Jennifer Gallacher opens her vinyl exhibit at Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studio this Friday.

Records are as hip as ever right now, but somehow it’s refreshing that the new exhibit of the art form at this week’s First Friday is not being curated by one of the super-geeky vinylerati. In fact, Jennifer Gallacher, who’s putting together the show at Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studio, has never even had a record collection.
“I’ve never had space for it,” she says. “But it’s always held a special place for me, because my parents collect vinyl. Growing up, I would always flip through their collection. I have this memory burned into my head of their Billy Joel album, the Glass Houses album. On the front, it’s this big glass house and he’s got a rock cocked back, and the back of the album is a broken window with a rock hole, and he’s standing behind it. Whatever age I was, it was so amazing to me. It was like, ‘Whoa.’ I would just stare at it.”
Gallacher, 36, co-owns the Rehearsal Studio on Coral Street with her husband, Paul. She also works at Santa Cruz’s Dancing Cat Records, a job she first discovered more than 10 years ago through a connection in the local women’s surf scene. On top of that, she manages the Santa Cruz band Wooster, who recently released a new album.
Though Paul, a former member of the SoCal punk scene, initially had the idea for the studio, over almost four years now in business it’s Jennifer that’s brought the DIY art dimension to it.
“When we started the studio, my husband didn’t want to put anything on the walls,” she says. “But then we got rolling and people were like ‘Why is there no art?’ So finally he said ‘Okay, you can do First Friday, because then it would rotate, so if somebody hates something, at least it’ll change.’”
Since then, she’s had some pretty killer ideas for shows—several rock-poster artists, a show that featured a handful of different local band photographers and one that was simply the T-shirts of local bands hung from the ceiling—with a reception that featured T-shirt-shaped cookies with local band names iced across them. 
But last year’s idea topped them all—a First Friday show highlighting “The Art of Vinyl.” Again, her reference point wasn’t the ultra-serious angle that many an exile from Guyville might have taken.
“It came from being attracted to thrift stores and kitsch and John Waters and things of that nature and wanting to have a forum for that on the wall,” she says. And then, with a Waters-esque flair: “It’s cheap, I can just go to the thrift store and buy a stack of wacky vinyl. Who cares what it sounds like? Just look at that picture! And there’s my show.”
This year, she has upped the ante considerably in that regard with a sequel to last year’s vinyl show, entitled “A Very Vinyl Christmas.”
“The Christmas idea was more of taking it to the next level of kitsch factor. I can throw up Christmas on the studio and scare all the bands,” she says with a laugh.
But she took the project seriously, as well, enlisting the help of Streetlight Records and digging into friends’ collections.
One of those friends is Gail Korich, who works with her at Dancing Cat, and is a dedicated collector of all things kitsch. She was able to contribute off-the-wall items like Bob Rivers’ Twisted Christmas and Spike Jones’ Xmas Spectacular. The collection also features several Hawaiian holiday records, as well as unwisely conceived seasonal releases from such nobody-cares celebrities as Lorne Greene and the cast of The Brady Bunch. And there are some strange but good ones too, like the holiday records from Leon Redbone and Evan Johns. And, of course, there is Elvis. 
Like Gallacher, Korich has an undying fondness for vinyl records.
“What I like about records is it’s a whole physical experience,” she says. “There’s a sound when you pull it out of the sleeve. There’s putting it on the turntable, and dropping the needle on it, and that sound when the needle hits the record. That little noise it makes before the track starts. And then if you do have any hisses and pops, you remember the party where it happened, and it brings back all these memories. It’s just a much more tactile, physical experience than listening to music off a CD or iPod.”
A big part of that tactile experience is the art, and Korich’s biggest complaint about CDs and mp3s is: “There’s nothing to look at.”
There’s plenty to look at in Gallacher’s vinyl shows, which is what gave her the initial inspiration last year, when she was desperately searching for an idea for her December First Friday exhibit.
“I was trying to think of something that I could do by myself that was no pressure. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I love vinyl, I love the covers. I’ll do a vinyl show, and I can ask people I know like Gail and my other friends who have cool vinyl.’”
“Jennifer chooses such cool ideas for shows,” says Chip, executive director of the Santa Cruz Downtown Association as well as First Friday Santa Cruz. In the course of First Friday’s huge growth over the last two years, he says, as it became a big part of the local business scene every month, organizers became more and more concerned with keeping the core focus on art and artists. Curators of unique events, like Gallacher, he says, keep that focus strong.
The First Friday organization has tried to facilitate the meeting of creative minds and creative space this year with the artist registry on its website, which for a nominal fee allows local artists to show their work and enables businesses looking for someone to showcase to find them there. At least three artists in this week’s First Friday Art Tour were contacted about doing their shows through the registry, he says. They’ve also put an emphasis, for this last First Friday show of 2012, on the idea of local arts as gifts, which supports the artist community here and ties in rather nicely to the Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studio’s holiday theme.
Though Gallacher sometimes seems a bit sheepish about the fact that she herself doesn’t play music or have work to display in a First Friday exhibit, Chip says her DIY events are just as vital to the soul of the local scene. 
“That’s her art form—her medium is people,” he says. “She’s an instigator. She’s one of the unsung heroes of this town.”