Art & Healing: 30 Years After the Loma Prieta Earthquake

Dive into the story of 'On Sight' the group of Santa Cruz County artists who worked to rebuild downtown after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Artboard 1

October 4, 2019–August 22, 2021

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2nd Floor History Gallery

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After the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 Downtown Santa Cruz felt like a ghost town. Dive into the story of 'On Sight' the group of Santa Cruz County artists who worked to rebuild downtown through art.

Challenging times have a way of bringing people together. Immediately after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, many helped rebuild toppled houses, clean debris of sidewalks, and aid local businesses. Soon after the quake, a group of artists and supporters called On Sight came together to bring art and creativity back to a once vibrant downtown.

Led by artist Robin Kandel On Sight “promoted public art projects in downtown Santa Cruz to bridge the gap between the physical vacancy left by the earthquake and the eventual reconstruction of downtown.” Their work brought people together through various public art projects, and most importantly brought people back to downtown. In this pop-up exhibit look at photos of On Sight's work and learn how Santa Cruz Downtown rebuilt and healed itself through public art.

Temporary Art with a Lasting Impact

All of On Sight's projects were temporary installations in Downtown Santa Cruz. The group hoped to regenerate community excitement and interest in downtown during this period of rebuilding. Local and Bay Area-based artists created site-specific work among the devastated downtown landscape. One of the most iconic being Robert Catalusci’s Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was, “a beacon of light signifying a safe harbor to come back to” (Robert Catalusci, Santa Cruz Sentinel, January 12, 1991). It was made of plywood and plexiglass with a slide projector and projected a 3-mile radius of downtown.

On Sight left a lasting impression in downtown Santa Cruz and throughout the County post-earthquake. It kicked off a new wave of support for onsite creativity, bringing our community together. Thirty years later, Abbott Square is a celebration of this blend of art and culture.

In the Press

"In addition to welcoming the community back to Pacific Avenue, the works these artists made after the Loma Prieta earthquake helped establish today’s vibrant arts scene in downtown Santa Cruz."

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“Stories from the Epicenter” a 10-part documentary podcast explores the impact of the historic 1989 earthquake through the memories of those who experienced it first-hand.

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Never-Before-Seen Footage

Watch the video to see the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk immediately following the 7.2 Loma Prieta Earthquake which struck the area on October 17, 1989 at 5:04pm.

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