This month, coastal towns show off their creative sides

Lisa Taggart

The verdant mountains and coastal breezes of Santa CruzCounty nurture redwoods, banana slugs, and...artists. Who knew theyhad similar needs? But it's clear they're all thriving here. Getinspired by the area's exuberant creative spirit this month whenthe county flings wide its doors for artists' open studios.

"There's some type of magic in the air here. I've never beenable to explain it. People in Santa Cruz love art," says painterKatharina Short, who will exhibit her colorful, whimsical acrylicworks in her rambling, rose-filled back garden.

A short drive from Short's studio, Ron Cook handcraftsreproductions of rare, historic musical instruments like mountaindulcimers, hog-nosed psalteries, and medieval fiddles. He wasinspired to use his art and carpentry skills to create medievalinstruments after glimpsing them on a 14th-century wall painting inWestminster Abbey.

Short and Cook are among the nearly 300 painters, printmakers,photographers, and sculptors from Davenport to Watsonville who arefeaturing their creations in open studios. Launch your tour fromthe Santa Cruz Art League (closed Mon-Tue; 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz; www.scal.org or831/426-5787), where you can pick up a guidebook that includesa calendar and a map to all artist studios ($20). Also at the league's downtown headquarters, you cancatch a mini version of the studio tour, with one work on displayfrom each participating artist, as well as other permanentexhibits.

If you're set on visiting a particular artist, be sure to checkthe guidebook's calendar, as not every studio is open every day.But part of the fun here is the delight of discovery.

If you still want more, head back to downtown Santa Cruz to takein the large-format print art exhibit at the Museum of Art &History (closed Mon; $5; 705 Front St.; www.santacruzmah.org or831/429-1964). Two other shops where you'll find local craftsare Artisans Gallery (1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; www.artisanssantacruz.comor 831/423-8183) and Many Hands (510 Bay Ave., Capitola; 831/475-2500).

Santa Cruz is 30 miles southwest of San Jose. The CulturalCouncil of Santa Cruz County's Open Studios Art Tour runs 11 a.m.-6p.m. Oct 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17 (www.ccscc.org or831/475-9600).

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