For 34 years, artists across Santa Cruz County have shared their creativity directly with the community through our Open Studios Art Tour. This year, our methods have had to adapt, but our mission has not changed. While we won’t be making that connection in person, we’re excited to announce the Visual Arts Network – an online space where our county’s creators can showcase their work and build relationships with local art-lovers like you.

We chatted with Open Studios & Events Director Ann Ostermann to learn more about this exciting new project.

Tell us about this new program! What’s different about the Visual Arts Network? How many artists will be a part of the Network? 

The Visual Arts Network is a year-long curated directory of visual artists living and working in Santa Cruz County. There will be 360 artists participating! With this being an online space, we were able to welcome a broader scope of artists to join. On the Network you’ll be able to find veteran Open Studios artists, emerging artists, and even artists who haven’t been a part of Open Studios for a while but are finding this to be the right opportunity for connection right now. Each artist will have their own personal page to highlight their work and artistic process, and connect with the public. We’re planning for this to be a new ongoing program, so while applications are closed for this year, interested artists can keep an eye out for how to apply next year.

What was the response like from artists when we announced it? 

The response was one of gratitude – on our side as well. We’re so glad we found a way to keep the community connected to the arts at a time when we couldn’t hold our normal Open Studios.

Here’s some of the feedback I’ve received so far:

“I like this concept, Ann! Count me in.” – Paul Fortis

“This is very brilliant. It’s going to take so much work, but it seems so fresh. Amazing.”  – Fanne Fernow

“What a well thought-out plan. Of course I’ll participate. I look forward to further communications, I’m sure there will be ways for all of us to help make this new endeavor succeed. Kudos to you and the Open Studios Committee for a good job of planning and pivoting under duress.” – Marc Shargel

Support for artists is especially necessary in the time of COVID-19. How did we take that into account for Visual Arts Network applications?

Through the generosity of one of our donors, we were able to set up the Artist Fund. Artists could simply let us know if, for any reason, paying the application fee wasn’t possible for them. We’re happy to share that we waived application fees for 36 artists.

What will artists get out of being part of the Visual Arts Network?

The main benefit for artists is connection – both with their fellow artists and with art-lovers here in Santa Cruz County and beyond. What’s really exciting is that we are going to offer a variety of professional development opportunities to participating artists. The benefit of being part of this digital platform will go way beyond their listing. I like the idea that we’re helping artists learn needed skills for the digital art world that will be helpful even when we return to “normal.”

What else is exciting about this new online platform?

We’re partnering with the team at the Digital NEST in Watsonville to create the Visual Arts Network site. What’s cool about this is that they are employing interns for this work and empowering youth. Their Job Training and Career Development program gives young people hands-on training and learning through projects like this one, giving them opportunities and setting them up for professional success.

And, of course, we couldn’t have done it without our supporters. This is Sutter Health Network‘s THIRD year as a Presenting Sponsor! And, Santa Cruz County Bank joined as a Major Sponsor for the first time.

How will the public know when the Visual Arts Network is ready?

Just like we spread the word about Open Studios in the fall, we’ll be shouting it from the rooftops when the Visual Arts Network is ready for everyone to dive into this October. Keep an eye out for ads in your favorite local publications like the Good Times, sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop right from your inbox, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for special artist features.


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