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The 2012 Gail Rich Awards

Ostrich, Solvang, California

Every now and then, I feel as though I have had my head buried in the sand. :-)

In glancing through the online version of The Santa Cruz Sentinel tonight, I learned about the Gail Rich Awards, created by the folks at the Sentinel to honor the memory of Gail Rich, a writer, radio programmer and volunteer who, “with her boundless curiosity and artistic appetites, represented the best part of the artistic community” in Santa Cruz County, and who died suddenly in 1996. The Gail Rich Awards became an annual photographic showcase of the faces of members of Santa Cruz County’s artistic community.

Last fall, The Atlantic magazine named Santa Cruz County the FIFTH most artistic place in America, measuring ONLY the visual arts. In order, the top FOUR were: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. DUH! As the text (by Wallace Baine) and the photos (by Shmuel Thaler) point out:

“Santa Cruz County is, in fact, a patchwork of entwined artistic subcultures that reaches across a dazzlingly diverse range of activities from aerial dance to reggae music to improv theater. It was in 2011 that the rest of the country got to see not one, but two products of this vibrant artistic community in the television-fueled ascendance of singers James  Durbin and Chris Rene.”

Wallace Baine notes, correctly, I believe, that Santa Cruz County has created the kind of environment that makes creative people in business, academia, and the arts want to live there! I may yet retire there, if I can find a way to afford it.

The article profiles the 2012 winners, including Judy Stabile, an artist who has made the journey from jewelry making to stone carving to printmaking to painting to encaustic art. Then there is Steve Hosmer, a graphic artist and sign maker, whose most famous image is the silhouette of a girl (his daughter served as the model) on a cruising bicycle, holding a surfboard. Musician Rhan Wilson, who conceived an “Altared Christmas” in which familiar Christmas songs have been reworked in minor keys, is also on the list. Fiction writer, Elizabeth McKenzie is there as well, the author of a short story collection, “Stop That Girl,” the acclaimed novel, “McGregor Tells the World,” and a teacher at De Anza College and her alma mater UC Santa Cruz, and the editor for the Chicago Quarterly Review. Percussionist Jim Greiner is among the 2012 winners, too! Greiner made his mark as a drumming workshop leader, traveling all over the world, going into corporate and other company settings. He also makes instructional DVDs that promote his mantra of using drumming to reach the “three C’s”: community, communication, and celebration. The last on this list of 2012 winners is John Larry Granger, who will retire this year after 21 years as the music director and conductor of the Santa Cruz County Symphony. Soon after coming to Santa Cruz, Granger signed up to lead the youth symphonies in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, and he has also embarked on a new orchestra in collaboration with the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre‘s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

The Sentinel article also lists the past winners of the Gail Rich Awards, from 1997 onward.

The 2012 Gail Rich Awards will be presented on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30 PM in The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz (Google Map). The tickets are FREE! Details are HERE!

The 2012 Gail Rich Awards ceremony seems to me to be even more proof that “The Best Things in Life are Free” (1948; YouTube) The Ink Spots (No, I did not know that this song is in BioShock, and no, I was not yet alive when the original was released in 1948). :-)

-Bill at

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