During the annual Open Studios Art Tour, Santa Cruz County becomes one giant community gallery, showcasing established artists and undiscovered talent in private homes and commercial studios from Davenport to Watsonville. One way to experience the tour is to focus on several artists whose work you love, but if you don’t have a selection of studios yet in mind, following the green signs through one or two neighborhoods is a fun approach. Better yet, leave the car parked and explore the art-filled streets by bike.
While you can find clusters of studios throughout the county, the following three neighborhoods have the safest bike routes that cyclists of all levels can enjoy. (Added bonus: All three also have plenty of tasty eateries and cafes where you can stop for a quick bite or drink.) Don’t have a bike? Writer Molly Ressler recommends the following tours, all within Santa Cruz city limits – so locate the nearest JUMP bike and enjoy the ride. Feeling ambitious? Check out the suggested ride extensions or link all three tours for a more challenging ride and a wider selection of artists.
Westside: Neary Lagoon Park to the Old Wrigley Building
Start your bike ride at the entrance to Neary Lagoon Park on California St. for a tour through the lower Westside neighborhoods, past plenty of studios, boutiques, tasting rooms, and restaurants. From Neary Lagoon, head right onto Bay St., then immediately turn left onto Redwood St. for three artists in a row (Sandra Cherk #55, Karen Whitaker #56, and Tomek Walas #57) showing pastels, acrylics, and photography. Make a left on Palm St. and another left back onto California to head into the Circles. See old, discarded objects from a new perspective through Genevieve Daly’s (#53) assemblage pieces. Fight temptation at Lynn Guenther’s (#51) jewelry studio and find bold, Nigerian-inspired wearable art and textiles at IBBayo’s studio (#44), the ninth generation of a traditional weaving family.
Follow Woodrow Ave. out of the Circles, making a right onto Delaware. Keep your eyes peeled for green signs along your ride, stopping as often as you like. Don’t miss the cluster of artists on John St.—327 John St. is hosting not one, but three artists (Janet Allinger #28, Sam Clarkson #30, and Tessa Hope Hasty #171)! A few doors down, welcome fiber artist Kelsey Cerdas (#32) to her first year with Open Studios. Next, follow Swift St. to Mission St. and lock up your bike. This section has a wide variety of artists all within walking distance.
Inside the wide, industrial hallways of the Old Wrigley Building, don’t miss the Art Cave featuring Danielle Peters’ (#18) mystical 3-dimensional cut paper and wood pieces and Leigh Erickson’s (#17) abstract paintings. Just down the hall, find the primitive, geometric patterns of Human Shaped Animal (#20) at Idea Fab Labs and the mesmerizing paintings of Michele Giulvezan-Tanner (#19). For a preview exhibit of artists on the outskirts of Santa Cruz, stop by the R. Blitzer Gallery.
Worth the detour: Swift Street Courtyard, Humble Sea Brewery, and Companion Bakeshop
Extend this ride: Cross over Highway 1 at Swift St. and explore the artists along Escalona Dr.
The Riverwalk: Abbott Square Market to the Tannery Arts Center
Start your bike ride Downtown Santa Cruz at Abbott Square Market adjacent to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH). Besides the MAH, downtown is also home to the Felix Kulpa Gallery and Artisans Gallery, all three worth a visit. For Open Studios, peruse the digital photography of Peter Harris (#87) and stop by the Santa Cruz Art Center to view the vibrant quilts of Ann Baldwin May (#83).
Next, take Center St. to Locust St. and head back to Abbott Square. Walk your bike across Front St. and through the Galleria breezeway past Cafe Mare, Yoso Wellness Spa, and DNA’s Comedy Lab until you reach the San Lorenzo River. Look for the macro-invertebrate mosaics along the Santa Cruz Riverwalk made by Mission Hill Middle School students under the guidance of Kathleen Crocetti before hopping back on your bike to pedal upstream with the ocean at your back and the Santa Cruz Mountains on the horizon.
Your next destination is the bustling Tannery Arts Center. If you have time, take a quick detour down Josephine St. and across River St. to Daniel Carey’s studio (#84) for sculptures in a range of material including leather, metal, wood and glass. Grab a bite to eat at the River St. Cafe before biking back over to the riverwalk and continuing along the water until you reach the Tannery.
The site of a leather tannery from 1866-2001, the red barn-style buildings are now home to dozens of Santa Cruz artists, with 100 live/work residences and 28 working studios. Sarah Bianco (#137) uses abstract expressionism to explore the mysteries of consciousness and Fanne Fernow (#135) creates meditative encaustic works—an ancient process that involves applying molten colored wax onto panels. Terry McInerney’s (#138) art-form is especially site-appropriate: Using traditional techniques, she hand-stitches and dyes leather clutches that balance both beauty and function.There’s plenty to see in this hotspot for the arts, including the latest show at Radius Gallery.
Worth the Detour: Felix Kulpa Gallery, Artisans Gallery, River St. Cafe
Extend this Ride: On your return ride, cross the bridge that parallels Highway 1 to access the other side of the San Lorenzo River. Follow the Riverwalk back towards the ocean and connect to Midtown through Ocean View Park.
Midtown: North and South of The Buttery
First things first. Start your day off right by eating a hearty breakfast and planning your must-see studios at The Buttery on Soquel Ave. Once you’ve had your fill of pastries and coffee, put on your helmet and head down S. Branciforte Ave. Make a left onto Hanover and check out the art of Rosie, Ea, and Michael Eckerman (#98-100). Rosie will be showing her linoleum relief prints alongside Ea’s ocean-inspired acrylics on natural wood and Michael’s organic rockwork. (This is one talented family!)
Next, pedal back to Soquel and down a block to Pennsylvania Ave. Colorful mosaics fill Beth Purcell’s studio (#104) near Taqueria Santa Cruz and just down the street Jody Bare’s (#103) lino-cut prints on shirts, pillows, purses, and scarves make perfect one-of-a-kind gifts. Finally follow Pennsylvania across Broadway to see Barbara Lawrence’s (#95) landscapes and figures in oil on canvas .
You can also bike in the opposite direction from The Buttery, heading up N. Branciforte and across Water St. Keep your eyes peeled for the green signs leading you to several studios featuring ceramics and stoneware. Continue along N. Branciforte to Chilverton St. out to Morrissey Blvd. where you’ll find more stoneware by Jasper Marino (#112) in addition to oil paintings by Margaret Rinkovsky and Louanne Korver (#111 & #113) and watercolors by Melinda Vahradian (#110).
Worth the detour: Verve Coffee on Bronson St. and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales on Water St.
Extend this ride: Bike through Arana Gulch and over to 17th Ave where you’ll find 10+ artists shoulder to shoulder in the 17th Ave Studios.
Enjoy the last weekend of Open Studios 2019, October 19 & 20, 11am-5pm. Whether you explore the tour by bike, foot, or car, just follow the green signs across Santa Cruz County to discover the work and creative spaces of 300 local artists. Get your free Artist Guide with neighborhood maps wherever you find the Good Times, or download the Open Studios Art Tour app starting October 1. Artists participating in All County Weekend are marked in the Guide with a sunburst symbol. See samples of each artist’s work at the preview exhibits hosted at the Santa Cruz Art League and R. Blitzer Gallery all three weekends. For more information, including this year’s list of artists and interactive map, visit santacruzopenstudios.com.