In 1885, a group of Santa Cruz artists came together after identifying the need for a place to meet, display and teach about art. This initiated the first local art gallery and class center, which the participating artists formed into the Santa Cruz Art League in 1919. In 1947, the Santa Cruz Art League evolved into a nonprofit, and in 1951 was officially established as a public organization offering membership to anyone interested in being involved.
Since then, the SCAL continues to wear many hats to make a wide variety of resources and opportunities available to the public. In addition to facilitating an exhibit space, classes, workshops, receptions, and special events for visual art, the SCAL also features the performing and literary arts, including children’s theater classes, theater productions, concerts, and monthly book readings and signings by local authors.
The SCAL has a welcoming and purposeful environment indicative of its mission to serve the public and encourage the celebration of art both recreationally and professionally. Every exterior and interior inch of the center appears to be put to thoughtful and creative use. The entranceway is marked by a well-maintained garden and bulletin board announcements. The lobby acts as both a mini exhibit with individual member displays rotating monthly, and an ongoing gift shop for purchasing local artwork.
In the main gallery, approximately twelve to fourteen art exhibits are held annually with free admission for the public. While some shows are designed for member work, others are juried, or are invitational. Exhibits are contemporary and traditional; local and widespread in nature, including the Annual Statewide Landscape Exhibit, now in its 86th year.
The educational programs are extensive, with classes in diverse mediums offered as drop-in, series, or weekend workshops throughout the year for artists of all ages and stages. Membership encourages new and established artists to enjoy special benefits including discounts on classes and events, and further opportunity to network, display work, and be creatively inspired.
The SCAL appears to have an “all hands on deck” approach – it’s thanks to the hardworking staff, board of directors, fundraising committee, and dedicated volunteers that the center’s activities stay alive and thriving. As well maintaining the original intention and integrity of the organization, the gallery directors show
consistent efforts towards making art classes, events, and exhibits more accessible to the thousands of attending community members. Plans are underway to upgrade the office communication systems, enhance collaborations and leadership, as well as fund a new and improved classroom in the form of a 20 foot diameter Yurt.