of a mosaic that volunteers are making at the
Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., on
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. The mosaics are part of
the Ebb & Flow arts project and the community
build going on at the Tannery Arts Center.
in my high school days in California, we were all about
the beach, and Santa Cruz was the ultimate summer hot spot
for us cool kids living in San Jose. Just a short hop over
the hill in my ’84 Mustang GT, my gal pals and I would
make a blinders-on beeline for the Boardwalk’s sand, sun
and swabs of cotton candy crystallizing in the soggy
seaside air. We’d ride the creaky wood-ribbed rails of
the Giant Dipper until we could do the dip no more. It was
wow, did we miss a lot.
in my advanced years, I see there’s far more to Santa
Cruz than meets the surf. In fact, the beach is not the
only aquatic attraction. The San Lorenzo River runs right
through the center of town. Once fished by the Ohlones and
celebrated by early dwellers, it was walled off with
levees in the 1950s and all but ignored ever since.
indifference may soon fade to the past, though, with the
debut of the Ebb & Flow River Arts Project. It’s a
public art event and sculpture series based around the
Tannery Arts Center, kicking off June 6 with a
kinetic-arts parade, daylong celebration and the unveiling
of permanent and temporary works. Colorful, fused-glass
medallions will dangle from trees like gems the size of
dinner plates; massive mosaic-wrapped pots will embrace
even more massive steel trees; human figures, glowing from
within, will be poised with fishing poles on a pedestrian
bridge — all with themes relating to the natural
landscape and the history of the site. And it’s designed
to remind folks about the river as a destination.
that’s not enough to encourage beyond-the-beach
exploration, stroll the rejuvenated downtown streets, grab
a scoop of organic candy-cap mushroom or spiced mascarpone
prune at the Penny Ice Creamery or bury your nose in
Grateful Dead history with the Dead Archives at the
University of California, Santa Cruz. More on all that in
lot of people don’t know about this incredible river
that’s running through town," says Michelle
Williams, director of the Arts Council, Santa Cruz County,
which is presenting the summer Ebb & Flow project.
"Sixty-five percent of our drinking water in this
area comes from the San Lorenzo River. There’s a rich
history connected to it. In the late 1800s, they’d hold
the Venetian Water Festival. Over the decades there were
boat parades, swimming, fishing.
want to bring back that sense of celebration around the
river. And art is at the core of it."
major temporary works will be positioned at access points
along the levees, all produced by local artists — from
Geoffrey Nelson’s glowing human figures to art teacher
Linda Cover’s "Creature Banners" with student
drawings of raccoons and great blue herons. Some of the
temporary sculptures will remain at least through June,
but the ultimate goal is permanent art, Williams says.
that end, a series of permanent mosaics — the vision of
artists Kathleen Crocetti and Anna Oneglia — will
welcome visitors to the Tannery Arts Center, a cluster of
barn-red buildings on the river’s bank where the old
Salz Tannery once operated. It’s now a thriving complex
with residences and studios, its hallways lined with
paintings and sculptures. A performing arts center will be
completed later this year.
my recent visit, Crocetti led me to the mosaics’
ultimate destination — three massive concrete planter
pots at the entryway.
are some of the most uninteresting things you’ll ever
see," she says, slapping the side of one of the giant
pots, originally placed there to keep people from driving
into the main walkway. "We’re going to change all
that and make this a focal point. Keep the pots, but wrap
each one in beautiful mosaics."
12-foot-high stainless-steel tree, created by the master
metal craftsmen at Cheney Metals in Watsonville, will be
installed in each pot.
involvement was key in this project, Crocetti says, and
volunteers have spent hundreds of hours in the studio,
creating waves of color and splashes of fish, birds and
plant life out of tiny colorful chunks of ceramic tile,
called tesserae, on large sheets of sticky, flexible
plastic to affix to the pots. "The grouting will be
another big community event," Crocetti says,
chuckling at the thought.
your grouting arm gets tired, feel free to hop over a few
blocks to Santa Cruz’s main downtown drag, Pacific
Avenue, and check out the funky vibe — somewhere between
the swank of San Jose’s Santana Row and the
counterculture quirk of Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue.
There are upscale kitchen supplies at Chefworks and chic
"rustic California" dining at the Assembly. But
visitors also will find shops offering henna and tarot
appointments, a couple of surf shops and plenty of street
vendors selling dream catchers and beaded chokers.
block over at 913 Cedar St. (and at a kiosk on Pacific),
you’ll find Penny Ice Creamery, tucked in a tiny
tile-roofed, 90-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival building
with an open kitchen and production room, where you can
watch workers create small batches of ever-changing,
intriguing flavors from scratch (orange star-anise sorbet
one day, whiskey custard another). After waiting in a line
out the door, I had a scoop of ginger honey on a
house-made waffle cone. I was in heaven, or at least my
your tie-dye on and visit the Grateful Dead Archives in
the McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz (the band and the
school are turning 50 this year). Check out old posters,
programs, cover art, news clips, photos, letters. It’s
free and open during library hours.
down to the wharf and the old Santa Cruz Dream Inn at 175
W. Cliff Drive and check out its new Jack O’Neill
cocktail lounge, a near shrine to the man who brought the
world the wetsuit. Surfboards line the ceiling, there’s
an original prototype wetsuit under glass (said to have
been crafted out of neoprene from the carpet of a DC-3),
plus vintage photos and a drink menu featuring Jack’s
favorite libation, a Ketel One martini.
course, there’s still nothing wrong with a trip to the
Boardwalk. These days, I like to go there in the early
morning, before the crowds hit, and the beach is the sole
property of seagulls and a growling sand-grooming vehicle
— kind of a beach Zamboni. Workers test the rides,
running empty cars through their paces. Speakers blare
"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." Vendors set up games
such as the milk-bottle toss, three balls for $2 — what
a deal! And I could win a large neon-orange baboon? Sold!
sure and celebrate (and by celebrate, I mean eat lots of
salt water taffy) the 100th birthday of a Boardwalk
staple, Marini’s Candies, by the entrance to the arcade.
Italian immigrant Victor Marini started this sweet legacy
in 1915. The 90-year-old taffy-pulling machine in the
window cranks a mesmerizing rhythm. And fluffs of cotton
candy whirl onto sticks, soon to crystallize in the soggy