Category Archives: Blog

Want to share your C3 reflections? Email stacey@santacruzmah.org to share your story.

Lost Childhoods gets a shoutout from California Youth Connection!

 In August, Foster Youth Museum and California Youth Connection (CYC) released a heartfelt e-blast that highlighted the Lost Childhoods exhibit. CYC is a youth led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative, policy, and practice change. Click here to read the message in a separate browser.


Foster Youth Museum Makes Waves in Santa Cruz 

Wow! Over 4,500 community members visited the Lost Childhoods exhibit on opening night at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) last month. Since then, more than 6,000 people have visited the nation’s largest collection of art, artifacts, and video portraits about youth experiences in foster care. 

The exhibition is a culmination of a six-month collaborative process between the Foster Youth Museum and more than 100 current and former foster youth, artists, and advocates. Lost Childhoods features personal belongings of foster youth, photography by Ray Bussolari, and four art installations created by foster youth in collaboration with artistsBridget Henry, Melody Overstreet, Elliott Taylor, and Nada Miljkovic.

CYC staff and members at opening night

“Foster youth museum was conceived of by former foster youth from California,” explains Jamie Lee Evans, director of Foster Youth Museum. 

“It was developed while writing curriculum on how to train social work supervisors on how to do more successful social work with teenagers. What we kept hearing from the young people who had written the curriculum was, ‘I have this object that I can bring in and it will help tell the story.’ And from hearing these stories over and over again, I thought, we should make a collection,” she said. 

Empowering youth to share their stories and determine the look and feel of the exhibit were key components of the project since its inception. 

 “I originally joined because I had seen many cases of organizations attempting to represent and support foster youth…and again and again I saw youth being sidelined, being spoken over, being patronized, and tokenized and left out of the very projects meant for them,” said Jess Prudent, a recent graduate of UCSC and Smith Renaissance Society Community Fellow. 

“As a proud and protective ‘Smithy’ I was ready to stop that before it even started…I am happy and relieved that I never felt the need to,” she said. “From day one foster youth were brought into the forefront of every idea, every art piece, and the setup of it.” 

Rooted in youth experience, the exhibit is also about taking action. 

 “We want to provide a very clear way to take action,” said MAH Director of Engagement, Stacey Garcia, to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “It’s an amazing thing for someone to volunteer to take a big step like becoming a foster parent. But not everyone can take that kind of big step. There are a lot of little things that make a huge difference in the life of a foster youth. Making a birthday cake for a foster youth, donating some school supplies. The smaller things really add up to make a big impact. We try to make it as easy as possible for people to be active.” 

Jamie Lee Evans w/ Asm Mike StoneAssemblymember Mark Stone agrees. The author of AB 403, a bill that dramatically changed the foster care system in California, said, “through art, we can communicate much more effectively about what it is we’re trying to do and what it is we need to do.”  

“We can not do system change without [youth] voice,” Stone explains. “I look at the exhibit–that’s your voice. That is one of the most incredible ways to explain to decision makers what you’ve gone through. And I challenge anyone who’s had contact with this system to go look in the eyes of those pictures and go look at the words and not be moved.” 

 Thanks to a generous grant from National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, the exhibit will run from July 7 – December 31, 2017. To learn more visit www.fosteryouthmuseum.org

 

 

Press for the Exhibit: 

MAH steps into social activism with new exhibit on young people of foster care 

Santa Cruz Sentinel 

Foster Youth Exhibit Aims for Action 

Santa Cruz Waves 

Take action links: https://santacruzmah.org/lost-childhoods/

Pop Up Museum with Smith Renaissance Society, California Youth Connection and the Foster Youth Museum

Back when C3 was still in the planning stages for the Lost Childhoods exhibition, our partners at Smith Renaissance Society were buzzing with action. They decided to host their own Pop Up Museum at the Annual Chancellor’s Reception at UC Santa Cruz to celebrate the academic feats of former Smith Renaissance Collegiate Fellows. Continue reading to see how it went.

*This post is also cross published on the Santa Cruz MAH’s Pop Up Museum blog, here.


Summary of Smith Renaissance Society, CYC and FYM’s Pop Up Museum
Written By: Smith Renaissance Society Collegiate Fellow, Lexie Tapke

Who: Smith Renaissance Society, California Youth Connection, and the Foster Youth Museum
When: April 30th, 2017
Where: Smith Renaissance Society’s Annual Chancellor’s Reception (De Anza Community Center, Santa Cruz, CA)
Organized by: Shawn Cervantes, President of Smith Society in collaboration with California Youth Connection and Foster Youth Museum

What it was all about:
At this year’s Chancellor’s Reception, an annual event hosted by the Smith Renaissance Society, a successful year was celebrated for this community. Honors were given to students, faculty, and volunteers of Smith that have either accomplished academic feats or have made Smith a more inclusive and worthy cross-generational community. Unique to this celebration, a Pop-Up exhibition was featured, consisting of a small scale foster youth exhibit and was hosted in partnership with California Youth Connection and the Foster Youth Museum.

How did it go?
The Pop-Up included personal artifacts brought in by several Smith Renaissance Society Collegiate Fellows, all former foster youth; these artifacts presented from their foster years represented hope or empowerment. Through these artifacts, the mini-exhibition provided a backdrop for donors to understand the importance of a foster child’s experience and how these memories live on through objects, artwork and other artifacts.

Guests including Chancellor George Blumenthal browsed the Pop-up museum again and again. One object stood out to the crowd and was later presented in-between awards. Mercedes Marson, a Smith alumna, brought her “Book of Life,” which was filled with photographs and mementos that kept her smiling through the system, offering her hope for a better future. Now, Mercedes is taking the same aspects of positivity and is currently training social workers to use these positivity methods with children in the foster system. She is also headed to Columbia University this fall where she will earn her Master of Social Work with a minor in Public Policy.

The Pop-Up museum, in conjunction with the Chancellor’s Reception, provided an opportunity for these former foster youths to share an intimate part of their foster experience with a larger population in a non-threatening way and draws awareness to the foster youth experience. Shawn Cervantes, President of the Smith Renaissance Society, says, “The exhibition provides a tangible way to help understand them. You can see, feel, and experience these stories from the youth themselves.”

Not only do non-foster youth individuals get a chance to step into the shoes of former foster youth, but this exhibition also breaks down stereotypical perceptions of what former foster youth and their experiences look like. “There is no cookie cutter way in which foster youth experience the system,” says Shawn. These artifacts physically show how each former foster youth developed into the individuals they are today and how these artifacts—pictures, artwork, toys and even sticky notes—helped them through the foster care system.

C3 2017 Meeting 5: Last Minute Touches

Summary of C3: Meeting 5, Tuesday May 9th, 6pm-8pm
Written By: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo

At our last meeting, C3ers walked into the MAH bringing their positive vibes with them. Uproaring this energy, Miguel and Kate from California Youth Connection (CYC), did the honors of leading an icebreaker of Extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors. As pairs first started to battled each other for the win, those who won paired up and faced off against each other while their previous opponents became their cheerleaders. In the end, we all joined as one team to cheer on the last victor! After getting everyone excited and riled up, we headed off to the conference room to catch up on the process of the exhibition.

Once everyone was up to date, our lovely Community Engagement Director and Dialogue Catalyst, Stacey Garcia and Lauren Beneuta, introduced more ways members could get involved after this last C3 meeting. You can dive into taking on some of the listed opportunities here. This will include two internships, one which, after collecting feedback from C3 youth group, will include a Youth Program at the Museum.

Before jumping into the nights fun filled activities, artist, Bridget Henry, gave us a sneak peak of the animation process around the project of: bringing to life the experiences of transition age foster youth, while also sparking empathy. The mind blowing creativity and emotional effects of houses sketched out by youth were brought to life.  Soon after, we broke out into groups and got creative!

Advocates got imaginative in a collaborative workshop where they began event planning for the exhibition programs. Some common themes for events included film screenings, lightning talks, pop up museums, and having space to discuss pathways to ending youth homelessness.

Artist, Melody Overstreet, provided the chance for youth to write messages on strips of kitakata paper. It is a space for youth to write how they felt and a space that holds hope for the work and voices of youth. The papers will then be individually rolled up and woven into a larger tapestry, embedded between the layers of visible text.

Other last minute touches added to Artist Elliot Taylor’s piece, the Resiliency Zone, was youth art expression on rocks. The rocks are a metaphor for what resiliency can feel like. Over time, winds grind down the hard surfaces of rocks. Despite this, the solid mineral material holds up and in fact, the winds create a smoother texture. By having youth expression through these smaller art details, an authentic presence of youth will be projected.

In addition to the Resiliency Zone, journals will be added to create a space for visitors to reflect on the exhibitions heavy content. These will offer visitors a first hand experience of anonymous perspectives of youth feelings. C3ers decorated and wrote in journals in respect to their own experiences. Youth were also encouraged to take the composition books home to do some free journaling and return them by the members reception on July 6th. Some topics included:

  • What Resiliency Feels Like
  • My Story
  • After I Turn 18
  • Growing Up Fast

While this was our last meeting, the exhibition process is not over. There are more opportunities people can take advantage of in the link above. Despite this being our last time meeting as a whole group,  we wanted to thank everyone for their efforts and participation as we celebrated some savory cupcakes. Thank you C3ers!

C3 2017 Meeting 4: Making it Together

Summary of C3: Meeting 4, Tuesday April 11th, 6pm-8pm
Written By: MAH Dialogue Catalyst, Lauren Benetua

On Tuesday, 4/11, the MAH hosted it’s 4th and second to last C3 meeting. Even though this seems close to the end, it couldn’t have felt more like the beginning. As we kicked off our meeting with a general introduction of Lost Childhoods to newcomers, we got a special sneak preview of the exhibition layout. Seeing the floor plan and being able to visualize where everything was going to land was our first glance at the exhibition moving from concept to reality!

We then passed the mic to Foster Youth Museum (FYM) founder, Jamie Lee Evans. In just 10 minutes, we were taken on a riveting journey from former foster youths’ stories represented by a few of the objects in their collection. Each item in their collection was donated by a foster youth, and serves as an impactful and unbridled extension of their realities of growing up in today’s foster care system. This served as a more intimate introduction into FYM’s signature exhibition which has travelled under the name, Lost Childhoods. Because this exhibition is going to take on new life with Santa Cruz local youth and artists, it was decided that exhibition be more appropriately titled, Lost Childhoods: Voices of Santa Cruz County Foster Youth! More can be read about the history of FYM and Lost Childhoods in Jeanie Yoon’s post on our C3 blog.

Then, it was time to get down to the good stuff: prototyping the artist’s projects!

Scratchboards with Bridget Henry

Bridget Henry asked youth to help her create scratchboards made of images of various homes they lived in. Her work will use scenes and sounds of home life interspersed with animated metaphors from transition age foster youth about their experience. For this meeting, youth were encouraged to bring photos of places they have lived or have considered home to map onto their scratchboards. Once Bridget has enough from the youth, the animation process will begin!

Creating calm with Elliott Taylor

Elliott Taylor gave us an update on the resiliency zone that he has been hard at work developing with youth at each C3 meeting. Though this is still a work in progress, we were able to reach a consensus that building resiliency is by no means a linear path, and once achieved, one hardly ever stays in a mode of quiet and comfort and must go back through hardship through the next chapters of life. With this in mind, his 3-dimensional resiliency zone must also include an area of calm. For this meeting, Elliott asked youth to help him create a mural of sorts that will be divided into sections and artistically reinterpreted by the youth to be blown up to life size and stitched together in the physical installation.

Prototyping reminder bracelets with Melody Overstreet

 Melody Overstreet continues to source ideas that will empower visitors to take small actions. Along with this being represented in her weaving installation that will list reminders around the ‘little things’ that can make big impact, she asked youth to help prototype bracelets that will serve as reminders to visitors and wearers of their commitment to donate or lend a helping hand in some way. We asked youth and advocates alike to continue sharing their action items with us so we can effectively present it to the public, as well as brainstorm how visitors can easily make reminder-bracelets in the gallery as a takeaway.

Recording youth interviews with Nada Miljkovic

Nada Miljkovic has been added as a fourth artist to the exhibition, who will be conducting video interviews with transition age foster youth from Santa Cruz County! We decided this was a crucial element to the exhibition so that visitors will understand that this is a youth-driven project that welcomes and empowers foster youth. During this meeting, youth were given the space to opt-in to an interview and share their stories with their own voices. Nada will continue to conduct interviews at the next C3 meeting, so be sure to attend if you are a youth who would like to share your truth!

 

Identifying community engagement co-leads

Lastly, I had the pleasure of rounding the advocates into a huddle so we can select and prioritize community engagement plans and events-based experiences while the exhibition is open. The prior C3 meeting left me in a swirl of 100+ ideas on the table, which I was able to condense down to 8 overarching themes. With more of an understanding of these key interests, we were able to identify what else was missing, and most importantly, who would like to be a co-lead with me and the MAH to make it all happen. We identified what our engagement goals were and selected our top 3-5 ideas from each of the 8 larger themes. By the end of the night, we were left with about 15 events for us to all continually work on, together.

Buzzing from the rush of hands-on creativity of the night, we closed the meeting with a unity clap. Though we are nearing our last meeting for this year’s C3, each gathering leaves us feeling a little bit closer, truer, and warmer toward one another. We look forward to the next and last meeting on Tuesday, May 9th from 6-8pm at the MAH!

Lost Childhoods: What It’s All About?

Foster Youth Museum began over eleven years ago as a new training tool to help educate child welfare professionals on what the needs of foster youth were. Since then, the Museum has grown from a simple tabletop display of donated artifacts to a large scale endeavor with multiple exhibitions–our signature being Lost Childhoods.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

Lost Childhoods delves into the tremendous impact youth experience in and out of foster care and the title was meant to instantly convey the impact foster care can and does have. Visitors see what youth experience prior to entering the system, what happens during their time in care, and what happens when they emancipate or age out as teens and young adults. The exhibition, divided into five themes: Developmental Disruption, Institutionalization, Powerlessness, Loss, and Hope and Transformation, takes visitors through the experience from the perspective of foster youth.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

While it was important for us to represent the trauma, loss and disruption foster care and being removed from home can have on youth, it was just as important to us to show what has helped youth overcome these tragedies in their lives. The Hope and Transformation section is the largest of the five themes and the artifacts and photographs show how positive relationships, advocacy, education, travel and other opportunities have played vital roles in the stories of foster youth resiliency.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

Youth tell us that, to them, Foster Youth Museum, is a vessel for healing. We take this responsibility seriously and work hard to tell the story of foster care from a youth’s perspective, with dignity, respect and honor. This year, Foster Youth Museum is honored to be working with the Creative Community Committee (C3) to bring Lost Childhoods to the Santa Cruz MAH and excited for even more stories, particularly of Santa Cruz youth, to be shared with the community!

 

C3 2017 Meeting 3: A Balance in Brainstorm, Creation and Play!

Summary of C3: Meeting 3, Tuesday March 7th 6pm-8pm
Written by: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo 

After bringing C3 members up to speed on the last two meetings, artists presented a recap of what their projects will capture and what conclusions have been made about the direction of the physical form (see bullet points below). We then encouraged everyone it would be best to split the group between advocates and former/current foster youth.

Former and current foster youth helped by providing their perspectives on their experiences to better help Bridget and Elliot understand what next steps to take for the projects around creating a visual and emotional experience for visitors. Advocates lent their knowledge on what “little things” would benefit foster youth at Melody’s table, as well as collaborated and brainstormed with Lauren, MAH’s new and eager Dialogue Catalyst, on how to extend the exhibition through community engagement activities. 

Here is an update on the artists projects:

Melody will be creating a project around the Little Things using thread and weaving techniques. Melody worked with the youth to explore what kinds of small actions make foster youth feel appreciated. She will be weaving in strips of papers that have writing on simple ways people can help foster youth. People will be able to grab the strips straight from the art piece. Melody was gracious enough to bring in a prototype of what the project of “The Little Things” could possibly resemble, although she imagines the installation will be a lot larger than in the picture. 

Prototype of Melody Overstreet’s weaving project

Elliott will be building a 3D project around resiliency, and though it is still unclear what the form will take and how the content will be projected, but he was hopeful that the meeting would help guide him to a clearer conclusion. Some questions Elliott asked at the meeting were, “what is resiliency?” and “how do you become resilient?”

Understanding resilience in Elliott Taylor’s project

Bridget introduced us to her artistic stop-motion skills and communicated that her project will take this form along with the content being represented as metaphors. Bridget created an extensive questionnaire that asked questions like, “if hope was an object what would it look like?”; “if your house(s) in foster care were found in nature, what would it be?”; “if the event that put you in foster care was a kind of weather or natural disaster what would it be?”…among many more! Former and current foster youth were free to answer any of the questions.

Video still from Bridget Henry’s stop-motion example

I once again I had the awesome opportunity to be in Bridgett’s workshop. When I began reading the questions, I hesitated to answer. Not because I didn’t want to, but rather because the questions took me back in time and required deep thinking of what my experience was like. As I looked around the table, I also noted my experience was shared as people gazed into the distance deep in their thoughts. Some shared that their experiences resembled a tsunami. The tidal waves were coming in slowly and quietly, but within an instance they were hit with waves drowning them all at once. The questions were a brilliant way of gathering true and delicate experiences for the project’s content around experiences of transition age foster youth through artful storytelling that will also spark empathy.

We ended the night in laughter with a closing activity that turned us into a musical train. Though we can reach deeply into shared personal experiences, it is also important to infuse some fun and play into the mix! Our silly musical beats wrapped up our night, and we can now look forward to our next gathering on Tuesday, April 11th. Click here for more photos of our night together.

C3 2017 Meeting 2: Empathy and Empowerment

Summary of C3: Meeting 2, Wednesday February 21st 6pm-8pm
Written by: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo 

At Wednesday night’s meeting Nina Simon excitingly began with an overview of January’s meeting. You can view the slides here. The recap introduced the three big ideas that C3 members felt the projects should focus on based off of the last meeting’s discussion and survey. The big three ideas were to have visitors:

-Feel empowered to take action and know how to do so.
-Have a visceral, emotional experience that sparks empathy.
-Understand that this is a foster youth-driven project that welcomes and empowers foster youth.

Shortly after, Lauren Benetua, was introduced as the MAH’s newest staff member and Dialogue Catalyst who will be working on the third big idea through community engagement activities with C3ers. Our talented and excited artists who will create three projects around the first two big ideas were then introduced: Melody Overstreet, Elliott Taylor, and Bridget Henry. After introducing themselves, the artists gave a general explanation of what they were going to focus on in their projects. 

Melody will bring light to inspirational actions around the “little things” that can make a big impact on foster youth lives.

Elliott will skillfully create a 3D immersive experience that sparks empathy and shares stories of foster youth resilience. 

Last but not least, Bridget will bring to life experiences of transition age foster youth through artful storytelling that will also spark empathy.  

Foster Youth Museum

This meeting’s focus was to figure out how these projects were going to take form. Project brainstorming workshops took place in the atrium where each artist had a table for discussion. Our partner, The Foster Youth museum (FYM), also had a table where C3 members were able to engage in asking questions and understanding the main sections of their portion of the exhibition. You can view their slides here that show the key sections in their exhibit: Powerlessness, Developmental Disruption, Institutionalization, Loss, Hope and Transformation. They use artifacts, photographs and youth stories to focus on the big idea that visitors understand the authentic experience of foster care from a youth’s perspective. 

Notes from the workshop with Bridget

C3 members got into groups and had the opportunity to contribute to each project by rotating to each table every fifteen minutes so everyone got to contribute to each project. We asked questions like: What does this project look like? What does this project feel like? What could this project include?

I had the privilege of hearing many ideas propelled and thrown around at Bridget’s table. There was discussion about the stories of losing your childhood being represented as metaphors which got people thinking about rollercoasters and kids in adult clothes. Although it was a bit difficult narrowing down what this piece was going to look like from an artistic perspective. Former foster youth and advocates mostly shared hard times that youth experienced. Despite a conclusion not being reached on the physical form, all these shared experiences brought Bridget closer to understanding the complexity of the foster youth experience and the need for specific, metaphorical stories in her project. 

Notes from Elliott’s workshop

While I didn’t get the chance to listen in on Melody and Elliott’s table, in a short artist discussion after the meeting, all artist felt they came out learning something new and were inspired by C3ers’ comments, stories and ideas. You can see all the notes from the workshop here. Perspectives were broaden with the help of our amazing C3 members. After the meeting, Stacey and I met with the artists to narrow down their project idea based on C3 feedback at this meeting. We’re excited to share with you all the direction they are headed and how you can participate in each project’s development at the next meeting Tuesday March 7th! 

2017 C3 Kick Off Meeting 1: A Foster Youth-Driven Exhibition

Summary of C3: Meeting 1, Sunday January 22nd 10am-3pm
Written by: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo

Objects and stories from the Foster Youth Museum

Sunday’s C3 meeting was centered around the topic of foster youth lives. An important aspect to discussing this topic was providing input from the different perspectives from our members who ranged from transition age foster youth, advocates, community members, and artists. Gathering different perspectives was key to brainstorming and developing the ideas for the exhibition called “Lost Childhoods”. Having foster youth and former foster youth a part of this project is very important as we hope to communicate to the public that this exhibition is a foster youth-driven project.

After Nina Simon, Executive Director of MAH, gave an informing lecture on an intro to exhibits, the Foster Youth Museum team (FYM) was introduced as our partners in collaboration with the “Lost Childhoods” exhibit. The founder and director of the FYM, Jamie Lee Evans, was a former foster youth herself and has helped create this exhibition in other parts of the Bay Area, such as Oakland, through the perspectives of foster youth.

In the brainstorming process, C3 members were divided into six groups (with a diverse range in members with different perspectives) and were asked the following four questions:

  • What are the biggest misconceptions about Foster Youth?
  • What questions do you have about foster youth?
  • What does foster care feel like?
  • What is unique about the foster youth experience here in Santa Cruz County?

You can read the answers here. After writing responses to these questions, the group moved to the auditorium to discuss what the main ideas would be in the exhibition that foster youth would like visitors to understand.

After many great ideas were shouted out, the group concluded that some of the possible big ideas would be that visitors will:

  • understand the authentic experience of foster care from a youth’s perspective. (through the Foster Youth Museum) 
  • feel empowered to take action and know how to do so.
  • have a visceral, emotional experience that sparks empathy.
  • understand that this is a foster youth-driven project that welcomes and empowers foster youth.
  • make a connection to a personal experience they had (family, childhood, etc).
  • learn the basic history, facts, and risk factors of the foster care system.

Individually, members wrote their final thoughts on post-it notes and stuck them on the corresponding “big idea” poster. You can read these notes here. Members wrote down their feelings, ideas, stories, statistics, objects, names, organizations, and resources connected to the topics. Afterwards, members ranked their top five big ideas and gave feedback.

We finally conclude the meeting by gathering in a large circle and saying one word that represented how we felt. We hear many words like hopeful, joy, happy, optimistic, and excited. We’re excited too.

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2015-2016 C3: Meeting 3 – Economic Opportunities

C3: Meeting 3 – Economic Opportunities

Tuesday January 12th 6-8PM

IMG_8216This meeting explored projects and ideas related to Economic Opportunities  and the ways that we can tackle economic justice issues to enhance cultural bridges— creating powerful opportunities for people throughout our county.

Our interns and staff designed an icebreaker, The Privilege Walk, inspired by this activity. This  required a lot of trust and openness amongst our members. It’s designed for participants to experience what it’s like to be someone else, to further understand how social memberships (age/disability/religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation/gender/citizenship) can affect our lives and our access to opportunities in society. When we think about creating equity and access to economic opportunities, we have to think about changing the system and roots of these structures, not just their effects.

Our 4 “Sparks” then led short 3 minute presentations on their projects related to economic opportunities and their dream for its future. Then, all members chose which project they would like brainstorm further.IMG_8218

Our sparks included:

Jacob Martinez from the Digital Nest discussing Downtown Watsonville: “The downtown in Watsonville is happening! There is a buzz in and around Watsonville that the downtown area is on the verge of blowing up. With the arrival of the Digital NEST, the 5th annual Film Festival on the horizon, and the beginning stages of the revitalization of downtown. What will 2016 look like? I have a vision that the downtown specifically the plaza will be the heart of the community and the center of culture, arts, and music along the Monterrey Bay. Let’s come together to create a vision of a vibrant downtown that will draw in people from around the region.”

Monica Martinez from Encompass Community Services discussing Affordable Housing: “When I think about economic opportunity, I think about the inclusiveness of our community. Do the most vulnerable among us have access to high-quality, affordable homes, in healthy, opportunity-rich neighborhoods? Unfortunately, efforts to build inclusive neighborhoods in Santa Cruz County are regularly stalled by the loud voices of neighborhood opposition and fear. I want to activate the voices of those who embrace equity and inclusion as a moral and economic imperative. I dream that at every public hearing on affordable housing in our County, those who support inclusion outnumber those who oppose it.”

Zachary Wolinksy exploring Worker Cooperatives and Democrative Workplaces: “I will briefly share his experience working in worker cooperatives in Santa Cruz, and touch on the challenges and benefits from this experience and how it relates to cultural bridging.  I would like to educate and enable residents of Santa Cruz County to start worker cooperatives.  I want to create an organization like the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC) for Santa Cruz County by creating a “grassroots organization of democratic workplaces dedicated to building workplace democracy” (NoBAWC website). My dream is to create a new kind of regional economy based on democratic workplaces of all kinds coming together to leverage our collective assets to decide how to more fairly and responsibly manage our community’s wealth.”

Consuelo Alba from the Watsonville Film Festival dreaming up the future of the Fox Theater: “The Watsonville Film Festival is community-based festival that has presented great films and filmmakers since 2012. As we gear up for the 5th Annual Watsonville Film Festival, March 2-6, 2016, we are tapping into an exciting county-wide and regional synergy to establish ourselves as the multicultural film fest of the Monterey Bay. Learn more at our website here. My dream is to reopen the historic Fox Theater, and to help reactivate Downtown Watsonville with cultural programming and economic development opportunities. Learn more about how the Arts mean business in Santa Cruz County, here. ”

IMG_8213Groups formed around each topic for a more in-depth workshop. Members first shared their interests in joining the group and then asked the presenter more questions about their project. Groups then brainstormed ideas to strengthen the dream. Each group then built an artifact of the future for our Pop Up Museum that was representative of that dream out of cardboard, paper, pipe cleaners, tape and markers in a mere fifteen minutes. Objects and labels were presented to the whole group and can be viewed here.IMG_8221

At the end of the meeting each individual either made a commitment to strengthening this work. We’re looking forward to the next few meeting which will explore creative ways to ignite cultural bridges with the public in our C3 3rd Friday Festival this June.

2015-2016 C3: Meeting 2 – Sharing Stories

Reflections by C3 Intern, Ana LeopoldIMG_3051

At our first meeting in October we did a lot of brainstorming across the walls of the Atrium to distinguish what avenues we could utilize in order to bridge cultures and raise awareness in Santa Cruz. Of all of these,  Sharing Stories seemed like the most natural starting point. Today so much of the stigma associated with cultures and experiences that are different to our own stem from simply not knowing and therefore not understanding them. By sharing the stories of multiple cultures, backgrounds, and identities, we can better understand where we each are coming from to create a more tolerant and accepting Santa Cruz.

As our members walked in they answered the question: “If you were a novel, what would your title be?” Try answering it yourself. It’s a hard one. We then jumped into the meeting by doing an icebreaker where we had short, one-on-one conversations starting with imagining your partner as a child to ending with reflections on racial prejudices. This was a natural segway to our lightning talks for the topics of our focus groups.

These were the presenters and topics:

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History Archives with Marla Novo “Many collections in the MAH’s archives tell stories. But one recent acquisition keeps creating opportunities for story sharing. The Lund Family Diaries are a collection of almost 100 years of journaling from one local family. A small team of dedicated and diverse volunteers meet weekly to transcribe the diaries. They’ve formed connections with the material, each other, and themselves. It’s been a transforming process, but kept within the archives’ walls. My dream is to make the MAH’s archives a tool for cultural bridging outside of the museum.”

Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) with Natalie Baloy “Showing Up for Racial Justice is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. There are SURJ chapters around the country and one is just beginning in Santa Cruz County. This new chapter aims to enact SURJ shared values locally to build relationships across difference, to support local people of color-led initiatives and organizations, and to engage white people in Santa Cruz as active and critically reflexive agents in anti-racist social change. Creating spaces to share stories – from uncomfortable moments and hard truths to dreams of love and collective thriving – is essential for this work. SURJ envisions a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity, and a sustainable world. SURJ-Santa Cruz commits to identifying locally responsive ways to support this vision here.We dream of a Santa Cruz that embraces difficult conversations as part of the process toward collectively creating a more just future here.”

Santa Cruz Community Health Centers Edgar Ontiveros and Jacquie Benetua-Rolens
“SCCHC has begun to collect and cultivate stories in the Santa Cruz Community relating to health through the use of the Storycorps mobile beta. We understand that healing happens in a multitude of different ways, and while sharing stories of adversity can help inform others to seek or provide care, the catharsis in sharing and being heard can itself be a tool for healing. As of now, our Story collection project is still in its infancy. As an organization, our stories are focusing on health and the social determinants of health.  Our dream is to collect stories that create a cohesive, mosaic portrait of the greater SC Community.”

UCSC Humanities with Irena Polić discussed how graduate UCSC Humanities students could work with local organizations to activate cultural bridges in our community.

Story Sharing with Wes Modes explored the different ways story telling can create cultural bridges by creating safe spaces for listening. He brainstormed with C3 members different ways their projects could be activated through listening and storytelling.

IMG_3049We then dived deeper into these topics in small groups. Each group brainstormed their dream for the future of their respective endeavors, finally creating an artifact for the Pop Up Museum. It got a little arts and crafts-y when the pipe cleaners and cardboard came out, but the ideas created were innovative and important. We had designs ranging from helmets to let you see the world through a different cultural background to a mobile interface allowing the people of Santa Cruz and beyond to connect their ideas and feelings.

Our meeting ended with a group circle with announcements and commitments. Throughout this meeting you could hear conversations of shared interests and backgrounds which could now be voiced to the group. As the members bounced around the MAH’s big red ball, they voiced something they were committed to doing, whether that was volunteering for someone’s organization or simply learning to listen more. At this meeting we learned the value of listening and making room for others to share their stories. We made cross-county connections and commitments dedicated to sharing culture.