Last Saturday’s exhibit “Local Essence” featured Ron Cook’s “Dolgeville Autoharp,” a fully working replica of the 1895 instrument. The Santa Cruz Art League show, open to the public, featured a variety of themes and media. Photo by Molly Solomon.
Photo by Molly Solomon.
Photo by Molly Solomon.

The Santa Cruz Art League’s latest exhibit, “Local Essence” drew artists from all across the county last Saturday.

The exhibit, one of two scheduled to showcase the artwork of members of the League, saw an eclectic collection of both art and artists.

“The art league is now 91 years old,” said T. Mike Walker, one of a group currently nominated to become acting director of the League. “There used to be strict rules for who could get in, but over the last 40 years a true community has grown.”

Dressed in homemade African garb, nonchalantly sipping a glass of wine, Walker leans against the League building.

Walker greets yet another associate and friend, before saying with a laugh: “Constant interruptions are a pattern of life around here.”

Friendly passing encounters such as this are common and typical at the League’s exhibits, which have served not only to highlight but support the burgeoning Santa Cruz art community. The art community’s intimacy is clearly evident, said Denise Shaw, a teacher attending the event.

“Events such as this are popular as [Santa Cruz] has a strong community of artists,” Shaw said. “Here they can all come together and socialize.”

The crowd, described by board member Josephine Espinosa as averagely sized for such an occasion, sizes up at around 50.

Saturday’s reception to “Local Essence” was not bound to any particular theme, leading to a diverse selection of works. The works ranged from portraiture and water-colored landscapes to more surprising items, such as swan-themed pottery work and Walker’s magnet-based collages.

Among the more unexpected works featured is Ron Cook’s “Dolgeville Autoharp,” a fully working replica of the 1895 instrument. When asked why he had submitted this piece, Cook shrugged and said that he had “played autoharps, so just thought [he’d] try making one.”

In, “Cement Ship Sunset,” “Panther Beach” and “Sunset Solitude,” three pieces clearly inspired by the same source — our sun-kissed coastline — each artist found their own eclectic interpretation. One is a highly detailed photo, one a watercolor and the other an abstract. All are from local artists. All hang together in the Santa Cruz Art League member’s gallery.

The League’s free public art shows have increased in popularity, shown by both exhibition attendance and number of submissions. Walker hopes that a younger generation of artists will be drawn to the League’s ranks. This, in turn, will support the organizers’ goal to grow to “museum-like levels of recognition,” Espinosa said.

As Walker said: “Whether we know it, or give a fuck or not, it’s a community.”