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Travel BLOG
November 11, 2014

Top 5 Places for Public Art

Santa Cruz County enjoys a fab collection of art thanks to its many independent artists and local institutions like the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH). But you needn't step foot in a studio or museum to view great art works. Public art dots Santa Cruz’s scenic landscape with pieces that speak to its history, culture and surroundings. Here are five great examples:

Tannery Arts Center All Photos by Garrick Ramirez

"You Have No New Messages"

Driving up River Street past Highway 1, you may have taken note of what appears to be a double-decker cow. The 30-foot colorful wooden sculpture is the work of artist Kirby Scudder and welcomes visitors to the Tannery Arts Center. Kirby debuted the piece, titled "You Have No New Messages,” at the art center’s "Tanniversary" earlier this year. Yep, his name rhymes with "udder" but the two cows -- one holding a laptop, the other atop its shoulders -- more likely refer to the Tannery’s past as the historic Salz Tannery. The sculpture is not a permanent piece per se, but there are no foreseeable plans to remove it.

 Historic Label Art Mural Project

Apple Crate Murals

Beautiful, vibrant reproductions of vintage apple crate labels grace the sides of buildings in Watsonville's historic downtown. The 13 murals are part of the city's Historic Label Art Mural Project that honors the agricultural heritage of the area. They accurately replicate just a few of the hundreds of unique labels that were used throughout the Pájaro Valley in the early 1900s. You can download a full-color map with detailed info for each mural here.

 Oceanic Life Spiral

Downtown Santa Cruz

There may be no better place to enjoy the region's public art than in Downtown Santa Cruz. Murals and sculptures enliven the already bustling district. Much of it is the result of efforts by Santa Cruz City Arts. One of their programs, SculpTOUR, rotates a series of artworks along Pacific Street every couple of years. Amidst streetside flower beds, you'll see dogs made of pebbles, a kinetic pendulum and the swirling shark-filled ocean scene Kirk McNeill's Oceanic Life Spiral (pictured above). For a detailed list of downtown art, check out the great self-guided walking tour map that they put together.

 Wave at Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park

Wave at Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park

Professional skater and Santa Cruz native Judi Oyama helped transform a 18’ full pipe -- the first in Northern California -- into a barreling, breaking wave. The colorful concrete “wave” is the most striking feature at the dazzling Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park, named after the late pioneer skate park designer. Oyama worked alongside artists Jimbo Phillips and David Pettigrew to create a clever nod to the nearby Monterey Bay as well as note skateboarding’s parallel to the region's famed surf culture.

 Esplanade Capitola

Esplanade Capitola

Stroll the scenic esplanade along Capitola's waterfront and you'll delight in the colorful tiles that line the prominent sea wall. The 8 x 6 inch tiles were painted by local families and individuals who participated in a summer 2008 project sponsored by the Capitola Art & Cultural Commission. There are 1,046 tiles total that each reflect the theme of “Capitola memories: sand, sun and sea.” You'll see starfish, tikis, and more than a few tropical drinks as well.

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