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July 28, 2021

Faye G. Belardi Memorial Gallery Debuts with Smithsonian’s ‘Water|Ways’

The Faye G. Belardi Memorial Gallery recently opened its doors for the first time since closing as the Felton Library. 

During the past few months, volunteers and San Lorenzo Valley Museum (SLVM) staff have painted, rewired and floored the historic building for the gallery’s premiere. After many obstacles, such as wildfire, evacuations and our County’s Covid-19 status, community members can now visit the informative and sleek Smithsonian exhibit.

The Faye G. Belardi Memorial Gallery is ready for visitors.

Lisa Robinson, San Lorenzo Valley Museum Board of Directors president, was astonished at the event’s timing. 

“We had to delay the exhibit several times, due to the CZU Lightning Complex and County Covid mandates. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t be able to open ‘Water|Ways’ at all,” she said. “Fortunately for us, Pleasanton couldn’t host the exhibit and the timing ended up perfect for us to have the gallery for seven weeks.”

“Water|Ways” is a part of Museum on Main Street, a program to bring the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), to locations across rural America. California is the last stop for this exhibit and San Lorenzo Valley is one of the sole three stops in the state.

The Smithsonian summarizes “Water|Ways” as an examination of water, “an environmental necessity and an important cultural element… “Water|Ways” explores the endless motion of the water cycle, water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. It looks at how political and economic planning have long been affected by access to water and control of water resources. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.” 

The exhibit’s set up not only mimics the flow of water, but provides easy pathways for social distancing. Sanitizer is included throughout the exhibit, as “Water|Ways” was designed in 2016 and the Smithsonian desired to keep the interactive displays.  

“It’s taken quite a while to get ‘Water|Ways’ here, but regardless of Covid, water will always be relevant,” Robinson said. 

Much like the exhibit, Nicole Berridge, the SLVM director of operations, said the museum has reconfigured community engagement plans to work around Covid.

“We want to convene conversations about water and are developing socially-distanced local public programs to compliment the Smithsonian exhibition, for example in August we hosted ‘Water and its Ways,’ an art exhibition that featured eight artists and 34 works of art,” she said.

While Robinson laments the lack of a large public opening, she looks forward to smaller community groups touring the Belardi Memorial Gallery.  

“We can host eight guests at a time, or take reservations for small groups,” she said. “We may have a Boy Scout troop or two come in.”

Unlike previous Museum on Main Street exhibits, the SLVM has decided to keep close to home, not advertising the exhibit outside of the community. 

After seven weeks of “Water|Ways,” Robinson looks forward to new displays in the restored building, particularly a UC Santa Cruz Norris Center exhibit focused on Santa Cruz Naturalists and a gallery on Santa Cruz Midwives in the 1970s. 

The first display of the exhibit.

For information on the new exhibit or to book a reservation, visit slvmuseum.com/.  To explore the exhibit, visit the Faye G. Belardi Memorial Gallery on 6299 Gushee Street in Felton from Friday 4pm – 7pm, Saturday & Sunday 1pm – 4pm (Hours and occupancy limited due to Covid-19). “Water|Ways” will run through Nov. 29.  

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