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[whitespace] Illustration Diver Down: A detail from Don Fritz's oil-on-wood painting, 'Mitchells Cove,' on display with 40 other ocean-themed works by area artists at Pajaro Valley Gallery.


Sea Forever

Ocean's Fest art exhibition conveys gentle message of marine preservation

By Julia Chiapella

THE IROQUOIS, so the story goes, believed their actions had to take into account the effects they would have seven generations into the future. Actions taken didn't concern their children or their grandchildren so much as they did the great grandchildren of their own great grandchildren. That's long-term planning.

And it's the kind of planning John Teply would like all of us to consider as stewards of our oceans.

Teply and partner Shae Usna are the owners of Atelier Gallery in downtown Santa Cruz. But before Atelier had opened its doors, Teply conceived the "For the Seventh Generation" project, a collection of 4-foot art pieces that would depict the Pacific Coast from Washington to Mexico and eventually comprise a mile-long collaborative art piece. The first exhibition of these pieces took place in front of the County Government building in 1990.

Teply and Usna are still plugging away at the project, no less enthused and committed than at the start. And now they've successfully joined forces with the Pajaro Valley Gallery to bring local artists and ocean-awareness groups together for the Ocean's Festival running through Sept. 15.

This festival multitasks like any stand-up member of society. So far there's already been a guided walk through coastal dunes and a reception for the exhibition at the gallery, one that features new panels in "For the Seventh Generation." Still to come are a free walk on Sunset Beach with Jen Jolly of the National Marine Sanctuary, a bilingual slide presentation on dolphins and whales, a boat cruise of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary and an outdoor festival in the Watsonville Plaza featuring art, entertainment and interactive booths.

That all these events are presented in Spanish as well as in English is evidence that Teply and the Pajaro Valley Gallery take seriously their goal of educating everyone about our role as caretakers of the oceans. As Teply has said, that which we cherish we do not destroy.

But lest visitors groan at the thought of one more dire, dismal pronouncement of the earth's flagging systems, it should be noted that this festival doesn't lecture or preach.

"Instead of beating you over the head with dead seagulls," says Carol Trengove, organizational manager of the Pajaro Valley Gallery, "it's a very gentle, very persuasive way of saying this is something that needs protection."

Certainly the art on display at the Pajaro Valley Gallery in Watsonville is more in the celebratory than the political camp. Though Jack Howe's Toxic Golf, which skewers the vainglorious pursuits of Pebble Beach, and Tobin Keller's Salinas Beach with haunting digital prints are exceptions, the pieces on display commemorate and exalt the ocean and its shores. With work from the likes of Don Fritz, Charles Prentiss and Erica Fielder, there's plenty of credible talent amid the range of skill.

Curator Peggy Sue Welch filled in the gallery with smaller pieces by various contributing artists and hanging aluminum fish by Todd C. Kruper to underscore the event's festive nature. All of this is framed by the upgrading of the Pajaro Gallery, which has new paint and landscaping. It's a welcome improvement and, according to Trengove, there's more to come.

Bilingual literature from such groups as Save Our Shores and Friends of the Sea Otter is on hand at the gallery, and the Ocean's Festival is also offering free bilingual school tours of the exhibition to teachers.

Maybe there's still some Iroquois blood flowing out there.


For the Seventh Generation is on exhibit through Sept. 15 at Pajaro Valley Gallery, 37 Sudden St., Watsonville. For details on other Ocean's Festival 2001 events, call 831.722.3062.

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From the August 15-22, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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