July 2017: Summer Camp = Scientific Adventure

Marisa Gomez teaching camp attendees

Do you have fond memories of attending Summer Camp as a child? If even just for a couple of weeks, camp often provides a special opportunity to learn as much about ourselves as we learn about nature. Perhaps you swam in a lake for the first time, discovered you were good at arts and crafts, or spotted an animal in the wild that you had only seen in picture books. And, if you were lucky, perhaps you met a few new friends along the way and kept in touch over the years.

Part of what makes Summer Camp so exciting is the chance to travel far away from home to experience places that look, smell and sound different from where we live. But in Santa Cruz County, we are fortunate to be surrounded by the ocean, the forest and other ecosystems that offer endless possibilities for exploring. This summer, the Museum is offering two week-long Summer Camps — Winged and Wild and Can You Dig It? — for budding naturalists in grades Kindergarten through 5th who are seeking some scientific adventure in their own backyards. Our campers will explore bird habitats, examine bug species, excavate fossils and rocks, play games and make crafts. The Museum’s education team has put together inventive and interactive opportunities to observe the natural wonders that exist right outside the Museum and at our local state parks and beaches.

While our campers have fun outdoors, the Museum is once again bringing nature indoors for appreciation and contemplation. Building on the popularity of our annual The Art of Nature exhibit each spring, the Museum is launching our first Summer Art Series from July to September. Each month, the Museum will feature a different Santa Cruz artist whose works depict and interpret nature through diverse media. Our three — Marlene Mirrasou (July), Sandra Cherk (August), and Stephanie Martin (September) — will attend free First Friday receptions during the month their works are on display. We hope you’ll stop by, take a look and mingle with the artists.

Additionally, on the day after her First Friday reception, Marlene Mirrasou will host a Cyanotype Workshop on July 8 inside the Museum and in our Native Plant Garden. She will teach us how to make photographs of plants using sunlight rather than our cameras. It’s yet another chance for us all — regardless of age — to simultaneously recreate and learn during these summer months that always fly by too quickly.

See you at the Museum!


Frank Perry: Laura Hecox Naturalist Award Winner

Frank Perry, Laura Hecox Naturalist Award Winner

Frank Perry is an institution within our institution.

Frank’s professional relationship with the Museum dates back to his time as a student at Soquel High School, when a stint as volunteer led to a job during college. Several decades later, we are lucky to still have him today as a freelance exhibit creator and an irreplaceable resource of knowledge about our history and collections.

In June, the Museum presented Frank with the annual Laura Hecox Naturalist Award, which honors our founder’s love of nature. As a naturalist who is as comfortable leading a hike as he is examining fossils, Frank personifies the Museum’s mission of communicating the importance of the natural world.

Frank (center) was given the award by longtime Museum supporter Randy Widera (left) and Museum Executive Director Heather Moffat McCoy (right). In his introduction, Randy said: “Frank has a deep and relentless curiosity that has uncovered and brought to light so much of our natural, as well as cultural, history. To quote Frank, ‘You can’t separate human history and natural history.’ By combining both, Frank uses them as a lens to focus and share his insights and discoveries with all of us.”

After volunteering to catalog fossils at the Museum in his teens, Frank was hired to work the front desk on Sundays. He was employed at the then city-owned museum throughout his college career, first at Cabrillo College and later at UC Santa Cruz, where he earned a degree in Earth Sciences. One of Frank’s professors was Dr. Gary Griggs, the renowned marine sciences researcher who received the first-ever Laura Hecox Award in 2016.

For Frank, building a career around museum life was a natural fit. “As a kid, I loved museums and had my own nature museum at home,” he said.

Eventually, he became the Museum’s unofficial collections manager, learning a great deal from longtime Curator Charles Prentiss. Frank’s first wage was $1.95 per hour.

“I learned about the way things work in a museum, but I also just learned the kinds of things every young person does when they get a job and need to make it in the world,” Frank said. “I learned how to make change, talk to the public and get along with people.”

Frank went on to work for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as a curatorial assistant before coming back to Santa Cruz and working most of his career as a freelance exhibit creator for the Museum of Natural History, as well as other museums and park visitor centers in Monterey, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

As someone who knows the Museum’s collections better than nearly anyone, Frank also was hired in recent years to help the Museum deaccession items determined not to be central to its mission, an ongoing process that has resulted in transferring more than 100 items to the Museum of Art & History and other museums.

Frank became the Capitola Historical Museum’s curator in 2013 and also serves as a member of the Collections Committee of the Museum of Natural History. In September, the Museum will premier a new temporary exhibit by Frank called “Rocks and Waves.” 

Ami Davis: Development Manager

Ami Davis, Development Manager

For Ami Davis, being part of a museum family is second nature. Working for nearly the past 20 years in art museums, Ami brings experience in education and community partnerships to her role as Development Manager for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

“As a museum educator, I have always played a critical role in development: writing grants, meeting with funders, and developing membership incentive programs,” Ami said. “I hope I can work closely with the Museum’s stakeholders to develop exciting incentives that support the incredible work of this Museum.”

Ami manages the Museum’s membership program and pursues grants and other gifts. She joined the Museum staff in January and also serves as a trustee for the Santa Cruz Art League.

An alumna of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and most recently the Monterey Museum of Art, Ami also has served as an instructor for UC Extension courses in contemporary art and presents at national museum conferences.

Joining an institution that puts nature in the spotlight was a natural transition for Ami. Just as she has been “committed to making art relevant and accessible to all audiences” in her work, Ami is focused now on helping the Museum further its mission to make nature more accessible.

“My museum career began in Santa Cruz in the 1990s. I feel deeply connected to Santa Cruz’s natural splendor, rich history, and diverse culture. I am at home whether in the redwoods, at the beach, or in an art gallery. It’s an exciting time to be involved with the Santa Cruz cultural community.”

June 2017: Personifying Our Mission

Education Manager Felicia Van Stolk and Museum Programs Coordinator Marisa GomezA museum is many things — it is a keeper of collections and the important stories they hold, a space to explore exhibits with loved ones, and a community center to come together to learn and discover through engaging programs, just to name a few. In our case, it is also a strong team of talented individuals who strive to share its mission every day. I am so proud of the creative and dedicated team of staff and volunteers we have here at the Museum, such as Education Manager Felicia Van Stolk and Museum Programs Coordinator Marisa Gomez (pictured here having fun in the Santa Cruz Naturalist Exhibit.) I hope you will take an opportunity to get to know us better through our Faces of the Museum blog, which this month features our newest team member, Development Manager Ami Davis.

Throughout my two years leading our Museum, I have encouraged my team to expand our programming in new directions, establish and strengthen community partnerships and seek fresh ways to connect our community to nature and fulfill our mission. This month they have outdone themselves!

In June, we will have something for everyone, from compelling adult programs like Dr. Alison Galloway’s talk “Life of the Dead: The Natural History of Human Decomposition” at the Rio Theatre on June 6 to great family friendly events like our free Summer Kick-Off Festival at the Museum and surrounding Tyrrell Park on June 10. We also offering a guided hike of the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, a Naturalist Night talk on our diverse North Coast, and the opportunity to participate in helping restore Seabright Beach to its pristine glory. In addition, we are starting a new slate of summer camps with a week-long “Future Scientists Camp” in late June through Cabrillo Extension in Watsonville and “Winged and Wild” and “Can You Dig It?” nature-based camps at the Museum in July and August. Whew, the summer is bursting with opportunities to connect to our region’s natural wonders!

This month also marks the end of our wonderful scientific illustration exhibit The Art of Nature. Come by before June 18 to catch this great show — I recommend visiting on June 2 during our First Friday Art Tour event, which will feature scientific illustration demonstrations by exhibit artist Mattias Lanas. First Fridays are a special way to see this exhibit, complete with libations, nibbles and exhibit artists on hand to talk about their inspirations and technique.

I hope you’ll join us on one of these upcoming programs or simply stop by and say hello to our team at the Museum. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you,