‘The future of our forests’: Nevada County Arts Council’s FOREST FIRE explores the nuance of fire in the Tahoe National Forest
Special to Prospector
The Nevada County Arts Council works under the direction of both the California Arts Council and the Nevada County Board of Supervisors as the umbrella organization for the county’s creative sector. The mission of the 501c3 includes “facilitating collaborative efforts that promote and sustain the visual, literary and performing arts of Nevada County to advance the cultural, social, and economic life of our community,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council. “During this time, there are many roles we are playing. First, understanding what our creative sector is going through and needs, in order to carry the torch for the arts in this critical moment.”
The Arts Council created an “impact survey” at the beginning of the crisis to get a better understanding of what services were needed by local creatives and to continue to work to keep the arts alive and thriving throughout these unprecedented times. Though admittedly early on, survey results between the end of March and early April show arts organizations in Nevada County estimated total financial losses of up to $10,000,000 as a result of COVID-19.
One unnamed respondent stated, “Our organization, in existence for 40+ years, will close our doors. Struggling classical music financial position was already difficult; AB5 and now coronavirus creates final obstacle that we cannot overcome.” Amid cancelled events and long-time organizations folding, Tudor said she is busier than ever, working to assist artists and keeping the vital arts alive with a number of new projects underway.
PROJECTS STILL UNDERWAY: forest fire
One project, FOREST⇌FIRE, began in 2018 when the Nevada County Arts Council formed a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, situated in the Tahoe National Forest. That enterprise included a short film shown at the Nevada City Film Festival and later at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. “Belonging” intended to get people to think about the land a bit differently and to think about the people who care for it, including the areas earliest settlers, the Nisenan tribe.
FOREST⇌FIRE will encompass educational components as well as an art exhibition. Tudor said, “We recently received notice of an award of just over $112,000 from Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation. It is a three-dimensional project including an educational component, an adult civic engagement piece, and a physical exhibition which is set to open next year.”
The hope is that FOREST⇌FIRE will engage the Truckee-Donner community living within the Tahoe National Forest in the Sierra Nevada and hopefully into western Nevada County.
Tudor said, “Its purpose is to help residents arrive at a transformative cultural understanding about the forest they live in, its relationship with fire, and their role within that relationship. Through an interpretive art installation and artist led field trips, FOREST⇌FIRE shares a science-based solution to catastrophic fire and offers an economically sustainable, hopeful future for the forest and the Truckee-Donner community.” She added, “This is a two year project we are launching now, just before fire season.”
Science and art
Artist-in-residence for the Nevada County Arts Council Michael Llewellyn said, “FOREST⇌FIRE invites science-based solutions to catastrophic fire and an economically sustainable, hopeful future. It exposes the public to the 13,000-year history of our forest ecology, its relationship to fire, and the human role within that relationship. It will address the paradox that fire needs to become our partner instead of our enemy in saving the forest. Our goal is to create a common understanding of our fire-adapted, forest ecology and a shared vision for the future of our forests.”
Tudor continued, “These solutions require the energy and focus of multiple agencies and community partners, and position the artist as a powerful vehicle of communication at the heart of this critical conversation – hand in hand with our local youth.”
Executive Director at Excellence in Education Laura Brown said, “The FOREST FIRE program provides students a relevant application of science and the ability to create solutions for managing the growing threats of wildfire and forest health in our region. We are excited to partner with Nevada County Arts Council and Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships to bring this unique opportunity to our students which weaves art, science, history and service in a meaningful way.”
With a low snowpack and longer than ever fire season at hand, the involved organizations believe it is imperative to remain vigilant in the face of the wildfires that plague the Sierra Nevada. Tudor added, “Even as we navigate all that COVID-19 means for our future, there is recognition that the creative sector has a critical role to play in driving solutions to mitigate the risk of catastrophic fire.”
As stated on the Nevada County Arts Council website, “FOREST FIRE anchors a larger movement emerging now in California connecting the arts with issues of forest management and fire, so that residents can arrive at a healthier, more sustainable relationship with a force of nature that has always been here, and always will be.”
Amidst all the present uncertainty Tudor concluded, “FOREST⇌FIRE is really exciting and current and it is really good news.”
You can learn more about the project on the Arts Council website: http://www.nevadacountyarts.org/forestfire
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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