Ebb & Flow River Arts Project


It’s time to go with the flow!  

Thanks to a grant from the California Arts Council’s Creative California Communities program, and support from the City of Santa Cruz, Ebb & Flow 2016-17 is going to be extraordinary. The theme this year is Stories of our River, with many opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to join in the fun.

Current Call for Artists: We invite artists or artist teams to submit proposals to create temporary artworks and performances along the San Lorenzo River that celebrate or tell stories about the river. Download the call here. Deadline Extended! November 22nd, 2016

If you’re an artist interested in learning more about the history of the San Lorenzo River, please contact The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (the MAH) for information and resources in our Archive.

The MAH Archive is open by appointment and offers research material pertaining to all aspects of Santa Cruz County history. Please email Marla Novo for any research requests.

The MAH has scanned digital copies of historical photographs of the San Lorenzo River. Please email Marla Novo for access to these photographs.

Below is a brief timeline to get you started:

8,000 B.C.E: Indigenous community use the river for fishing, hunt game, and gather plants along the shore. A seasonal village is located at the rivermouth, near today’s Beach Flats.

1769: The Portola Expedition travels here. In a diary entry dated October 17, 1769, Fr. Crespi writes that the group named the watershed, the San Lorenzo.

1791: Padres at Mission Santa Cruz designate an area near the river to build a chapel. After a flood in 1792, they relocate to Mission Hill. The people of Mission Santa Cruz introduce new crops and agriculture to the area around the river. Residents of Villa de Branciforte live near the banks of the river.

1860s: Santa Cruz Chinatown houses immigrants who came for the Gold Rush and stayed to build the railroad. It’s located on Front Street near the river. About 100 men live there.

1895-1927: The community enjoys the festivities of the Venetian Water Carnival.  People sit on the banks of the river to watch nightly fireworks and concerts as well as boats adorned with flowers and lights.

1955: On December 23, the community endures the “Christmas Flood.” It holds the record for the highest flooding in Santa Cruz County history. The water level reaches 20.8 feet above sea level. The ’55 flood wipes out what is left of downtown Santa Cruz Chinatown.

1995: The Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) forms to address the declining health of watersheds in the Monterey Bay region. CWC forms the San Lorenzo River Alliance. This county-wide group focuses on revitalizing the San Lorenzo River and transforming it into a safe and welcoming community destination.

Here’s what’s in store for Ebb & Flow 2016-17

  • Monthly River Tours, starting soon: led by artists and scientists, these tours will blend river awareness with reenactments of historical events.
  • A permanent Public Art Installation at the Tannery Arts Center: reflecting the stories of the Tannery and the San Lorenzo, this installation will be community-designed and built and unveiled at the River Arts Celebration.
  • Riverwalk Temporary Art Installations: 12-16 temporary art installations that tell river stories will be placed at river access points, highlighting the intersections of city and nature throughout June of 2017
  • First Friday and Community Build: on June 2, we will host a downtown community build to create kinetic art for the next day’s parade. First Friday will host a river critter scavenger hunt and install flood markers around downtown, showing water levels during major floods.
  • Kinetic Art Parade: on June 3, 2017, dozens of kinetic sculptures will flow down the Riverwalk, pausing at each access point to unveil the temporary art installations.
  • River Arts Celebration: the Art Parade will end at the Tannery for a celebration where every element reflects the theme. Tables will be paddleboards slashed to sawhorses; tenting will be sails soaring over buildings; water served will come from the river; facepainting will feature otters, salmon, merganzers. Aerial dancers will “fly” off the roofs of the lofts; musicians, poets, and actors on multiple stages will perform in honor of our river and the Tannery and tell river stories. The permanent Ebb & Flow art installation will be unveiled.

Be sure to sign up for the Arts Council newsletter for updates about Ebb & Flow.

Thank you to our project partners: the City of Santa Cruz, the Coastal Watershed Council and San Lorenzo River Alliance, City of Santa Cruz Arts Commission, City of Santa Cruz Economic Development Department, Tannery Arts Center, First Friday, the Downtown Association, the Museum of Art and History, Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center, and numerous public agencies.