This is the next installation in some content on the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) ‘s development of Abbott Square, a fresh creative community plaza in downtown Santa Cruz. The MAH fundamentally has two jobs: we bring art and background out into our community, and we invite our community in. Within the last six years, we’ve done congrats bringing the grouped community into the MAH. Our audience has quadrupled in size, and people walking through our doors increasingly reflect the age, income, and ethnic diversity of our County.

We’re proud that the MAH is a growing museum AND community middle for Santa Cruz County, a place for individuals of all walks of life to connect around our shared culture and creativity. There’s a lot of love inside the MAH nowadays. But in the spirit of this last visitor comment, we feel it is our responsibility and our glorious opportunity to spread that love beyond our walls. If we only build community inside the building, we’re trapping ourselves and our visitors in a bubble. You want to use.

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We want the MAH’s inclusive creative energy to ripple across our county. Our vision is to create a stronger, more linked community through art and history. If we want to achieve that vision really, we’ve got to reach work in every the places where people live, work, and play.

We’ve attempted beyond-the-building engagement through projects like the POP-UP Museum, Evergreen Cemetery restoration work, and partner-led festivals. I’ve seen over and over how outdoor programming has impact beyond what can occur inside the museum. Some casual passers-by jump directly to participate, and even when they don’t, they get a bit of a contact high from the fact that art is going on within their metropolitan experience.

The engagement may be less intimate, and focused, but the opportunity for ripple effects is greatly increased. The impact outdoors is wider and wilder than whatever happens inside the walls of the institution. So we’re going big by expanding into Abbott Square, the under-utilized plaza on the MAH’s front side doorstep. Abbott Square physically connects the MAH to the main move of downtown Santa Cruz. Four years ago, we were in the early phases of diversifying and expanding MAH programming, and we noticed Abbott Square as a key physical connection between your growing museum and the lively creative life of downtown.

Furthermore, we learned from a Latinx-focused ethnographic study that outdoor development was particularly attractive to local Latinx family members. We wished to reach more folks, and more diverse people, and we saw Abbott Square as a great place to do it. We started community discussions about the potential for Abbott Square Once, the “why” shifted to community desire to have a town square.

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