Downtown art display unites community with eccentricity
On the first Friday of April, more than 1,000 Santa Cruz residents participated in an unprecedented filming session at the Civic Auditorium, where a veritable parade of diverse personalities took turns walking in front of a camera, doing as they chose, and walking off. “Everybody was so jazzed out of their minds to be there,” says David Sieburg, an executive producer at The Impact Media Group, who adds, “It was pretty much off the charts.”
The event was merely the first phase of “We are Santa Cruz – Reflections of our Community,” a video art project organized by Impact, a local production company with more than 30 years in the Santa Cruz area. The second phase of the project involves compiling the footage into a nighttime art display that will be projected as a silent, black-and-white looping video. The completed exhibit will debut at the E.C. Rittenhouse Building on May 3, where a street-level window on Pacific Avenue will come to life with full-size, moving reflections of Santa Cruz residents.
The project was conceived as a response to the recent wave of violence in Santa Cruz, particularly the shooting deaths of Santa Cruz Police officers Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler, which occurred just blocks from Impact’s studio on Soquel Avenue. “I think it was that night, actually, we were discussing doing something, maybe some sort of art project or display that would just give some positivity back to the community,” remembers Sieburg, who is also the project manager.
“We all sat down and just started writing things on the chalkboard, trying to think of themes, and one of the ideas was ‘We are Santa Cruz,’ and that actually became the name of the exhibit,” continues assistant coordinator Donald Eldridge, a producer at Impact.
“And that’s what led to the concept of ‘what if we filmed Santa Cruz locals?’ and made the project about the people of Santa Cruz, and just show the variety of personalities that live here,” adds Sieburg. “So it’s really about making a stand against the string of violence, and honoring the officers and where we live in a playful and peaceful way.”
While “We are Santa Cruz” is not officially sponsored by the city, both Mayor Hilary Bryant and Deputy Chief Steve Clark support the project. Furthermore, it has been embraced by the community at large, perhaps due to the lack of editorializing on the part of Impact.
“At the end of the day, the project was all about letting people be who they are,” notes Jarrod Allen of Impact. “We’re not trying to paint a picture—we just posted a camera up, let them step in front of it, and do whatever they wanted.”
“It was great to see people have fun with it,” adds event coordinator Deva Blaisdell-Anderson, a senior producer at Impact. “It had an element of spontaneity that I think was really key.”
It remains to be seen what effect the completed exhibit will have on the community, or even how its effects will be felt. “I don’t know if it’s going to change the world; it’s probably not going to stop violence in Santa Cruz,” admits Sieburg. “A lot of the people who have posted negatively about the event [via social networking] were like, ‘What’s this really going to do?’ You know, sometimes you just want to do something that feels good and people can rally behind.”
Blaisdell-Anderson agrees. “I don’t think we have any illusions about it saving the community, but it’s just contributing to the healing process that we’re going through, and we felt it was vital to acknowledge all the things that have happened recently and not sort of sweep them under the rug or not do anything about it.” She continues, “We make video, and so this was a way that we could use what we make to contribute to the process.”
Indeed, remembering is essential to the healing process, and in that sense, the project has already made an impact (so to speak), and should continue to do so. And as a community looks forward to better days, its reflections honor the lives that have been lost—a reminder that they mattered, and still matter.
‘We are Santa Cruz – Reflections of our Community’ will debut on May 3 and run for several months at the E.C. Rittenhouse Building, 1375 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information, visit wearesantacruz.org. Photo: #1 C. Hansen #2 D. Ellston