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The Eloise Pickard Smith Award is periodically presented by the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission to an individual who has fulfilled the high standards required of a recipient, which include: an extraordinary and sustained level of commitment of time, leadership, and/or financial support to the arts; a lengthy history and single-mindedness of purpose in promoting and supporting the cultural life of the County; and playing a vital role in initiating the creation of new cultural institutions or organizations which benefit the community.
The award was first given to its namesake, Eloise Pickard Smith, in 1995. In addition to her work as an artist, Eloise was a director of the California State Arts Council, founder of the State Prison Arts Program, and curator of the Cowell College Art Gallery. Former recipients of the Award include Ernest T. “Bud” Kretschmer in 1996, Roy Rydell in 1997, Jack Baskin in 2000, Rowland Rebele in 2003, Hal Hyde in 2006, George Ow, Jr. and Gail Michaelis-Ow in 2009, Tim Jackson in 2015, and in 2024 the awardee is Kathleen Crocetti.
Ms. Crocetti has proven her dedication of time and leadership in the arts through both her professional and personal endeavors. While building her personal artistic career since the 1980s, she has professionally taught middle school art in Santa Cruz.
In addition to giving students hands-on experience in public art, Crocetti provided additional opportunities to students interested in fashion and recycling. In 2009 she started FashionTeen at Mission Hill Middle School, holding annual fashion shows for 90-100 students who created fashions out of recycled clothing and materials. In 2012, she opened the show up to countywide students and changed the venue to the Civic Center.The additional costs of this venue required Crocetti to look for additional sponsors and a production team. By 2017 over 200 students were participating in the event. In 2018 she started transitioning the event to the County Office of Education, who continues to produce the annual event.
In 2019, Kathleen founded Community Arts and Empowerment (CAE) and established the Muzzio Mosaic Art Center in Watsonville where community members, including students and paid student interns, work together to fabricate public art projects. In forming the non-profit organization, she confirms her commitment: “We believe we will be starting a movement whereby we as a community invest in ourselves, our youth, our creativity and our desire to be connected to one another in this place we call home.
Crocetti's most ambitious project is Watsonville Brilliante, a 12,500 square-foot mosaic located on the City owned cement parking structure in downtown Watsonville. Four 1200 square-foot panels designed by nationally known artist Juan Fuentes (who graduated from Watsonville High School), selected by community vote, will be accompanied by 185 panels designed by local artists and students. The Fuentes panels depict the agricultural community of Watsonville, and the community panels reflect the many nationalities and cultures of the people of Pajaro Valley. The Fuentes panels, and a third of the community panels, have been installed over the last three years. This fully funded, multi-million-dollar project will be completed in 2024 (as originally proposed to the City). This is an amazing outcome, considering the amount of fabrication time lost due to mandatory Covid closures. The project was completely funded through monetary and in-kind donations. The impact of the project on the individuals involved and the community who view the project is tremendous.
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