Phantaura from UCSC's Brain, Mind and Consciousness Society at Felix Kulpa Gallery

If the name Felix Kulpa Gallery & Sculpture Garden doesn’t quite ring familiar, the sight of it might. A tall chainlink fence surrounding a white gravel yard, industrial objects strewn about and an unassuming building squatting in the back—it could almost pass for a junkyard if not for its prime downtown location.

But get a little closer, spend a little time, and the Felix Kulpa reveals its beauty. The space has hosted underground art and sculpture since 2001, when Streetlight Records owner Robert Fallon developed his store’s back lot. It fit the bill nicely for this year’s head of the Brain, Mind, and Consciousness Society at UCSC, Avery Welsh, when searching for an off-campus venue to host the group’s new art show, Phantaura.

“When we started collaborating with [the Felix Kulpa folks] they were like, ‘we really want music and food and people to collect in here,’ and we were like, ‘hey, we’ve got all those things, we’re the Brain, Mind, and Consciousness Society, let us in!’ And they totally did. Very hands-off, very trusting, very respectful of our process,” said Welsh.

The Brain, Mind, and Consciousness Society, or BMC, has been around since 2011. The founding vision was to provide a discussion space for students in search of a more holistic understanding of their specialized educations. The group took off, and quickly expanded to host large interdisciplinary events. Their conferences have brought luminaries such as John Searle and Mark Lakeman to campus to speak on topics like “Wellness, Altruism, and Compassion,” and “The Nature of Consciousness.”

Now, they’re trying something new. This year’s event organizers, Welsh and BMC vice president Sarah Little, are artists more interested in exploring these themes through art than through the academic lens of a conference. Presenting an art show plays to their strengths, and holding it in town makes it easier to engage a wider community. In the end, more than 30 artists have their work on display, not to mention those contributing to the show’s Friday events that continue through the end of May.

“Everything interacts, but not fully,” Welsh said about the show’s content. “We don’t come from an art collective. This isn’t BMC art, this is art that BMC’s hosting as well as creating.”

Phantaura is a portmanteau combining the words ‘phantasmagoria’ and ‘aura’ into something open to interpretation as well as the imagination. For Little, it evokes feeling “eerie beyond reality, dreamlike,” inspiring questions both philosophical and political: “What’s real, what isn’t, whose reality is right?” Welsh offers the phrase “luminescent presence” and wants to get at “that mind that’s in between all of the physical.”

What might it mean for you? Only one way to find out.


Info: Thursday through Sunday, 12-6 pm at the Felix Kulpa Gallery, 107 Elm Street, Santa Cruz. Special events are held on Fridays, including a film screening on May 18 and a closing tea ceremony on May 25. Free; donation suggested to support the gallery.

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