First Friday Santa Cruz

Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

by Bree Karpavage

Archways, stained glass, bricks, white walls, metalwork, and a sculpture garden. A culmination of materials comprising a quirky old building in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz, the Felix Kulpa Gallery. Perhaps the oldest gallery in Santa Cruz, over 20 years and counting, the gallery is host to both emerging and seasoned artists presenting them the opportunity to showcase a range of work from large scale installations to wall art in a variety of price points.

This, gallery director, curator and local artist Mary Tartaro says, is what she loves about working in the gallery. Felix Kulpa is a welcoming space for artists from all walks of life and skill levels. Staying away from the rigid commercial gallery script and instead operating more as a labor of love is what has kept this gallery ripe with a by-gone Santa Cruz energy.

Photo on left courtesy Felix Kulpa Gallery

And you can feel the love as you enter the space. Recently renovated post-pandemic after the gallery took a hiatus, this architectural treasure exudes art from every corner – literally, from the rows of stained glass windows above the archway alcoves to the metal crank skylight that opens at the top of a 20 foot peak in the ceiling to the artwork on the walls. Mary’s artistic eye curates unique exhibits that tie in with the gallery’s architectural details creating shows unlike any other in town.

The current exhibition titled “Transformed by Fire: The Foundry WOMEN of SJSU” features over four decades of women working at the SJSU foundry. Furniture made entirely from nails, stunning pieces representing the female form, abstract work inspired by old dolls and a spectacular piece by Mary herself paying homage to motherhood are a few works on display. Artists include: Linda Walsh, Cynthia Handel, Mary Tartaro, Elena Lourenco, Hedwig Heerschop, Lynn Dau, Lynne Todaro, Rebecca Wallace, Jackelin Solorio, Cynthia Gonzalez and Jennifer Cannon.

Work from “Transformed by Fire” from left: Mary Tartaro stands behind a sculpture by Rebecca Wallace, art by Jackelin Solorio, First Friday director Bree Karpavage trying out the furniture set by Lynn Dau.

Felix Kulpa Gallery is located at 107 Elm St. in Downtown Santa Cruz neighboring Streetlight Records. You can’t miss the suspended metal sign welcoming you into this unique art space that feels like an evolving story of Santa Cruz history.

Gallery hours are Thursday-Sunday, 11am-6pm and on First Fridays 5-8pm | On Instagram: @felixkulpagallery