Bringing the outdoors in

REACH artists to display nature-inspired artwork at tonight's Gallery Walk

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2008

This evening, during the annual Gallery Walk, REACH artists at The Canvas community art studio will unveil an outdoors-inspired art exhibit titled "Art in the Wilderness." The product of a five-month focus on nature-inspired art at The Canvas, the exhibit will include a three-dimensional tribute to the Tongass National Forest, among many other works.

Courtesy Of Edwin Bennett
Courtesy Of Edwin Bennett

Barbara Lydon, a local artist who works for The Canvas at REACH and for the U.S. Forest Service, led the project.

"The idea came from similar arrangements with the Forest Service in Montana," Lydon said. "There, artists travel to the Bob Marshall Wilderness to produce nature-inspired artwork, including paintings, poems or photography. By later sharing the work with the local community, they showcase the nearby wilderness area and its various benefits to people."

According to Lydon, the local project started in early June, when the U.S. Forest Service, REACH and ORCA partnered to bring Lydon; Evanne Menefree and Andrea Short, REACH artists from The Canvas; and Jenn Bellman, ORCA recreation facilitator, to a cabin retreat at Lake Alexander on Admiralty Island.

"The trip ... was a lot of fun - for both the artists and the facilitators," Lydon said. "Admiralty Island is so beautiful and peaceful - it truly is a place where wilderness grows in your heart and speaks to you. I believe we all left the Lake Alexander cabin with an appreciation of the beauty in the nature that surrounds it."

The trip gave students an opportunity to access parts of the Tongass not easily accessible for someone with a disability, Lydon said.

"For the Forest Service, it's a chance to celebrate the inspirational values of wilderness and the Admiralty Island cabin system," she added. "Most of Admiralty is part of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness, which enjoys special protection. The Forest Service ... provides great opportunities to access the wilderness for hiking, fishing and other activities."

Lydon said the students embraced the wilderness theme.

"I'm really excited about the gallery being turned into a rainforest!" said REACH artist Niall Johnson. "I especially love the big animal sculptures."

"Many of (the artists) recalled stories of being outdoors with friends or family and brought these memories to life through their artwork," she said. "They are represented through sculptures, drawings, paintings and multimedia creations."

Some artworks were created with rubbings, collages and clay, all with the purpose of bringing the outdoors into the studio.

"Here at The Canvas, we are all very proud of the show and its products," Lydon said. "The most rewarding part of the whole experience is that it is a collaborative effort on behalf of so many different parties - the U.S. Forest Service, REACH, ORCA and the Canvas. We all enjoyed the process of working together towards the same goal: to promote wilderness and the arts. Our show really demonstrates this enthusiasm!"

And although REACH artists from The Canvas were the only participants this year, Lydon and her colleagues hope to involve more local artists next summer. She said interested artists can contact The Canvas for details.

Lydon also promoted the project in REACH's December newsletter, "REACHing Out." In it, Lydon urges the public to experience the wilderness.

"We invite you to take your own trip to our public lands, whether it's the wilds of Admiralty Island or the millions of acres of national forest surrounding Juneau," she wrote. "Let this wild land speak to you, grow in your hearts and enrich your life through discovery and creativity."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at

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