By Gianmaria Franchini

James Lafferty is the editor of Clocktower, Santa Cruz’s new arts magazine. Focusing on visual arts, the magazine showcases local art currently housed in downtown galleries and provides a forum for artists to communicate with the public and their peers. The first issue can be picked up at the High Gallery downtown, Streetlight Records, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Logos, or the Literary Guillotine. A second issue will become available around the beginning of next year. Mr. Lafferty was generous enough with his time to talk with City on a Hill Press (CHP) about his magazine, the local arts environment, and signature Santa Cruz weirdness.

CHP: What are Clocktower’s short and long-term goals?

James Lafferty: In the short term right now we’re still working on getting our funding for our second issue. And that’s supposed to come out in December. The first issue had too many photographs of artists, and a lot less emphasis on the actual art itself, so the next issue will emphasize images and photos of artwork. I think once [the magazine] gets solidified, I’d like to take it to a more regional audience rather than a local audience, and from there it depends how interesting and vibrant the Santa Cruz arts scene continues to be.

CHP: What kind of audience are you trying to reach out toward with Clocktower?

JL: I think a big part of our magazine is about documenting what local artists are doing. What I’d like it to be is something where people who are interested in the art this place offers can take the magazine away with them and have something with long-term viability. The Metro and Good Times, for example, provide an excellent service, but you go to them, you get what you need out of them, and then you move onto some other timely source. With Clocktower, I’m looking to create something you hang onto.

CHP: Do you find the local environment is uniquely responsive or open to the arts?

JL: I think it is, in that respect, a special place. Just from the point of view from the kind of art that’s produced here, it’s quite a bit different from what people are doing down in Carmel, for example. Without painting with too wide a brush, the art there tends to be more commercial, more homogenous. You know the t-shirts that say “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”? I think there’s the potential for taking some of that weirdness to the arts and making for a much more nuanced and interesting place.

CHP: Does the emphasis on “weirdness” sometimes supersede the importance of quality?

JL: Sometimes it does. At the same time in other places you have commercial viability superseding quality. It tends to cut both ways. What’s cool about Santa Cruz is that it’s not afraid to be weird, but the pitfall is that sometimes it’s afraid not to be weird. It also means that people are more likely to experiment with new ideas and not worry about things being too pretty, and that can set a lot of artists free to find and express their vision.

CHP: That said, is there anything about the local art environment you’d like to see change?

JL: I’d like to see Santa Cruz become a little less insular. Santa Cruz sometimes makes itself so locally oriented that it pushes out the outside world. We’re existing in a time where it’s important to be more open in the sense of taking our art and wanting to show it to other people. Regional differences and nuances are a great thing, but when they cross a line and become mere regionalism or provincialism it’s not such a good thing, at least not in the world we live in today.

CHP: Can UC Santa Cruz have a role in improving or facilitating local art?

JL: There isn’t any other local organization that is in a better position to set up an intellectual dialogue about the arts and what they mean here. A university is very much equipped to produce conferences and those kinds of events. It would be important that the university communicates that not only to its own population, but to the rest of the people that live here.

CHP: What is one thing you’re just beginning to learn about yourself and your work?

JL: There are all kinds of things that I’m learning about myself, and not just in regards to the magazine. With the magazine, and trying to get it to a point where it can really be successful, and be what I want it to be, I’m learning to rely on some of the other folks who are helping out. And also, I think, the importance of patience.