The fine art of nature

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature,” admonished architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “It will never fail you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright, regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest architects, lived from 1867 to 1959—spending his last two decades at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, which now houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Artists and philosophers (sometimes one and the same) have long recognized the link between nature and art. “Art,” noted Aristotle, “takes nature as its model.”

I’ll share a few more quotes on the subject of art and nature at the end of this post, but first I’d like to tell you about several opportunities to traverse that bridge between art and nature for yourself.

The Phoenix Zoo offers “Wild Art Classes” for “child/caregiver pairs” (recommended for children ages 2 to 5). Classes take place on specified Saturday mornings from 9:30-10:30am, with Zoo members enjoying discounted class fees.

The first “Wild Art” class for 2010 takes place Jan. 23rd, and features a “mask making theme.” The Feb. 20th class features “heart felt cards” (never fear that this follows Valentine’s Day—just save those cards for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or a grandparent’s birthday).

Additional dates are listed with “family programs” on the Phoenix Zoo website. Class sizes are limited so call early for reservations (602-914-4333). Classes are taught by Emily Holgate, a longtime Phoenix Zoo employee and art teacher for the Higley Unified Schools.

The Desert Botanical Garden, in partnership with Arizona Highways, will soon debut “an exciting new lecture series bringing the wonders of Arizona to life.” The “Arizona Explorers” series kicks off Monday, Jan. 25th, from 6:30-8:30pm with “Storm Chasing with Photographer Warren Faidley.” For information and/or tickets, visit the garden’s website (members enjoy reduced ticket prices).

Our son, Christopher, would have loved hearing this professional storm chaser recount tales of monsoons, hurricanes, and twisters when he was younger, and might still be excited to attend now that he’s in college. I suspect the storm safety and severe weather photography tips might be his favorite part of the lecture.

I love these types of things—which present such wonderful opportunities to build bridges between school and home learning. If your child’s curriculum this year has (or will) include weather phenomena, consider enlarging the experience by attending this event together. (I can imagine my kids coming home after this lecture to write their own creative weather stories.)

Mesa Arts Center has partnered with National Geographic Live to present the “National Geographic Live Arizona” speaker series. Paleontologist Paul Sereno, who has discovered more than two dozen new species of dinosaurs on five continents, will share “the thrilling everyday life of a dinosaur hunter” on Wednesday, Jan. 27th at 7:30pm.

Having done my time with ant farms at home and frog habitats in the classroom, I’m particularly excited about another National Geographic Live event coming to Mesa Arts Center. Ecologist and photographer Mark Moffett (described as “intrepid and eccentric”) presents “Army Ants and Flying Frogs” on Wed., March 17th at 7:30pm. Visit the Mesa Arts Center website for information and/or tickets to National Geographic Live performances.

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Arizona presents a “Tom Boggan Photography Walk-A-Bout” on Sunday, Feb. 21st from 2-4pm—an opportunity to walk the garden, camera in hand, while enjoying tips from a professional photographer who’s happy to answer questions about all things camera and nature photography. Visit the arboretum’s website or call 520-689-2723 for information and/or tickets (members receive a discount).

If you’re eager to try doing nature crafts at home, check out a book titled “Nature Crafts for Kids” by Gwen Diehn and Terry Krautwurst. Just promise me you won’t rub it in when friends in Chicago or family in North Dakota call to ask what you’ve been up to this winter.

“Nature Crafts for Kids” features 50 projects using natural objects (and various craft supplies) and is most suitable for kids ages 9 to 12 (although I adapted the projects for use when my kids were just toddlers and preschoolers). We used to enjoy taking nature walks through the neighborhood to collect twigs, pine cones, leaves and more that we’d later transform into hanging mobiles, greeting cards, photo frames and more.

Need more inspiration to get out there and dirty your hands and open your mind?

Consider the following pearls about art and nature…

“Art,” said Pierre Bonnard, “will never be able to exist without nature.”

“Great art,” said Marc Chagall, “picks up where nature ends.”

“Art,” said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “is the child of nature.”

Most importantly, perhaps, the marriage of art and nature (sometimes one in the same) matters precisely for the reason cited by Vincent van Gogh…

“If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.”


Coming soon: Professional development opportunities for artists, Diverse storytellers take to Valley stages


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