “Art Works.”

Jared Andrew Schorr, The Man Behind The Curtain

Jared Andrew Schorr, The Man Behind The Curtain

I’m always interested in the behind-the-scenes story of everything. I’m the kind of person who skips through a mediocre movie, but methodically works my way through the DVD extras behind-the-scenes. This goes doubly for art practice. I always want to know not just “How did you do that?” but “How did you think of that? How did you settle on all the aspect of that concept?” So in this series of blog posts, I’ll try to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the goings-on of the MAH Exhibition Team.

That additional transparency feels even more appropriate since that was part of our goal with the Art Works exhibition. We wanted to give you an unobstructed view of art-in-progress and access to the artists making it. After working with the concept for a while here’s what we settled on:

Art Works will be a months long open studios in which artists literally do their work in the gallery and visitors witness and even become part of the process. The Solari Gallery is transformed into a series of open walled studios in which up to three artists at a time work in a variety of mediums on work addressing the themes of building stronger communities and neighborhoods, bringing the audience into the process of their work.

Next, I’ll talk about this exhibition’s conceptual beginnings, its superhero origin story.

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The most creative county in America? 10 reasons to be proud of Santa Cruz

Posted by on November 19, 2015

The best moments from our community of artists, history buffs, surfers, activist youth, and firebreathers.

We are only as strong as the community we build, together. Stay involved in the MAH community in 2016.


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Why are you proud of Santa Cruz County’s creative community? Comment with your story below.

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State of the MAH from Executive Director Nina Simon

Posted by on November 10, 2015


The walls of my office are papered with comment cards from MAH visitors. One of my favorites says:

“Your vision, energy, creativity, and community-building have really added a lot to Santa Cruz!!”

This is the core of what we do at the MAH. Our mission is to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections. Using art and history to build a stronger and more connected community.

Folkloric dancers and activists from Project Pollinate engaging at 3rd Friday: Beyond Borders

Folkloric dancers and activists from Project Pollinate engaging at 3rd Friday: Beyond Borders

We invite everyone to be part of making art and history. Over 50,000 people visit the museum annually. More importantly, over 2,000 locals collaborate with us on programs, exhibitions, and projects. We matchmake these 2,000 unlikely partners from across the County year-round: folkloric dancers and engineers presenting at monthly 3rd Friday Festivals. Artists and activists exhibiting their work. Homeless adults and history buffs cleaning up Evergreen Cemetery. Business leaders and street performers designing a new community plaza in Abbott Square.

These projects help people build bridges–and community. Museum visitors tell us that “meeting new people” and “being part of a bigger community” are two of the things they love most about the MAH.

In 2016, we’re ready to take this vision of community-building further in three key ways:

  • By deepening partnerships across the museum. Most collaborators work with us on community festivals and educational events. In 2016, we want to involve more local partners in all areas of the museum. We’re seeking community builders who want to help inspire students in our school field trips. Artists who want to work with teens in the Subjects to Change program to promote social justice through art. Amateur sleuths who want to help us transcribe historic diaries in the MAH archives. Partners who want to help create powerful exhibitions on local issues. Find your niche and get involved today.
  • By taking our mission to the streets. We can’t build community behind our walls alone. Over the past few years, we’ve started to spread across the County, with fun events like Race Through Time and the incredible Princes of Surf history project this summer. In 2016, we want to invest more energy into countywide outreach partnerships, especially with Latin@ community groups. This includes participating in regional festivals, expanding historic restoration at Evergreen Cemetery, and exploring new opportunities to design mini-exhibits for bus shelters and community centers. Our ability to ignite community is only as strong as our ability to connect with diverse people, wherever they are in Santa Cruz County.
  • Samba Stilt Circus performs at GLOW 2015

    Samba Stilt Circus performs at GLOW 2015

    By expanding into Abbott Square. In 2016, we will start construction on Abbott Square, transforming the plaza next to the MAH into a creative heart for downtown. This incredible new venue will be a home for community events, art performances, local food and drink, and a secret garden especially for families. It will extend the MAH into a free, 24-7 free museum without walls. It will allow us not only to build community inside the museum, but also throughout our downtown. We have raised $4.7 of the needed $5 million to make this project a reality. Learn more and join us in this effort at

Thank you for your support and participation as collaborators and donors, volunteers and members in 2015. I hope you will get more involved in the year to come.

Let us know what you are most excited about, what you hope for, and how you would like to be involved. We are only as strong as the community we build, together.

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School Programs Volunteer

Posted by on August 11, 2015

Empower youth through art and history. Lead energetic, interactive school field trips that fuse Santa Cruz history with dynamic art making. Come build community by volunteering with School Programs!



What is a Community Builder?
Community Builders are like tour guides, but so much more. You’ll empower youth with immersive explorations throughout our entire museum, integrating both art and history to help them build a stronger, more connected Santa Cruz. It’s an unpaid volunteer position, and is also available as an internship.

What does it take to be a Community Builder?
You’re enthusiastic. Comfortable with public speaking. You’ve got experience with youth, and you’re excited about Santa Cruz art and history.

What are the field trips like?
This isn’t your average field trip. As a Community Builder, you’ll sometimes step into the shoes of an important figure in Santa Cruz history. Lead dynamic scavenger hunts. Share interactive zines with teens. You will energize students through passionate recreations of moments in Santa Cruz history, and bridge this through art. You’ll empower dozens of students to emerge with a better comprehension of the things that matter most in our County.

Why Community Building?

Our missi25490805870_9ec48b132a_zon at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History 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. The heart of this mission is rooted in building bonds between people who share experiences, and bridges between people who make unexpected connections. When we build social bonds and bridges, we build social capital. We build community.

We strongly believe in including young people as meaningful contributors to community building.  Communities are not built by architects or city planners. Communities are built upon connections with one another, positive relationships, and a sense of belonging.

When students become involved in the design, creation, and exploration of a place, they develop a vested interest in using and improving it. We hope that our school program can inspire youth to feel a sense of ownership, responsibility, and connection both at the MAH and throughout our County.

Dates & Time Commitment:

Saturday, October 1, 2016. 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Orientation.
Monday, October 3, 2016. 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. Training.
Monday, October 10, 2016. 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. Training.

Other Meeting Dates TBD.

Time Commitment:
Times and dates are flexible, but generally school trips happen Tuesday-Thursday between 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Levels of participation:
VOLUNTEER: Minimum requirements of 6 hours per month (2 tours/month)
INTERN: Minimum requirements of 4 – 6 hours per week (4 tours/month & prep)

Accepting and reviewing applications on an ongoing basis.
Final Deadline: September 16, 2016.

For more information email

Community Builder Application

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Moments of Transcendence: an interview with Danielle Peters

Posted by on July 29, 2015

Peters Moment of Transcendence image by GarciaYou might think you just climb stairs to the 3rd floor of the MAH.
But what if you thought about it like transcending?

You’re going up. You’re in between two phases. (Those phases might be the 2nd and 3rd floor, but c’mon, they’re still phases.)

Those are the kinds of moments Danielle Peters drew from when creating Moments of Transcendence. It’s a paper sculpture that welcomes you upward to the 3rd floor of the MAH. The sweeping forms of paper are made up of many collected moments of transcendence from her Boys and Girls Club students and MAH visitors at 3rd Friday: Beyond Borders.

Find out more about the sculpture here, and read an interview Danielle Peters did with former Exhibitions intern Emily Corbo below.

EC: You work in several different mediums.  How would you define your work as an artist? Do you have an overall intention for the work you create? Is there a relation between the different mediums you work in?

DP: Whether drawing or creating sculptures, costumes, and installations, I am typically manipulating paper in some way. Paper is practical for someone working within a modest budget, but it is also a very affective and transformative material. You can literally take a material people throw away everyday and give it new life.

EC: What inspired this piece? What was your intention in creating it?

DP: I have gone through many transitions since moving to Santa Cruz five months ago and have met the most inspirational people during this time. I have never felt like I belonged so much to a community. I wanted “Moments of Transcendence” to be an open conversation between the broad spectrum of people that make up the Santa Cruz community, but to also feel like an intimate conversation between friends. My intention was to learn more about each participant’s unique experience, but also to highlight our shared human experience. We all go through moments of extreme suffering and bliss, and we are changed by these moments.

EC: Can you elaborate on the title and the materials? Why Moments of Transcendence?
This piece is composed of the personal stories of others. Where did you source your content from? Can you provide some examples of the content created when making this piece? Do you have any particular “moments of transcendence” that stood out for you?

DP: I worked on the elements for this piece alongside members of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz and participants at MAH’s Third Friday event, Beyond Borders. I was surprised by what people were willing to disclose, and grateful for each participant’s willingness to share their stories with me.

The initial stages involved spreading out drawing materials and large rolls of paper for groups of people to work on side by side. Through offering space, material, and springboard questions, I wanted to create a platform for sharing these stories. I wanted people to feel comfortable and like they were part of a team when creating this piece. I also wanted there to be a balance of self-expression and anonymity present as participants wrote or illustrated their experiences on paper. I am always amazed by the events that people consider transformative. The kids at BGC wrote and drew pictures of happy times in their lives, like baby brothers and sisters being born, rollercoaster rides, learning a new skill, or moving to a new home. More often than not older participants recalled moments of struggle rather than joy. Life events that seem capable of destroying lives often end up being the most meaningful. Cancer came up a lot. I think it is empowering to find that even in the worst situations we get to be the ones to choose whether we are built up or broken down by these events. I am always shocked by the limits people surpass when faced with something that seems as insurmountable as heartbreak, cancer, the loss of a job, home, or a loved one. It is very empowering to hear these stories.

EC: You have several sculptures made from cut pieces of paper. Can you elaborate on your method of constructing sculptures through paper? Where did this concept develop from? Why paper?

DP: I enjoy the malleability of paper, it changes shape and meaning so easily. Working with paper allows me to turn nothing into something; garbage into something beautiful. I like finding value in things with little to no monetary value. I enjoy being the one who dictates an object’s worth. I think that is what I enjoy about art, dance, and music, it is really hard to stick a price tag on that kind of value.

I started making these sculptures in graduate school at the University of Georgia. My professor, Eileen Wallace, had taught me how to make my own abaca. I loved the way this fibrous paper looked, like skin or fingernails. It made me want to create sculptures that similarly combined plant and animal characteristics.  

EC: What is the process of creating a collaborative piece and installing it? Can you elaborate on how the content for the piece was collected? When installing the piece, is there a mapped out design or does the design of the sculpture shift as the project is installed?

DP: I am very much influenced by the space. When talking to Stacey [Garcia MAH Director of Community Engagement) in the initial stages about how I wanted to contribute to the Beyond Borders event I knew that I wanted to focus on the psychological aspect of borders. I wanted to create a piece that communicated some kind of ascension, so we were thinking of places in the museum like the elevator or areas around the stairs. I drew out 3 or 4 ideas and let the curators decide which design and location would work best with the other events happening in the space. They ended up choosing the most ambitious plan, both in scale and location. Fortunately I had the help of friend and artist, Leigh Erickson, in the installation stage, as well as Stacey and my mom, Terri Peters. I don’t know what I would do without my friends and family, they play a large role in everything I do in art and in life. I owe so much to them!

EC: Where do you turn for your inspiration?

DP: Everything inspires me: dance, surfing, hiking, conversations with strangers, and other artists. Everything I read, everyone I meet, everything I see in society and nature; it all works its way into my work in way or another.

EC: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who are interested in collaborative work?

DP: Don’t be intimidated by the people you admire and don’t underestimate your talents. Approach people who inspire you, even if they do something completely different than yourself. Your talents could be equally as inspiring to them and useful in a collaborative setting.

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