An Anchor in Abbott Square

If you were to identify a geographic center of our town’s community, where would you put it? For as engaged and participatory as we are in Santa Cruz, we are arguably lacking in that singular ‘town center’. There are many places where people gather and share ideas, where performances take place, and people sit and enjoy an afternoon tea. Our coffee houses are often filled with students cramming, tables crowded with scrabble boards and cappuccinos. There are certainly parks, like our Louden Nelson Center where children climb and run, while tai chi classes focus inward to tune out the afternoons pick up games, and visitors to the center come and go. Up Stairs in offices colleagues troubleshoot a new solution and process the information of our age. Throughout the town there is activity, but where is it’s center?


The Museum of Art and History has begun an ambitious process of exploring how Abbott Square could serve as a center of culture and creativity. This exploration, like everything the MAH has done lately won’t be done in a small way. The MAH is currently working with the Project for Public Spaces, a national urban planning firm, to develop the plans for Abbott Square in partnership with community stakeholders, ranging from artists to County families to Downtown businesses. The Project for Public Spaces was founded by William Whyte, an urban planner who helped shape the redevelopment of Downtown Santa Cruz after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Abbott Square planning project will involve creative approaches both to the physical space and to the programming and management of the Square. Mayor Hilary Bryant notes, “I am very excited about the Abbott Square project because it will help to enhance our Downtown as a welcoming and inviting destination for residents, visitors, and businesses by revitalizing an underutilized public outdoor space with art.”

abbot3In keeping with the MAH’s collaborative approach to working with the community, the MAH is hosting two public workshops at which community members are invited to share their ideas about what might make this plaza as successful as possible. This is a unique opportunity to engage in creative placemaking and impact the future of Downtown Santa Cruz. These workshops will be facilitated by the Project for Public Spaces. There are two public workshops: one on January 31 from 4:30pm-7:30pm, and one on February 2 from 9am-12pm. Both will be held at MAH. Interested participants should RSVP to Nina Simon at

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