The MUSE

A new art installation called 'We Are Santa Cruz' is designed to bring hope and joy back to a city touched by violence 

By WALLACE BAINE

On the evening of Feb. 26, a few hours after two Santa Cruz police officers were shot and killed, the staff at the video-production company IMPACT met at the company’s offices, just a couple of blocks away from the spot where the shooting occurred.

“It was a very emotional meeting,” said IMPACT’s David Sieburg. “We all felt that we had to do something.”

The shootings were the most painful of a number of violent crimes that had plagued Santa Cruz in the previous months, and Sieburg and his colleagues feared that the city was becoming known primarily for its crime, danger and atmosphere of fear.

“We decided we wanted to inject some kind of positivity into the community,” said Sieburg.

What was born that night was an art installation titled “We Are Santa Cruz,” which is to be unveiled tonight in the store window at the Rittenhouse Building, on the corner of Church Street and Pacific Avenue.

Its concept is simple: A rear-screen projector will project onto a screen life-size video images of more than 1,000 Santa Cruzans stepping before the camera, one or two at a time, to express themselves however they see fit for about five seconds before exiting stage left and allowing the next person to come forward, to create an illusion that your neighbors are greeting you from inside the building as you watch them from the sidewalk.

The video loop lasts about two and a half hours before it comes back to the beginning and repeats itself.

“This is really just local people expressing what Santa Cruz means to them,” said Sieburg. “The idea is to celebrate the peaceful and playful side of Santa Cruz.”

Tonight’s unveiling is to take place at 8 p.m., as part of the monthly First Friday Santa Cruz celebration. The video will then play every night from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Ritt throughout the summer.

The video was created a month ago during April’s First Friday event. IMPACT put out a call for locals to gather at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to participate in the video.

“We had no idea what to expect,” said Sieburg, “but we got there at 2 p.m., and there were already 30 to 40 people in line. The artists encouraged people to bring props, the dress elaborately or eccentrically. “We had people come in on bicycles, on stilts, holding all kinds of things. For the entire time, from 2 to 9, we had someone coming up for us to shoot.”

The shoot included people of all races, genders, ages and personalities. The representative Santa Cruzans displayed all manner of greeting during their three to five seconds in front of the camera from waving, grinning, jumping, shaking hands and dancing.

“We just told them, ‘Be whoever you want to be,’” said Sieburg. “It was a really great day, maybe the best day I’ve ever experienced doing (video).”

The finished product, said Sieburg, features plenty of the colorful types that most people in and outside of Santa Cruz associate with the city’s at-times daffy subculture. But, there are also just as many everyday, ahem, “normal” folk, to create the impression of a distinctive cross-section of Santa Cruz’s population.

“We thought we had defined what the project would be in our minds,” said Sieburg, “but, in the end, the people who showed up defined it.”

{ MAY 3, 8 p.m. Sidewalk of Pacific Avenue at the Rittenhouse Building, Santa Cruz. Free. Details: www.wearesantacruz.org. }

 

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