Photos courtesy of September Wren / Meg Venter
Santa Cruz sparkles through the lens of September Wren. Golden, sun-drenched images of Boardwalk rides, seaside icons, and colorful vintage signs convey the timeless allure of our classic beach town. We asked the talented East Coast transplant what drew her to Santa Cruz and how she spends leisure time with her four young children.
SANTA CRUZ AS THE PERFECT SUBJECT
September Wren is actually a pseudonym used by Santa Cruz artist Meg Venter. Using the birth month and name of her eldest daughter, Meg began selling photography using the name, “September Wren,” as an entry into the art market before moving to Santa Cruz. It was while on a road trip that Meg passed through town and instantly fell in love with it.
“The natural beauty and people just clicked,” she says. “It felt like home.”
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a regular subject in Meg’s work, and some of her most popular images are from her first trip in 2008. Her best seller is a photo of the candy-colored pods of the Sky Glider, the sky-high attraction that leisurely soars riders above the Boardwalk.
“I find Santa Cruz, and particularly the Boardwalk, timeless. Squint your eyes and it could be any era,” she explains. “It exudes a simple, beautiful vacation culture. I love watching people enjoy themselves and their time with their kids.”
Growing up away from the coast, Meg remembers trips to the beach being a special occasion. “I aim to capture those memories and evoke those same feelings in my work,” she says. Focusing on small yet expressive details—a soft serve swirl, a vibrant palm frond, a faded salt-water taffy sign—she narrows her subjects down to their essence. “I try to express the biggest feeling I have in the simplest possible way,” she adds.
MEG'S RECS FOR FAMILIES
When she’s not capturing Santa Cruz’s natural splendor, Meg and her family are out enjoying it. Below, she shares some of her favorite, family-friendly activities throughout the county.
My favorite place to be is in a redwood forest, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the best place for redwoods, hands down. The Redwood Trail is a short loop hike that even toddlers can manage. Sometimes we find a private spot to set up a picnic and just let the kids roam. They will play for hours in the trees, each claiming a hollowed redwood as their home. We also enjoy taking our kids to boulder at nearby Castle Rock State Park.
We head north to Davenport to flee the crowds and enjoy its many secluded beaches. One of my family's favorite things to do is grab fish and chips at Whale City Bakery and picnic on the Davenport Bluffs. In the fall, we love apple picking in the orchards of Swanton Pacific Ranch.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Cave Train is the favorite ride. I love the nostalgia and the kids like that it’s not scary. For lunch, we love The Picnic Basket across the street. We get hot dogs— featuring local vendors El Salchichero and Farmhouse Culture kraut—for the full Boardwalk experience.
The Santa Cruz Harbor
If you're looking for a simple afternoon activity for kids, you can grab an ice cream cone at Crow's Nest Beach Market and watch the boats sail in and out of the harbor.
SHOP SMALL, SHOP LOCAL
Whether you’re a visitor who wants to bring home a piece of Santa Cruz or a local who wants a reminder of the amazing place in which we live, Meg’s luminescent photos radiate the beauty of our beachfront bohemia. It’s little wonder why Hotel Paradox chose to feature her prints in each of their guest rooms. Consider supporting local vendors and artists like Meg whose artwork can be found locally at Artisans Gallery and Agency or via her website. You can discover other local artists like Meg via the Arts Council Santa Cruz’s Artist Registry, a wonderful resource that connects businesses and art lovers with the many gifted individuals that comprise our thriving art scene.