Each piece of public artwork near the San Lorenzo River has stories worth sharing – stories that can enhance visitors’ understanding of the piece itself, as well as the diverse community that inspired it. CWC is kicking off a new grant that will interpret three pieces of public artwork at the San Lorenzo River and uplift underrepresented local history through community storytelling. Funded by a Coastal Stories grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy, this project aims to increase the representation of Indigenous, Chinese, and Latine communities in public spaces in Santa Cruz. Each of these communities has a rich history and connections to the San Lorenzo River, and each has inspired a unique piece of public art along the river. 

The three pieces of artwork at the center of this project include 1) the Chinatown Bridge Monument, also known as the Dragon Gate, near the San Lorenzo River pedestrian bridge marking the site of Santa Cruz’s last Chinatown, 2) the “Aulintak” storm drain mural in Poet’s Park (shown above), which was inspired by the name for the village near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River inhabited by the Awaswas-speaking Uypi tribe for 2,000 years before Spanish colonization, and 3) the Tlāloc storm drain mural in Beach Flats Park that prominently features the Aztec (Mexica) god of rain as a tie to neighborhood identity and culture. 

Closeup of the dragon atop the Chinatown Bridge Monument

Through this grant, we will work with local historians and community members to create two multi-lingual interpretive signs that highlight these three pieces of public art. One sign will be placed near the Chinatown Bridge, and the other will be located in Poet’s Park and include information about both storm drain murals. The signs will include permanent QR codes that link to video and website content, including video interviews we will record with members of each key community to help tell the stories of the artwork and the cultural history of connections to the San Lorenzo River. The main activities of this project are planned to take place through the end of 2025. 

CWC’s collaborators on this project include the 418 Project, which is located directly across the street from the Chinatown Bridge Monument and has taken on stewardship of the dragon gate and its surrounding garden. The 418 Project regularly engages with the Chinese and broader Asian American communities in Santa Cruz, such as by hosting events like Mid-autumn and Lunar New Year festivals. In addition, CWC is again partnering with local artist Irene Juarez O’Connell who designed the Tlāloc and Aulintak storm drain murals, and who maintains close connections with the Latine community in the Beach Flats neighborhood as well as the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, which is comprised of the living descendants of Mutsun and Awaswas-speaking peoples. Our collaborators will help CWC identify storytellers in each community to interview for videos to share cultural history and provide context for each piece of public art.  

The Tlaloc storm drain mural in Beach Flats Park

The State Coastal Conservancy is a California state agency established in 1976 “to protect and improve natural lands and waterways, help people access and enjoy the outdoors, and sustain local economies and agriculture.” According to the Conservancy website, “The Coastal Stories grant program is part of the Conservancy’s Explore the Coast (ETC) program, which seeks to provide coastal experiences for people and communities who face challenges to accessing or enjoying the coast.” Coastal Stories “intends to make the outdoors more inclusive and welcoming for all Californians by fostering representation of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and other historically excluded groups in outdoor spaces – through storytelling.” The Coastal Watershed Council looks forward to sharing our community’s unique stories to increase inclusion and representation through this special grant.  

Facebook Comments