community foundation

Four awarded Rydell Visual Arts Fellowships

Four local visual artists have been selected by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to receive Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship awards for 2024 and 2025. 

The awardees are Christian Rex van Minnen, Louise Leong, Maria Isabel LeBlanc and Shirin Towfiq.

Each fellowship recipient receives a $20,000 award to further their artistic career along with an exhibition of their work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. 

Roy and Frances Rydell established the Roy and Frances Rydell Visual Arts Fund at the Community Foundation in 1985 to promote Santa Cruz County artists and arts organizations. Following their passing, their estate was bequeathed to the foundation. Their gift has generated more than $1.7 million in fellowships for artists and support for Santa Cruz County visual arts organizations.

“Through their work, this new cohort of Fellows illustrate how artists help us understand and reflect on today’s issues,” said Susan True, CEO of the Community Foundation. “From exploring personal identity and cultural heritage, to focusing on our relationship to land and our food systems, or finding beauty in the overlooked and the surreal, this group offers creative works that will be meaningful to a wide range of audiences. Roy and Frances Rydell understood the role artists play in helping us make sense of experiences we share, and we know they’d be pleased to see these artists’ visions supported.” 

Sixty-nine artists applied for this round of fellowships from a candidate pool nominated by 58 local and regional visual arts organizations and former Rydell Fellows. Nominees were limited to working artists, 25 years or older, who reside in Santa Cruz County and are not enrolled in a degree granting program.

Van Minnen lives and works in Santa Cruz with wife Ashley Muse and two children. His oil paintings have been exhibited worldwide and are in prominent public and private collections throughout the world. In addition to maintaining a studio practice in Santa Cruz, van Minnen also leads Western Biological, an experimental oil painting workshop.

Leong is a cultural worker, printmaker and illustrator from the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2018 she co-founded Little Giant Collective, a printmaking studio and community hub in downtown Santa Cruz.

LeBlanc was born in New Orleans, La. Her practice investigates her relationship with the landscape, both as a documentarian and as a humanist. Her current project, De la Luz, documents her ongoing exploration of the agricultural area south of Santa Cruz, just off Highway 1.

Towfiq is an interdisciplinary artist working with an emphasis on installation, sculptural photography, textiles and printmaking. Drawing from her experience as a second-generation Iranian refugee, her artwork explores the complexities of belonging and placemaking through archival research and intergenerational communication.

Local equestrians to ride in Tournament of Roses Parade

Watsonville equestrians Paris Mahoney and Cavan Smith will ride their horses in the 2024 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1.

Mahoney and Smith will participate in the parade for the first time as part of the Arabian Horse Association Versatile Arabians Equestrian Unit.

Mahoney will be riding Pure Brandy Elegance (“Brandy”) and Smith will be riding Apaladore (“Blaze”). Brandy and Blaze are both Half-Arabian horses.

“I am so grateful to be a part of this tradition,” Smith said. “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I am so happy to be invited by AHA for the Rose Bowl Parade,” Mahoney added. “I have been watching it on television for years and am excited to be a part of it.”

For information, visit

Watsonville Elks hosting New Year party

The Watsonville Elks Lodge is hosting a New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31 from 7pm to 12:30am at the American Legion, 214 Center St. in Watsonville.

The menu includes spaghetti, salad and French bread cake. Guests are asked to bring an hor d’oeurve to share.

The event will feature music and dancing to ring in the New Year.

A donation of $20-$30 is suggested.

Call or text Jim Oldakowski for reservations at 510.648.5707 or 510.295.7020.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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