Santa Cruz is a place that inspires all forms of art, so it’s no surprise that some of the most high quality guitars being played by musicians around the world are produced by local luthiers.
To celebrate this area’s influential guitar-building and music-making culture, musician Jayme Kelly Curtis introduced the first Santa Cruz Art of Guitar Exhibition and Festival in 2014. It was so beloved by participants and public that it was revived in 2017 for a second expanded edition. The six week series of events provides a rare opportunity to experience the art of guitar – its elaborate design, engineering, and evolution; its beautiful, varied sounds; and the people who bring it to life.
The Art of Guitar Festival engages visitors in a visual, tactile, and aural experience. The main event is an exhibition held in the R. Blitzer Gallery, featuring twenty world-renowned guitar-making luthiers who live and work in Santa Cruz County. Visitors can view their exquisite acoustic and electric guitars as well as other unique stringed instruments. Some of them can be played upon special request. The Gallery is also displaying a selection of the exotic woods and materials from which guitars are crafted, along with visual demonstrations sharing the technical process and historic tradition of guitar building.
The local artisans exhibited in the Art of Guitar 2017 include Fred Carlson, Gil Carnal, Willie Carter and Eric Poulson, Ed Claxton, Tony Graziano, Francisco Hernandez, Kenny Hill, Chris Holcomb, Richard Hoover, Ben Lambdin, John Munnerlyn, Stephen Strahm, Jeff Traugott, Rick Turner, Scott Walker, and Charlie Sutton. They stand out artistically for their wood carving skills, mentoring, and musical contributions. As a collective, they represent the Santa Cruz art community’s vibrant expression and passionate entrepreneurialism.
The exhibition includes artist profiles and photographs that give viewers a sense of the commitment and craftsmanship. Photographers Renée Flower and Jim MacKenzie have captured the essence of the luthier lifestyle – the images reflect the unique analysis and agility involved with guitar production, and the transformation of raw materials into the refined music-making objects on display.
To compliment the exhibition, the Gallery is hosting a Concert Series featuring instruments from Santa Cruz, introduced by the artists who made them, and played by professional musicians. The spacious yet intimate Blitzer Gallery is an ideal environment for listening as well as viewing; these concerts make the appearance, resonance, and sound of these pitch perfect instruments even more remarkable.
This year, Art of Guitar is also including other local venues. On Friday June 16th, the Museum of Art and History will present a live Guitar Building Demonstration and Artist Performance, featuring artists William Coulter, Kenny Hill, Bill Walker, Sequoia Kimmel, and James Robinson. On Saturday July 8th, the Tannery Arts Center’s Colligan Theater will host a Signature Concert, with Laurence Juber and Andrew York, and featuring Janet Noguera.
Don’t miss out on experiencing the craft, creativity, and community that make Santa Cruz instrument-building and music-making appreciated worldwide. For more information visit the R. Blitzer Gallery and santacruzluthiers.org.
Santa Cruz Art of Guitar Exhibition and Festival
June 2 – July 15, 2017