Last Friday, my wife and I went to a “3rd Friday” event at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History:
Radical Craft Night is back at the MAH! Challenge your traditional notions of craft at the MAH’s Radical Craft Night which takes crafting to the extreme. Join us for a night of workshops, demonstrations, collaborations, performances, and making at the MAH:
We’re museum members, mainly to support the work that MAH is doing in community building and creating art, rather than because of any intrinsic interest in the museum. Before Nina Simon took over management of the museum a few year’s ago, it was a terribly boring history museum with generally uninteresting art exhibits. They did some useful work in maintaining history archives and publishing local history books, but that was about it. Under Nina’s leadership, the museum has really blossomed, with twice monthly events, lots of partnerships with other groups in the community, and much more interesting galleries.
The crafts night turned out to be a little less “radical” than I might have expected from their advertising, but it seemed to be a great event for kids (too bad they weren’t doing that sort of thing a decade ago, when our son was the right age for it).
For example, the blacksmithing was not a “demo” (we’ve seen plenty of blacksmithing demos), but was instead a chance for kids to don safety goggles and hammer hot steel on an anvil. They had two portable propane forges set up and two anvils—and kids (mainly boys) were lined up for turns to make something.
The hand-cranked sewing machines were also a fairly popular setup, more so than the backstrap weaving (set up with too long a warp for the time available) or the triangular looms.
There were a lot of other crafts, like the fabric greeting cards and bubble-wrap printing, that would have been good for 6–10-year-olds, but they were not what I’d consider “radical”. They were popular with kids, though, and parents had brought lots of kids.
Perhaps the high point of the event for us was the wearable art fashion show, which was a selection from a larger event coming up at the Rio Theater (though not as big as the fashionArt show in September). There were only a couple of pieces that looked actually wearable, but a number were amusing.
My wife and I had already seen the surfboards that were the first ones made in California (which are being sent back to Hawaii 2015 Nov 30), and the good Uncommon Threads wearable art display in the main gallery, which runs until 2015 Dec 6. So we used some of our time at the event to look at the history gallery, which was remodeled this summer.
The new history gallery is more interesting than the old one, includes more recent history, and seems to have a less biased viewpoint. All the captioning was done in both English and Spanish, and looked like it had been professionally written to have about a 4th-grade reading level, which is appropriate for the school field trips that the museum gets. We would have liked there to have been some more in-depth information on individual items (like the baskets and the feather cloak) for adults—perhaps QR codes could be used to link to web pages for each item?
We would also like to have seen a photo of the big tents that kept downtown businesses alive for months after the Loma Prieta quake—there was a lot about the quake itself, but not much about the rebuilding from the quake, which played a major role in reshaping downtown Santa Cruz.
We’re not likely to go to many 1st Friday or 3rd Friday events (by the end of the week we just want to rest at home), but it was worth going to this one for me, just to see the museum being so active.