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A Little History

Once upon a time, two artists met in college, fell in love and got married. After they had their art degrees in hand, Andy and Cynthia Lenz moved to the beach town of Cynthia's parents and grandparents, Santa Cruz.

While taking classes toward a Masters degree in Art, Andy couldn't find the supplies he needed near home. Solution? They took a big leap of faith and founded Lenz Arts on August 1, 1968. After a few months of operating their fledgling business out of their apartment, they opened a retail storefront of 900 square feet (including loft!) on March 1, 1969 on Pacific Avenue near the head of what was then known as the Pacific Garden Mall.

On July 6, 1972, Lenz Arts made a needed move to its far larger current location of 10,000 square feet at 142 River Street. On the fringes of downtown Santa Cruz, the building was originally constructed as a community cold-storage facility. Ah, the room for yet more art materials!

Andy and Cynthia did some paperwork with the State of California in 1976 and Lenz Arts officially became "Lenz Arts, Inc." In 1979, Andrew Jr., not quite a teenager, cut his first of many thousands of picture framing mats, under the direction of the head framer at the time Jerry Lenz, Andy's younger brother.

After graduating from UCSC, Andrew Jr. was promoted to store manager in 1989. In the fall of 1991, the Lenzes added a warehouse to hold extra merchandise as well as their many thousands of feet of picture frame moulding and the saws required to cut it. This freed up yet more space in the store for art materials! Woo-hoo!

Since then, they've remodeled a few times to make even more room for art materials, moved displays and departments around, stacked and squeezed in product lines, good stuff like that.

Lenz Arts remains a very family-oriented business. Andy retired in January 2016. While also retired, Cynthia still gets business questions a few times each month and applies her expertise. Andrew Jr. runs the store on a day-to-day basis along with his brother Matthew and nearly two dozen staff member artists.

In March 2016, Andy and Cynthia were recognized in Houston, Texas with the International Art Materials Association's Lifetime Achievement Award to honor their significant impact on the fine art materials industry. (See the newpaper articles and video below.)

"We all look forward to serving you!"

Andy Lenz answering questions at a demonstration in the spring of 2005.

Lenz Arts in the news:

NEWS COVERAGE of our 2-alarm fire on March 16, 2002:
Lenz Arts damaged by fire
By JEANENE HARLICK: Sentinel Staff Writer
2002.Mar.17 :: A 34-year-old downtown business was seriously damaged Saturday morning when a fire started under Lenz Arts and worked its way into the building’s walls. Read the full article…

Fire-damaged Lenz may reopen next week
By MIKE DE GIVE: Sentinel Staff Writer
2002.Mar.20 :: Investigators found a one-burner stove and other evidence of camping beneath a burned section of Lenz Arts but haven’t determined what role the items played in Saturday’s fire. Read the full article…

[After 12 days of very long hours and hard work, Lenz Arts reopened.]

Resiliency keeps Lenz Arts tradition alive after fire
By JONDI GUMZ: Sentinel Staff Writer
2007.Apr.8 :: Five years after a fire caused about $85,000 in damages at Lenz Arts, the owners still occasionally smell smoke. They didn't have fire insurance, but they turned a lemon of a situation into lemonade...
Read the full article…

Lenz Arts Nears 45th Birthday
By LUKE BARNES: Sentinel Writer
2013.Jul.26 :: On Aug. 1 Lenz Arts will celebrate its 45th year in Santa Cruz. But Saturday, the business at 142 River St. will hold an anniversary celebration, with free food, face painting and other activities. Lenz Arts got its start in 1968, when founder Andy Lenz was pursuing...
Read the full article…

Editorial, Hits and Misses (Anniversary)
By Sentinel Editorial Board
2013.Jul.29 :: Lenz Arts in FOCUS. Remember what you were doing in 1968? Well, Andy Lenz and wife Cynthia were figuring out how to launch an arts-supply business. Forty-five years later...
Read the full article…

Lifetime Achievemement Award - Andy & Cynthia Lenz - 2016
A worldwide recognition for Lenz Arts owners
By Justine DaCosta, Santa Cruz Sentinel
2016.Mar.19 :: And the winners are: Andy and Cynthia Lenz, owners of Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz. The pair were honored with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Art Materials Association at a...
Read the full article…

Labor of Love
By Christina Waters, Good Times
2016.Apr.20 :: In almost 50 years of working together, Andy and Cynthia Lenz have put their personal touch on every inch of their Lenz Arts business...
Read the full article…

And a nice newspaper article about San Francisco Bay Area printmaker Tom Killion, complimenting Lenz Arts:
Woodcut artist Tom Killion celebrates Mt. Tamalpais
By Chris Watson: Sentinel correspondent
2009.May.14 :: Among the mourners at James D. Houston's funeral last month was former Santa Cruzan Tom Killion, down from Pt. Reyes to pay homage to the teacher who'd jump-started his art career...
Read the full article…

See the presentation of Andy & Cynthia's Lifetime Achievement Award:

For more historical photos of Lenz Arts visit our page on Facebook. You don't have to have an account to see our Facebook page, but if you have one, please click the "Like" button and become a fan!
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The young Lenzes.
Andy, Cynthia and Andrew Lenz in the early '70s

River St. at Night
142 River Steet, over four decades ago.