by Bree Karpavage
In August of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic and a bit under the radar, local gallery curator, Melissa Kreisa opened Santa Cruz’s newest white wall gallery, Curated. Located at 703 Front Street just down from the MAH in downtown, the Curated Pop-up Gallery is quickly becoming a prime spot for First Friday events featuring thoughtfully and artfully curated exhibits showcasing local artists.
Kreisa originally opened a gallery space in Capitola in 2019 called ‘Curated by the Sea’ bringing a fine art space to the city and offering artists a new outlet for showing their work. But as 2020 entered us into the pandemic and what would become a long standing and difficult climate for local businesses, Kreisa knew that she would not be able to financially sustain staying open. As one door closed another opened and Kreisa’s love and commitment to the arts continued to drive her. She saw the need for more galleries in Santa Cruz, a city in the top 5 for artists per capita in the state. She quickly set her sights on downtown.
Kreisa approached the owner of 703 Front Street with an idea for a profit share in exchange for rent after the space had been sitting vacant for two years and the pandemic was shuttering business after business downtown. They agreed but with the stipulation that the space would stay available for rent until Kreisa could either pay the full price or another business came in to make an offer. A year later, Curated was approved for a six month business rent grant sponsored by Santa Cruz Economic Development. She’s hoping this time will give the gallery an opportunity to gain popularity and attract the clientele who have the means to buy fine art to support the artists she features and the gallery itself. Kreisa is open to accepting a fiscal sponsorship as well and fundraising events are in the works. For now the “For Rent” sign is gone from the front window and the walls are in the process of getting a fresh coat of paint, thanks to contributing artist Glenn Carter and the generous effort and support from the local artist community.
Since opening last year, Kreisa’s efforts have helped open up the availability of art showings for artists in Santa Cruz. She quickly jumped in to participate in a fundraising event hosted by First Friday for CZU fire survivors last September which she says was just the springboard she needed to get the gallery open. Her collaborative nature also helped launch the multi-gallery exhibit “450 Pieces” in February. In collaboration with the Santa Cruz Arts Council, Radius Gallery at the Tannery and R.Blitzer Gallery on the Westside, Curated featured a third of 450 art pieces created by local artists on the Visual Artists Network, re-igniting the Santa Cruz art scene together with First Friday. Since then Curated has hosted multiple exhibits throughout the year, utilizing First Friday as a key event for their openings.
In September, Curated opened a new exhibit titled, “Exhibitionist” featuring ten locally famous and noteworthy artists working in assemblage, sculpture and paint such as Glenn Carter, Cheryl Coon and Beth Shields alongside ten ‘Pivot: The Art of Fashion’ designers like IB Bayo,The Great Morgani and Rose Sellery. The opening of “Exhibitionist” on First Friday featured live models adorned in wearable art from past Pivot Fashion shows and meet and greets with the artists.
The idea of pairing visuals and wearables came from a Pivot planning and brainstorming session with designers and Pivot producers, Rose Sellery and Tina Brown, both longtime friends of Kreisa’s. Each new exhibit is a labor of love and inspired by Kreisa’s longtime connections in the Santa Cruz art world. She works hand in hand with many artists, designers and curators and believes collaboration is an invaluable key to hosting beautiful and successful events in the gallery.
“Exhibitionist” runs through October 30, 2021. If you missed the opening in September, not to worry, the artists will return for another reception in October on First Friday and will include a live Jazz performance from Curated’s house band the Los Improvidors. The Gallery will be open from 12-8pm.
Keep an eye out for new exhibits and events from Curated this year into next. Kreisa’s enthusiasm, determination, commitment to and support of local artists is uplifting and inspiring, a true testament to the amazing and supportive art community here in Santa Cruz.
Curated Pop-up Gallery
703 Front St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060