From the outside, there’s no mistaking the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center for anything other than a welcoming refuge for local creativity-seekers. The colorful front of the building says it all: Within and around these walls is a thriving artistic home that is as engaging, playful, and vibrant as its outer décor promises.
The SCMAC is designed to encourage passion for artwork by expanding the gallery experience to one that includes a focus on hands-on craft in a friendly, small-town environment. It opened in 1987, and now wears many hats as gallery, gift shop, classroom, and gathering place for events, concerts, and receptions enjoyed by residents of Ben Lomond and beyond.
In the front of the building, the Thomas Gallery and gift shop exhibit and sell mixed media work by local artists, including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, basketry, woodwork, textiles, glass, and more. The gallery features approximately six shows throughout the year. These include annually anticipated guest shows, holiday gift shows, and the “Spring Into Art” youth show – an exhibit now celebrating its 19th year.
In addition to showcasing and supporting artists through displays and purchases up front, the SCMAC designates the gallery and adjoining back rooms, deck, and yard area as adult and kid-friendly workspaces for classes and workshops. These are available to members as well as the general public. The center is well-equipped with art resources and materials, including easels, tools, clay, craft tables, art books, and more. Ceramic beginners and pros are able to make use of a throwing room, glazing space, and gas and electric kilns for raku and soda firings. Qualified ceramics members can participate in an independent study program that allows them to take advantage of the clay studio facilities at their leisure.
The SCMAC offers a range of temporary and ongoing classes for adults, intended for students of all skill levels and taught by professional artists. There are also extensive youth education opportunities offering creative enrichment for kids on and offsite. These include art camps, “Art After School” programs in local public schools, as well as updated curriculum and art projects that emphasize a historical and cultural background, and comply with California state standards for the visual arts.
The center has a dedicated staff serving as directors, docents, aides, instructors, and volunteers to curate the varied shows, teach hundreds of students, implement art programs, and more. They work hard to keep the SCMAC flourishing from gallery sales, classes, donations and memberships. As a result, visitors are able to immerse themselves in a lively and interactive cultural experience.
The SCMAC does more than provide visitors with exhibits, exchange, and education. The back yard also includes a casual gathering space and simple, wooden stage for occasional live music, fundraisers, and other locally-oriented events held during the summer. The property is bordered by a lush redwood forest and the San Lorenzo River below, making this an idyllic, relaxing place to appreciate diverse forms of art and the benefits of a close-knit, active community.
You can find out more about the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center on their website: www.mountainartcenter.org