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Artist Feature

Mon, Nov 23, 2020

Museum Gallery turned Artist's Studio

What do you do when a building once bustling, filled to the brim with creativity, joy, and local history is left closed and quiet?

Back in March, when the pandemic brought our lives to a stand still, the MAH took some time to pause and reflect on the ways we use our spaces. Embracing the potential of this unique, unstructured time, we opened up our spaces to the community. Renegade Apothecary and Campasinx Womb Care Project assembled and distributed care kits out of our classroom and auditorium, Luma Yoga offered classes in Abbott Square, we hosted the Diversity Center’s Queer Bodies yoga class in our Secret Garden, and Motion Pacific dance classes popped up weekly too. Thanks to the ongoing support of our members and donors, we were able to say YES to finding the best use of these spaces while our doors remained closed.

We saw another way to support and sustain creativity during this time by offering a residency to local artist, activist, and Black Lives Matter Mural co-creator Abi Mustapha. For two months, Abi used the Solari Gallery as an open workspace for new large-scale illustrations. We chatted with Abi as this experience drew to a close to learn more about her practice. You can read her interview below.

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What motivates you as an artist?

Abi: Keeping my freedom. This is the only career I can imagine I wouldn’t go crazy in.

Who or what do you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from everything around me. The experiences I have, conversations, pictures, and mental states. I work from photos a lot as well.

What is your favorite part of the artistic process?

Watching something new emerge. Time-lapses are fun for this reason. It’s like magic.

How would you describe your art practice in 7 words or less?

Show up, make something, let it go.

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How has this artist residency experience impacted your studio practice?

It’s helped me to create an actual practice. Doing it every day makes me want to do it every day. Without taking too many brakes it creates a flow that builds on itself. Even when I leave the studio I’m often thinking about the next steps or pieces I have going on at home.

What were you able to work on that you may not have had space for prior to this?

Pretty much all the work I’ve made in the last two months is a result of this residency. I’ve never had the wall or table space to make such large pieces and certainly not 4 at a time which really helps me when creating a series.

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"Last day in the Gallery. This time at The MAH has been so precious and inspiring. I’ve created a practice which can now continue to build on itself as I move into my own studio at the Tannery Arts Center." Read Abi's full farewell post on Instagram

How have you developed your career as an artist in Santa Cruz? What's next for you?

My career as an artist has developed slowly. It ebbs and flows and right now it’s really flowing. Having a residency with a schedule has made me much more professional in how I approach producing work. Even when I’m not completely inspired I still have to show up and put marks on paper. There’s something satisfying in overcoming that need for constant “inspiration” that makes me feel like I can now say I”m a working artist. After this residency, I’ll be moving into an art studio at that Tannery Arts Center and working from there. I plan on expanding the number of shows I apply for and doing more collaborations with other local artists.

Be sure to check back as the work Abi has created during this residency will be featured in our upcoming exhibition In These Uncertain Times. Opening in the Winter/Spring of 2021, In These Uncertain Times, will showcase the creativity and resiliency of Santa Cruz County artists through the Covid-19 pandemic.

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