Author Archives: Carrie Kingsley

Maia Negre

Written by Carrie Kingsley

Woman of the Week: Maia Negre

Santa Cruz is at the heart of artist Maia Negre’s work and life. She takes the natural beauty that we Santa Cruzans sometimes take for granted – ocean views, cliffs, mountains – and captures it with her paintbrush in a way that captivates. Her beautiful artwork is visible all over the county, and she has worked hard to collaborate with the community in ways that show her deep appreciation for the place she calls home. She is our Woman of the Week!

Maia’s career is the confluence of her passions – art and athleticism – and her entrepreneurial spirit. Her career has followed what she calls a natural progression, but it takes more than inertia to keep an artist’s career moving forward. Maia has worked hard to achieve success; in addition to her line of much sought-after cards, bags, and art-based products, she does commercial graphic design work, and is currently working on several commissioned oil paintings, a collaboration with another artist, and, of course, her solo projects. ( Her work is displayed at the Artisans Galley downtown Santa Cruz and Capitola City Hall, and she’s an annual fixture at the Capitola Art & Wine Festival, Capitola City Hall, Art and Music on the Beach, and many local businesses. It’s this tenacity and commitment that drive her local success. Maia says that if she brings a sense of joy, emotion, and connectivity to her viewers, she has succeeded as an artist. One look at her body of work and it’s clear she’s been successful beyond measure.

The ocean and landscape is a source of inspiration for her, but she says it’s the community support of artists and athletes that makes Santa Cruz a truly incredible place to live. An avid surfer, Maia identifies with the side of Santa Cruz focused on preservation, and the beautiful playground our ocean and mountains provide. She says that if she didn’t live here, she wouldn’t be the artist she is; we say that we are thrilled she chose to call Santa Cruz home. Thank you for capturing the beauty of Santa Cruz, Maia Negre.


Jessica Vargas

Written by Carrie Kingsley

Woman of the Week: Jessica Vargas

Nothing more powerfully or succinctly describes Jessica Vargas than her own words: “I’m passionate about bearing witness to the light that shines within young people and holding space for them to see it, too.” She has spent her life working to give teens the opportunity to nurture their strengths, to use the gifts within themselves to lead their most authentic life. Jessica’s impact is obvious in her work, in her life choices, and in her outlook. She is strong and compassionate, with high expectations of herself and her students, and she is our Woman of the Week.

Jessica came to Santa Cruz more than a decade ago and quickly made an impact: She chose to work in alternative education because she feels a connection to — and camaraderie with — the teens in these programs. Jessica says that she was lucky to have had high school teachers who didn’t push her to be something she wasn’t, but rather helped her develop her innate gifts and strengths. She tried to do this very thing with the teens at the YES Recovery High School, where she worked for nine years. She says she felt called to create a sacred environment for the students, a place where they could be their authentic selves and find their places in the world.

When she left the YES school, it was to expand what she had built there and what she had learned as an educator. With her colleague Roxan McDonald, she founded The Implicit Curriculum, a consulting firm for professionals in the education and therapeutic fields. ( All her work in and out of classrooms has led toward her latest endeavor, one that integrates all her experience in a way befitting a woman so attuned to the authentic. At the request of some of her YES alumni, attendees from the Sober Living Environment (SLE) book club she started, and others in her community, she founded FEAST: Fostering Engagement with Authenticity, Solidarity, and Truth. ( Her job, that she is immensely grateful to have created, is to be a Spiritual Development Mentor and Recovery Enrichment Specialist.

For all her experience and enterprise, Jessica says she is not an expert who can fix things, and that she does not believe in helping or empowering people; rather, she believes that power and goodness are inherent, not imparted. Jessica leads with her heart, unafraid to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to change her own trajectory. Indeed, it is only by being authentic that she can ask her students to trust her enough to do the same for themselves. Jessica has an outlook on life that values people for who they are at their core, not what they should become or who they have been, and she has dedicated her career to creating conditions that allow the light within young people to shine and grown brighter. For all of her work and all that she offers Santa Cruz, she is our Woman of the Week. Thank you, Jessica!

Jessica Vargas

Nicole Woodling Douglas

Written by Carrie Kingsley

“Woman of the Week”

Nicole Woodling Douglas

Strong and warm. Relaxed and driven. High-minded and well-grounded. Nicole Woodling Douglas manages to be all of these things simultaneously. She is intensely focused on work and family and contributing to her community, and at the same time she sees the necessity of meandering, of going off the beaten path – sometimes, quite literally. She is our Woman of the Week!

Nicole owns Douglas Landscape Design (, which perfectly combines her master’s degrees in environmental science and conservation biology with her strong artistic skills. She was focused on sustainability long before it became a requirement for California living, and that depth of expertise shows in her landscape designs, the classes she teaches at Cabrillo College Extension, her outreach work and her speaking engagements. This March, she’ll be speaking at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, advocating for the principles of her work and sharing her expertise. What makes Nicole unique, however, is her approach. Without being heavy-handed, she makes it easy to both understand the need for conservation and to implement a beautiful, functional way to reach sustainability goals. She’s approachable, quick to laugh, and fiercely dedicated. She sees the big picture, and constantly looks for solutions that address fundamental issues, not just quick fixes.

Her career, while a seemingly perfect fit, didn’t clearly present itself. It’s been an evolution of personal interests and academic achievements, combined with hard work and daring to try new things. In a world that asks young people to choose their career path when they’re 20 years old, Nicole believes that young people should first have an interesting, varied life before committing to a career. She’s traveled extensively, and has a list of hobbies (certified dive master and motorcycle aficionado, to name a few) in her past. Chances are, you’ve seen some of Nicole’s flashiest designs not in landscapes, but walking through the streets and parks of Santa Cruz. While her children were still very young, she started Glitterfish, a face-painting business, and with typical gusto, soon became one of the most sought-after artists at community events. ( faces are true works of art – no one ever wants to wash them off – and while painting, she’s somehow able to connect with every child who sits in front of her. She has been incredibly generous, donating her time and talent to her community, both formally and informally.

Her community. Nicole is ever-present here. Whether in a classroom or outdoors, she is intent on making a positive impact in the world. She’s worked on both public and private land, and says that her most successful work projects are those that turn something ugly or unusable into colorful, functional spaces that support wildlife and lift people’s spirits. But, she also hopes that her kids will be the most successful projects of her life, and works to instill in them a love of nature and a sense of responsibility for their place in the world. For her dedication to efforts big and small, for her passion for doing what is right in our environment, for her relentless outreach efforts and her continued belief that we can do better, Nicole Woodling Douglas is our Woman of the Week. Congratulations, and many thanks, Nicole!

Kathleen Crocetti

Written by Carrie Kingsley

“Woman of the Week”



Community. That’s the word that stands out when talking with Kathleen Crocetti. In both her approach to projects and to everyday life, she builds and relies on her communities. She teaches, contributes, inspires, organizes, and has been a force of to be reckoned with in Santa Cruz for decades. For this and so much more, Kathleen is our Woman of the Week.

By day, this amazing woman teaches art at Mission Hill Middle School. She’s been teaching for 20 years, and earned the high honor of being California’s Art Teacher of the Year in 2011. She brings her passion for art and community building to the classroom every day, but beyond the subject matter, she wants to teach her students to persevere, to give their best effort, and to understand the value of collaboration. Her current and former students adore her, and it’s easy to see why. She’s involved. She cares. She sees potential and nurtures it, long after the student has left her classroom.

Kathleen’s work with fashionTEENS is a perfect example of her desire to help her students achieve great things and to reach a wider community. What began as a fashion show at Mission Hill – to a sold out, standing-room-only crowd every time – is now fashionTEENS, the annual event expanded to include teens from all over the county in a fashion show at the Civic Auditorium. Kathleen credits fashionTEENS’s success to the massive group of volunteers who help the 100+ students navigate the world of fashion design. This can include bringing supplies to a student’s home to help with sewing, offering feedback and guidance on the design process, or simply giving encouragement. The teens are in charge of their own pieces, but they have the support of a vast community of professionals.

Community mosaics are an integral part of Kathleen’s work. For each site, she listens to the desires of the neighborhood, and participants contribute as much or as little as they’d like: For the 1111 Soquel Avenue mural, all 3224 participants contributed a 6”x6” tile of their own design, and some chose to submit designs for the overall mural. The results are spectacular! It’s worth a visit in person…as her other projects, which you can see at Her contributions and inspiration were recognized in 2011 when she won the Gail Rich award from the Santa Cruz Arts Council.

When I spoke with Kathleen, she was finishing a project for PiVot, the performance art show slated for December 4. She was also getting ready for the December 10 opening of the new Seacliff Village Park, for which she did the public artwork. This, in addition to teaching, mentoring, and several other concurrent projects. I asked how she manages her schedule and her answer is indicative of her approach to life: “I don’t do this alone.” She credits her husband, her collaborators, and her army of volunteers. Kathleen’s community, however, credits her. For all that she does for kids, teens, adults, and the global community, the dynamic Kathleen Crocetti is our Woman of the Week.

Thank you, Kathleen!

Photo: Joe MiKulsky, photo shopped by Linda Levi