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Reviving Big Basin Redwoods State Park through Art

Art has long served as an inspiration to visit California parks. For years, works of paint and prose transported viewers to the wondrous mountains, beaches and deserts of California, fueling a desire to witness these landscapes firsthand. Today, contemporary artists continue to capture the essence of California parks, employing diverse mediums and styles to convey the magic and serenity found within these natural landscapes. Through art, communities are connecting to parks and inspiring journeys from new and seasoned visitors alike.

Last summer at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a new chapter of the park’s reimagining began with the launch of “Art About” a six-month process of engaging artists from across California to interpret the park and its renewal following the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire.  Created and hosted by State Parks staff and sponsored by Parks California and Mountain Parks Foundation, Art About brought 18 artists to the park for a weekend of exploration and learning. Over the course of the two days of hiking and camping, these artists immersed themselves in the park’s natural wonders and delved into its rich cultural history. By experiencing the park firsthand, they gained valuable insights to inform their creative contributions and participate in the park’s reimagining.

My colleague, Will Fourt, and I joined California State Parks Director Armando Quintero and Santa Cruz District park staff in welcoming the artists to the park and discussed the impact of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire on the park and the opportunity to incorporate sustainable climate and equity solutions into the park’s reopening. The art pieces will be displayed for the first time in Big Basin on June 15, 2024, in celebration of California State Parks Week. In the future, some art works will be displayed in the visitor center and others may become a larger exhibit in collaboration with partners.

The June 15 celebration will also allow participants young and old to create their own art, enjoy a guided nature journaling hike, and watch members of the Central Coast Plein Air Painters work their magic on site. Registration is required for the event. RSVP and learn more about the event here and get to know the artists here. This event is made possible by the Arts in California Parks program.

To ensure access please take the Santa Cruz Metro Route 35B bus to the park. Parking for bus riders is free at the Scotts Valley Transit Center. The bus will also be free and run every hour for the event. Parking at Big Basin will be limited and first come, first served. The small parking lot is expected to completely fill early. Registering on the California State Parks Week website does not guarantee a parking space.

Artists Laura Fogg and Cynthia Siegel
Artist Michael Crill
Nicky Gaston, Scott Shepherd (Interpreter), Will Fourt (Big Basin Planner), Alexii Sigona (Amah Mutusn Tribal Member), Martin Rizzo (UCSC Professor and Historian)
Artists Melody Overstreet and Donna Thomas
Art About participants shared stories over a campfire as part of their camping trip