Walking into the Felix Kulpa Gallery and Sculpture Garden is a little like going down an “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit hole. Around each corner is an unexpected, delightful surprise that makes you pause and ponder, and come face to face with wonderful, whimsical forms of creativity.
One of Santa Cruz’s most beloved smaller venues, the Felix Kulpa Gallery is centrally located downtown, right off of Pacific Avenue and behind Streetlight Records. It was originally opened as an extension of Streetlight Records circa 2000, until it landed in the creative hands of artist Robbie Schoen. As of 2016, Schoen has owned and directed the gallery for 12 years, and has made the indoor and outdoor spaces as characteristically unique as the artwork they exhibit.
Felix Kulpa is Latin for happy sin, or guilty pleasures. This playful, provocative ambience has made the gallery a popular place to view innovative artwork by Schoen and guests, as well as attend community events featuring predominantly local artists. The outdoor sculpture garden is visible from the street. Despite potential disturbance due to its public location and casual entranceway, the work is well-preserved and the garden has a secluded but welcoming environment to stroll, observe, and relax in. Inside the gallery, there are two spacious rooms with ample floor and wall space, and bright light streaming in from stained glass windows and skylight ceilings.
The mixed media installations in the garden and gallery are a reflection of Schoen’s appreciation for eclectic art displayed in a constantly evolving space. In addition to guest work, the gallery exhibits Schoen’s own work, including his infamous fountains, and his instrument series consisting of sculptural forms of electric guitars. Schoen’s artistic exploration began at a young age. He started drawing and painting as a child, was always the class artist in school, and over the years developed an interest in transforming found objects that would have otherwise been ignored or discarded. He eventually worked to creatively enhance homes and businesses. His understanding of the artistic process and vision for arranging spaces have helped transform the gallery and turn inanimate objects into treasures.
With a dedicated intention to sell art, Schoen regularly selects individual or group artists to exhibit, and carefully displays their work with this objective in mind. The venue has a busy schedule of monthly shows, with the opening of each new exhibit celebrated by a First Friday artist reception. In addition to showing rotating visual work, Schoen has also collaborated with literary, musical, and dance artists. The space has held professional poetry readings, and has featured local Bay area poets with the New Cadence Poetry Series, as well as UCSC guests. The gallery has also recently hosted live dance performances, a well-received event Schoen hopes to continue in the future.
You can find out more about the Felix Kulpa Gallery and Sculpture Garden by visiting the website.