Monday, October 6, 2014

Art at FSMLs: Case Study #1

UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station has had a turbulent past.

Founded by a son of Aldo Leopold in 1951, the facility gradually fell into disrepair and neglect after the charismatic and politically-powerful founder passed away.

In the first California budget crisis of the mid-1990's, the only thing that kept the station from going away was a codicil in the Forest Service permit that required the University to return the site to natural condition should they ever abandon. Well, if you don't have the money to operate, you certainly don't have the money for a big restoration project, so Sagehen sat quietly in caretaker status for a few years.

A grassroots lobbying effort by the Truckee community stimulated the University to rethink their approach. Another California budget meltdown and a change in Vice Chancellor for Research resulted in a new, more entrepreneurial operating model for Sagehen: the university hired business-oriented managers, but ended up covering their salaries and little else. There was no choice but to collaborate and build partnerships in unexpected quarters. We gathered a broad community-based advisory group, generated a Vision Statement, and got used to saying yes. Sagehen stopped retracting and started growing.

Sometimes saying yes would result in strange, but interesting and productive bedfellows. One of the early courses that showed up was UC Davis' innovative Nature and Culture, combining humanities and science students and curriculum. The class was quirky and odd. It got us thinking more about the possibility of partnering art and field science, in a deep, connected way that “separate-but-equal” art (or writing) courses just don't.

It touched on the strange resistance some artists expressed to us about being thought of as mere “scientific illustrators”. If field station art wasn’t that, then what was it?

Then something interesting happened...

[Download full article]

* * *

Links to more information:

No comments:

Post a Comment