Generosity in Action

A Heart in the Arts

Art became deeply personal for Linda Charman when she was 24 years old and pregnant with her first son. Linda’s mother commissioned a local artist to paint a portrait of the young mother-to-be. In the piece, which is softly lit and infused with pastel shaded blues, pinks, and greens—Linda sits relaxed but poised in an armchair, one arm lightly resting on her lap. Her face is focused with a sense of determination and a slight, knowing smile, and her black hair is swept up in an elegant beehive. Linda’s mother hung it in her living room, and it now hangs in Linda’s bedroom—a daily reminder of how a painting can be timeless yet still capture a precious moment in time, one for Linda that was filled with promise and transformation as a whole life lay ahead of her.

Linda with the portrait her mother commissioned in 1965.

Growing up, Linda was surrounded by her mother’s lifelong love of art and design. Eventually, her mother even opened a small antique store in Summerland near Montecito, California during the 1980s. Linda says, “My mother could always put things together. She had a real eye.” But Linda is quick to clarify that she’s no artist herself. “I consider myself an appreciator.”

However, Linda takes appreciation to a whole new level. In fact, one could almost say that she’s made her appreciation for the arts into an art form.

She says, “We have an incredible arts community in Santa Cruz. Art enriches us in so many ways. If a community doesn’t have art, a place becomes sterile.”

Linda's real estate office on Soquel Ave. doubled as an art gallery.

A Perfect Place for Art

Linda has called Santa Cruz County home twice in her life. Once in the early 1980s while she was raising her sons in Aptos and then again, permanently, since 1995. A real estate broker for more than 50 years, Linda has practiced real estate all the years that she’s lived in the county. A “Broker Emeritus” of sorts, she still owns and operates Vanguard Realtors and continues to list and sell properties. Linda seems to know just about everyone.

“My favorite saying about real estate is that it’s not about houses, it’s about people. I love working with people and helping them solve problems and now I have a huge network of great friends because of it.”

Linda’s business was centered for years out of her Vanguard Realtors office on Soquel Ave., right by the Crepe Place. During Linda’s stewardship of the space, it became a hub of activity not just for folks buying and selling homes, but as a showcase for local art. Linda shrugs as if this was self-evident, “It is an ideal space for art. The walls are high, and everything showed beautifully because of the huge windows.” She formalized the showings by starting a program where she works with a curator and rotates local artists every two months.

The office, which she recently passed on to two of her outstanding real estate agents (Linda Bailey and Rick Mritz), continues at 1142 Soquel. And, Linda continues to arrange shows there, in collaboration with curator Melissa Kreisa, owner of MK Contemporary Art next to the MAH.

Linda at the Tannery with fellow Arts Council board member Mark Sachau.

Leadership is an Art

Linda is good friends with Katherine Beiers, a former Santa Cruz City councilwoman and mayor (and coincidentally, the oldest woman to ever complete the Boston Marathon). Katherine suggested to Linda that she join the Board of Directors for the Arts Council Santa Cruz County. Linda laughs, “Listen, when Katherine asks you to do something, you usually do it.” Linda joined the Board in 2009. She says, “I didn’t know what I was doing in the first year or so, but it ended up being a great learning experience.”

But J.M. Brown, who wrote an article about Linda’s leadership at the Arts Council says, “Few figures since the Arts Council’s founding in 1979 have had such a lasting impact on the organization.” Using her real estate expertise, Linda helped negotiate a 30-year lease with the City of Santa Cruz that led to the organization’s move to the Tannery Arts Center in 2014. Linda eventually became vice president and then president of the Board, a term she served from 2013 – 2015.

Giving with Joy

Linda had heard about the Community Foundation for years through her large network of neighbors, clients, and friends. She started a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) in 2011 and has been joyfully and generously supporting local arts organizations through her charitable giving both through her fund and “qualified charitable distributions” from her retirement account. “Community Foundation staff have really helped me figure out how to maximize my giving,” she says. And she also adds, “It’s also highly satisfying at tax time too, when everything I need to collect for itemization is one place. It’s neat, clean, and easy.”

Linda with three of her grandchildren. From left to right: Adele, Livia, Linda, and Lucia.

The Next Generation of Artists

Even though Linda says she’s not an artist, her family is teeming with them. Her sons, Bill and Christopher Charman, are accomplished jazz musicians. They are also both real estate brokers who work in business with their mother.

Filled with gratitude for their arts education, Linda says Bill and Chris’ participation in the Spectra music program and their time in the Apos High jazz band was invaluable, guiding them towards college and a rewarding life filled with music. Linda’s grandchildren are artists as well—one of them is quite a serious visual artist and another is a guitarist, composer, and visual artist. Her youngest granddaughter is shining in theater arts in high school at the American School of Milan in Italy.

Linda says, “Art stimulates people into enjoying their lives,” and she’s living proof of that. Through her generous support of the arts and the people who make it, Linda nurtures—and is nurtured by—a thriving community that infuses all our lives with beauty and meaning.