Santa Cruz Art and History Museum
ReflectioNNN is a visual recounting of our collective histories on the water. For the last year MCXT//, Monica Canilao and Xara Thustra, delved into the MAH archives and connected with local artists and historians to illuminate the stories behind the early Venetian Water Carnivals of Santa Cruz. This is the culmination of their artist residency here at the MAH.
MCXT’s kaleidoscopic visuals and performances recall the grandeur of our region’s past festivals, while paying homage to the ecologies and First Peoples existing along these bodies of water. Their work reflects on and lifts up cultures that thrive along waterways around the world, creating a thought provoking, visual experience that reflects on our complicated past and celebrates our present moment.
The Venetian Water Carnivals of early Santa Cruz were an annual spectacle held along the San Lorenzo River from 1895 to 1927. The event was based on the water carnivals of Venice, Italy to support the image of Santa Cruz as the “Florence of the West.” The carnivals featured elaborate floats and live performances that guests would enjoy from the bank of the river. These festivals drew crowds from all over the West Coast activating the riverfront before the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk opened in 1904.
The last Venetian Water Carnival took place on the San Lorenzo River in 1927. Its legacy was later reimagined on the waterways of Soquel Creek in Capitola with the Annual Begonia Festival, which lasted 65 years. However, as climate conditions continue to escalate, these waterways are unreliable venues for such activities as we struggle to steward and salvage their biodiversity.
MCXT and the MAH would like to acknowledge that the lands on which we gather are the unceded territories of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. As part of this acknowledgement, the artists have made contributions to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band as well as the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust through the Shuumi Land Tax.