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Wed, Nov 22, 2023

Marla Novo

Marla Novo - Catalizadora de Archivos y Colecciones

Then & Now: LGBTQ+ Gathering Spaces

A big red ball has rolled into town to commemorate the MAH’s 25th anniversary. Titled RedBall Project, this inflatable mobile sculpture by American artist Kurt Perschke has been traveling the world since 2001.

Measuring 15 feet in diameter and weighing 250 pounds, the public artwork has already started its weeklong journey around Santa Cruz County. The giant orb is popping up in places both unlikely and familiar, exploring the area’s unique architectural landscape and history in a series of daily installations ranging from the Santa Cruz Wharf and downtown Watsonville to the MAH itself.

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So why a red ball? Here's an explanation from Perschke:

The magnetic, playful, and charismatic nature of the RedBall allows the work to access the imagination embedded in all of us. On the surface, the experience seems to be about the ball itself as an object, but the true power of the project is what it can create for those who experience it. It opens a doorway to imagine what if?

For me, the experience is more than just imagination; it represents the creative impulse that lies in all of us—the simple act of seeing a place with fresh eyes. Besides its obvious connection to the MAH’s visual iconography, the RedBall is a great representation of the spirit and vision of our museum, which for a quarter century has pushed beyond its four walls into the community. It challenges us to transform and redefine spaces, and like the MAH, it meets people where they are, offering a different kind of access point.

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In the months that followed, the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT) guided us. It’s through this important partnership that this month we started to landscape our back patio, readying it to grow and maintain native plants.They shared knowledge and collaborated on how we could best share this idea of kincentricty. We decided on plants that told stories, ones that prompted conversation, and ones that are pollinators, inviting hummingbirds and other creatures to the space. We also wanted them to be beautiful and smell lovely.

The AMLT stewards selected blue elderberry, mugwort, Ohlone manzanita, coyote mint, fuchsia, bush poppy, ladies tobacco, and yerba buena to name a few. It’s a work in progress to see what plants will thrive in the garden. We will adjust as we go. The AMLT stewards will also help us with signage that shares more information about the plants. We hope our kincentricity garden will be an extension of the learning that happens inside the MAH, encouraging visitors to explore the MAH’s History Gallery’s newly remodeled Indigenous Peoples Section as well as other parts of the MAH.

A bunch of classmates went to New Haven to visit Golden Threads Bookstore. I remember walking in, the pine bookcases, the fresh scent, shelves lined with stories… by women, for women, about women. I spent hours entranced. I bought a book of poems by Alice Walker and a tiny silver Venus, both of which I still have. I was enchanted. I just knew this was what I wanted. I figured I’d get my master's degree, teach women’s studies, retire, and open a bookstore. Instead, it was the other way around.

After graduating in 1989, I worked at Aries Arts, a New Age store in Capitola Village for about three years. I remember hearing Ani DiFranco sing, “You have your whole life to do something, and that’s not very long.” I began taking business classes through Cabrillo College and met my business partner shortly thereafter. We found a location, began to do the labor, and Herland was born nine months later, in May of 1993, with three planets in Gemini.

Where does the name come from?

In the summer of 1987, Cabrillo College was offering a class in Feminist Utopias. This boggled my mind. I had read many dystopias as a youth, some of the few books offered in English at the Luxembourg airport, a traditional family outing. I gobbled up that booklist. Utopia refers to an imagined place or no place. What did Dorothy mean as she clicked her ruby red heels and said, “There’s no place like home” three times? What does utopia mean to you?

The name comes from two books, Herland written in 1915 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She describes a place discovered by three male aviators to an all-female society, who then bring back ideas of sustainability, biodiversity, and equality. Our motto was, “A Feminist Utopia in Your Own Home Town.” After being so angry during my college days, I realized it was not sustainable. The whole focus of Herland was love, celebration, and acceptance, which is sustainable. Herland was a gathering place to recharge, inspire, heal, to feel at home.

The Wanderground was written by Sally Miller Gearhart in 1978 and described a community that bridged differences between an all-female and a patriarchal society. One detail I loved was that all the houses were built on books. When we moved to 1014 Cedar Street in 1999, I wanted to change the name to be more inclusive. While no longer having the cafe, we expanded and were honored to host over fifty artists on consignment. Our motto changed to “ Keep Your Business in Your Community, Keep Your Community in Business.”