The Santa Cruz Art League was founded in 1919 by eleven landscape artists yearning for a place to meet in order to share their art, to teach, and to motivate one another.
In 1885, many of these same people had started the first local art gallery and classes. Beginning in 1923, the second president lived in the basement of the local library and managed the property in exchange for exhibition space for the Art League on the walls of the city-owned building. The Art League had to move out of that building in 1947 and the members recognized the need for artists to have a gallery owned by themselves.
SCAL incorporated as a nonprofit in 1949 and bought a property over a sinkhole resulting from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The dedicated members raised money for a building by having clothesline art sales, benefit teas, card parties, and by selling the individual bricks of the building. The current building was opened to the public in 1951. Until then, the Art League had exhibitions at other venues, always staying in front of tourists’ eyes.
The annual Statewide Exhibition, which started in 1930, used to be held in conjunction with the Miss California pageant at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and later at Treasure Island in San Francisco.
During the depression of the 1930’s, SCAL was one of the few galleries continuing to offer cash prizes. In the years 1951-1983, the Art League housed a well-known tourist destination, The Last Supper, a life-sized sculpture produced by a celebrated ceramist and a local wax sculptor.
For almost 100 years, the Santa Cruz Art League has bent and swayed and adapted to the times. It is a membership organization open to anyone.