The music, photographs, paintings and crafts of artists who draw their inspiration from America’s forests will be on display at the Santa Barbara Ranger District Office of the Los Padres National Forest through Feb. 12.
The Santa Barbara Ranger District Office, located at 3505 Paradise Rd. in downtown Santa Barbara, is the first leg on the “Inspirations from the Forest” exhibit’s 33-stop tour around the nation. The exhibit is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The display, which can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the week, commemorates the natural beauty of America’s forests and the ways in which they inspire artists, musicians and writers, Exhibit Curator Jim Deutsch said.
Deutsch said he thinks people who visit the exhibit will come away with a greater appreciation of the natural world. He said he hopes many artists will attend the exhibit because it could help stimulate their own creativity.
“Our hope is that people who visit the exhibition will, in turn, be inspired in their own artwork,” Deutsch said.
Art on display at the exhibit includes photos of the Santa Ynez Valley, re-creations of Chumash artwork, totem pole carvings, a quilt that depicts scenes of people working in the forest and musical recordings about the forest.
Former Forest Service employee Dan Reeves, who has seven paintings on display in the exhibit, said he worked for eight years as a rock art specialist for the Forest Service and coordinated all the exploration and restoration work on the prehistoric Indian cave paintings in the Los Padres National Forest. He said his paintings in the exhibit are re-creations of the original cave paintings.
Jill Evans, office information assistant for the Santa Barbara Ranger District, said the collection of works was originally developed as part of the “Forest Service, Culture, and Community” program that was part of the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. She said the Smithsonian chose to incorporate a celebration of the Forest Service into last year’s event because it was the Service’s 100th anniversary. The festival included programs about the cultural history of the Forest Service and featured a display of forest-inspired art, Evans said.
Evans said the Santa Barbara Ranger District Office was chosen as the first site for the exhibit – largely because the office recently renovated its visitors’ center. She said the newly remodeled center concentrates on educating the public about the people who work for the Los Padres National Forest, as well as the work they do there. The participation of three employees from the Los Padres National Forest at the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is another major reason why Santa Barbara was chosen as the first stop for the exhibit, Evans said.
Reeves said he appreciates that the exhibit honors the people who work to maintain the forest, as well as those who celebrate it in their art.
“[Forest Service employees] have a hard job, taking care of the people’s lands,” Reeves said. “They are stewards for the public.”
According to the Los Padres National Forest website, other local artists on display at the exhibit include Hugh Slayden of Solvang, Phillip Gerlach of Santa Ynez and Scott Lacy of Santa Barbara. The artists will be available for questions from noon to 4:30 p.m. at an open house on Feb. 11. The open house will also include nature walks and other activities.
After the exhibit moves to San Bernardino on Feb. 12, some local art will remain on display for the public at the Santa Barbara Ranger District Office Visitors’ Center.