On April 14-16, four Art Division students set off for a weekend in the woods near Three Rivers to paint, sketch, walk and enjoy some quiet, immersive time in nature. The trip was part of a longterm collaboration between Art Division and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park that will culminate in a series of artworks to raise awareness of the effect of climate change on the sequoias. Art Division students Essence Petty, Blaine Wells-West, Piper Kinion, and Raquel Rodriguez traveled to Three Rivers with Art Division staff members Cindy Ojeda, Nicole Berlanga, and Alina Kawai, where they stayed at the home of Denise Domergue in Three Rivers. The group bonded over family meals cooked by Nicole and Cindy, and enjoyed the outdoors when they weren't working on their project.
Throughout the weekend, the students spent their time closely studying the forest environment, enjoying the quiet, and doing plein air painting of their surroundings. On Saturday, the students learned more about the impact of the climate on the sequoia from Dr. Christy Brigham Chief of Resource Management and Science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
"It was great to hear her talk,” Piper said. “It was very informative both on the practical side and on the science side." They were particularly struck by the impact of climate change on the sequoias, with damage due to the 2021 fires, which burned for three months and killed between 1,330 to 2,380 large sequoias.”
Essence also really appreciated Dr. Brigham’s talk. "I learned a bit more about the impact of climate change on the sequoias. 20% of them are gone, which is crazy for our air quality," she said.
On Saturday night, they were joined for dinner by Erica Williams, Visual Information Specialist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The students found the experience deeply inspiring for their project. Piper was struck by the dedication of Brigham and Williams, and the potential of art to change public opinion. "I’m taking Art History right now and we’re looking at protest posters,” they said. “ I know art can make a difference, art can bring people to consciousness, I hope to make something that’s visually compelling enough to get people to feel that."
The field trip also provided an opportunity for the students to bond with each other and enjoy nature."It was great to be somewhere different, to get out of the city and go someplace out in the woods,” Essence said. “The stars are really pretty. I took an outdoor shower at night, and I was looking at the Milky Way." Art Division Program Coordinator Nicole Berlanga also really enjoyed the trip. "What stood out was all the students,” she said. “I didn’t realize how valuable it was for them to be outside in nature and away from the city.It was really exciting to see how this project is about saving the sequoias but also how important nature is to the artists involved. And it was just really fun to hang out with everyone in a different environment."
The group, along with Art Division students Scar Maradiaga and Leslie Martinez, and Art Division Printmaking Instructor Victor Reyes, will continue working on the project through September 2023, culminating in a large-scale online public exhibition of their work by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park later in 2023. This collaboration showcases the power of art to raise awareness and inspire change, while also highlighting the importance of nature for creative inspiration.
Art Division Graphic Designer Guillermo Perez is also working with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park on a branding project, creating artwork and a logo for their tagline “Stand with Sequoias.”