MAH Redesigning Abbott Square

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Construction of Abbott Square is underway at the MAH on Pacific Avenue. With a $250,000 grant, the MAH aims to make the square a public space where performers and artists can be showcased. Photo courtesy of MAH.
Construction of Abbott Square is underway at the MAH on Pacific Avenue. With a $250,000 grant, the MAH aims to make the square a public space where performers and artists can be showcased. Photo courtesy of MAH.

A $250,000 grant gives the Museum of Art & History (MAH) the opportunity to reinvent Abbott Square into a central spot for Santa Cruzans visiting downtown. Staff at the MAH have been working to put together the plan to revitalize its outdoor real estate by mid-2015.

“We look at Abbott Square as the front porch of the museum, the connection between downtown and the MAH,” said MAH executive director Nina Simon. “We’re looking for it to be a permanent space for art and community.”

Santa Cruz recently reformed its restrictions for street performers along Pacific Avenue limiting how much space artists and musicians can take up. The MAH is looking to accommodate some of the individuals excluded by these new regulations.

“Abbott Square is more of a public space,” Simon said. “It can be a place that showcases the best of Santa Cruz. It helps artists who can’t fit within city rules. Got your 19-member band? Bring ‘em over.”

ArtPlace America granted the MAH $250,000 to “reimagine Abbott Square as a safe site for both planned and informal interventions, allowing the creative heart to return to Santa Cruz.” The funds help the museum get closer to meeting its fundraising goal of $1 million for the square.

Over 30 proposals for the remodel’s signature art piece were received by the MAH. Surveys were distributed at the museum’s First Friday events for patrons to detail what they would like to see in a new Abbott Square.

The redesign features a central piece of artwork across the L-shaped walls of the MAH, with lines mirroring both sides as a half circle of buoys protrude creating the illusion of a full circle. A preview exhibition was held in the square on July 10 to showcase the artwork designed by the Oakland-based company Gyroscope.

A new public market aimed to accompany the space by 2016 will offer food to visitors. Other additions include a new floor layout and movable seating planned to roll out in 2015 as the MAH tries to boost foot traffic through Abbott Square.

“We are really successful at bringing people inside of the museum,” said Abbott Square project manager Crystal Birns. “We want to bring some of that creative energy outside.”

One of the primary goals for the museum is to create a public space for people to gather downtown, even if the museum’s foot traffic isn’t increased.

“If we’re successful we’ll have a great morning experience, a great lunchtime experience and a great evening experience.” Birns said. “We’ll have a better downtown experience at the MAH.”