The community is invited to an opening reception for “Emergence” on June 4 from 2-4pm at Pajaro Valley Art’s (PVA) Sudden Street Gallery. This multimedia exhibit celebrates artists emerging onto the art scene, exploring new media, presenting new bodies of work, and/or completing higher education programs.
We spoke with Executive Director Valéria (“Val”) Miranda about Pajaro Valley Arts’ exhibits and programs, what’s happening at the Porter Building, and her passion for the arts.
What’s your perspective on the growing Watsonville arts ecosystem?
I’m incredibly excited about everything happening. Geographically, there’s a synergy with organizations like the Watsonville Film Festival, PVA, Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s Watsonville Center for the Arts, and Judy Gittelsohn’s gallery, which lays the foundation for a cultural district. Arte del Corazón is another exciting development. Watsonville is leading the way! This is something to be incredibly proud of, as the voices of marginalized communities are amplified. Arts leaders, particularly women of color, are making a difference. So much of the growing artistic vibrancy results from grassroots efforts led by Watsonville artists and arts organizations. Their voices are being heard, and resources are starting to come in.
Can you give us an update on the Porter Building?
Before Pajaro Valley Arts acquired the Porter Building in 2021, we planned to fundraise vigorously for its remodeling. While we aim to remodel the building to align with our vision of a performance, exhibition, office and studio space, it is being used now. It’s been thoroughly inspected and can be used safely until construction occurs. We’ll host three to four exhibits annually and community events like Arte del Corazon arts markets while raising $1.5-$2 million for remodeling over the next few years. We’re actually just launching a series of art classes at the Porter Building this month.
What else is Pajaro Valley Arts up to that you are excited about?
We just received a grant from the California Arts Council to provide consistent art programs for the first time at our Sudden Street location. K-5 students can visit the gallery and engage in hands-on activities. This pilot program is free for local schools. We’re launching an afterschool teen program this summer where teens will work with artist Jaime Sanchez on murals in Ramsay Park.
I’m thrilled about our recent exhibit at the Porter Building featuring printmaker Juan Fuentes. Juan was encouraged by one of his teachers at Watsonville High School to pursue college, and it’s inspiring to showcase his work. I’m also excited about the Emergence exhibit at the Sudden Street Gallery, opening on May 31.
How did you get into your work in the arts?
Before I immigrated from Brazil, I worked as a therapist. Realizing that getting certified in the U.S. would take a long time, I looked at other options. Coming from a third-world country, I had no idea that people worked in the arts or that it could be a career path. Working at the San Jose Museum of Art, initially as a volunteer, then as an employee allowed me to climb the professional ladder. I’ve served as Director of Education at the San Jose Museum of Art and Monterey Museum of Art, and the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. In 2016, I joined the Santa Cruz Art League, and in 2021, I became the Executive Director of Pajaro Valley Arts. I now split my time at each organization, allowing me to build bridges and bonds between the northern and southern parts of the county.
What do you do for fun?
I come from a family of painters and dancers. I have been practicing dance for many years and was a part of dance companies. Dance brings me joy and contributes to my overall wellbeing. I also dabble in drawing and photography and have cooking, sewing and knitting interests.
As an arts leader, a parent, an artist, arts appreciator, and a new City of Santa Cruz Arts Commissioner, my life is a commitment to service. Considering my immigrant roots and Buddhist commitment to alleviating suffering, the various aspects of my work are intertwined. Amidst the busyness, I prioritize doing things that bring me joy and engaging with our beautiful resources in the county. I am grateful for the privilege to do work that I enjoy.