On Sept. 7, ART OnSite will unveil its first public art works project, which aims to bring people and the natural environment together in an innovative and artistic way.
The project features works from eight international artists that is installed along the nine-mile Deer Creek Tribute Trail in Nevada City. Each artist was selected based on proposals that best interpret the culture, history and ecology of the Deer Creek watershed.
The works range from hidden cameras capturing the flora and fauna on the trail, to sculptures made with natural found materials, to an interactive naturalist’s treasure hunt.
ART OnSite/Tribute Trail is a collaborative effort between Nevada City, Nevada County, Nevada County Arts and The Sierra Fund. ART OnSite was one of 80 projects nationwide to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Initiative.
Projects were selected for their ability to improve the quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place and help revitalize local economies. The Our Town Initiative Grant is a two-year, $25,000 matching grant.
“Our goals for ART OnSite are to bring high caliber land art to the Deer Creek watershed and, in doing so, draw our community and visitors to view, study and hopefully learn from it,” said project Chairwoman Nancy Fleming. “We are thrilled with the installations. They will challenge, provoke and stimulate conversation — just what art should do.”
The artists selected include Richard Baker, a photographer from Nevada City, who has installed five digital “trail cameras” along the wild and urban stretches of the Tribute Trail to record happenings over time. Baker is curating a living show of images of life on the trail as seen on his blog and in downtown exhibitions.
San Francisco sculptor Mark Baugh-Sasaki has collected large stones from the surrounding landscape and has incorporated them into several sculptures called “Cascade,” which explore the way humans have reshaped the landscape. In particular, he references the mining operations that were in the area.
Conceptual artist Lisa K. Blatt created a unique experience of Deer Creek’s natural and cultivated environment and history with a list of 12 experiential instructions that focuses the viewer’s attention on particular history, sights, sounds and experiences unique to the trail.
Oakland-based sculpture Mark Brest Van Kempen’s piece titled “Sculpture to Temporarily Slow Decay” intervenes in the decay of two dead trees on the trail. The piece deals with our fear of death and decay, obsession with preservation and ambivalence about interfering with nature.
Artist Daniel Brickman of Sacramento sought inspiration from Nevada County’s rich mining history and our four-legged friends for “Nevada City Alchemy,” his piles of golden poop drawing a correlation between the two and the notion of dealing responsibly with the environment.
Unmanned Minerals, an artist collective that includes Matthew Hebert of San Diego, Jared Stanley of Reno and Gabie Strong of Los Angeles, explores ways history and language mediate landscape through a series of interactive installations along the trail.
“This project exemplifies our mission — to bring new resources to the Sierra Nevada — by bringing new ideas about how to build relationships between people and the natural environment that surrounds their city,” said Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, chief executive officer of the Sierra Fund.
Completed in 2011, the Deer Creek Tribute Trail is a nine-mile cultural and ecological multiuse trail that begins at Pioneer Park and runs through downtown Nevada City, along Deer Creek and Old Downieville Highway toward Newtown Road.
The trail meanders past grinding rocks made by the Nisenan tribes and historic mining relics; is shaded by a canopy of oak, pine, and cedar trees; and is always within earshot of the rushing waters of Deer Creek.
Construction of the trail was a collaborative effort between Nevada City, Nevada County, The Sierra Fund and fifteen other regional environmental, educational and historic organizations.
Deer Creek is the reason for Nevada City’s being. It was the location of the first gold discovery in the region, and subsequently the town, originally named Deer Creek Dry Diggins, sprang up on its banks. Over time, Nevada City, as it came to be known, grew along and around Deer Creek. The creek provided a water source, a transportation corridor and a sense of place for the community, and is still a very important regional resource.
“Nevada City has long been the home to numerous talented artists and has attracted residents and visitors alike who appreciate art,” said Mayor Sally Harris.
“Additionally, Nevada City has acquired and preserved green spaces for many years, starting with the Deer Creek Environs over 25 years ago, where some of the ART OnSite installations will be located; continuing with the purchase of Hirschman’s Pond and adjacent properties; and crowned by the recent acquisition of Sugar Loaf Mountain, the backdrop to our historic town, found in many artists’ renderings of Nevada City.”
The opening celebration will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at Robinson Plaza during the Nevada City Farmer’s Market on Union Street, Nevada City. Speakers will include Fleming, Harris, City Manager Dave Brennan; Jon Blinder, president of the board of Nevada County Arts; and Martin.
Following the ceremony from 10:30 a.m.-noon, the public will be invited to walk the Tribute Trail and preview the installations. The artists will be available to talk about their works. A brochure with a map and the location of the works will be provided.
There also will be a children’s nature-based art activity during the Nevada City Farmer’s Market, 10:30 a.m.-noon. This will take place in Calanan Park (at the edge of the Farmer’s Market).
Instructors will provide natural elements (leaves, twigs, acorns, rocks, etc.) and children will create sculptures that they can take home. This event is free.