Wildling Museum unveils new tree mural with environmental pledge station

Photo courtesy of the Wildling Museum Of Nature and Art
THE GIVING TRIO: Santa Ynez Valley-based artists Carolyn Dorwin (pictured, left), Rebecca August (center), and Stacey Thompson (right) volunteered their free time to complete a new oak tree mural at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in downtown Solvang.

It can take anywhere between 20 and 50 years for an oak tree to fully mature. But after just two months, three volunteer artists behind a new oak tree mural in downtown Solvang saw it grow to fruition—from a blank wall to branchy and tall.

Located inside the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature, the mural was finished in early August thanks to leading painter Stacey Thompson and supporting painters Carolyn Dorwin and Rebecca August. 

All three artists are based in the Santa Ynez Valley and share a mutual appreciation for trees as unsung providers of nourishment, shelter, and the air we breathe, according to a joint statement from the trio.

Under the shade of the painted tree’s branches is a majestic gray fox—an addition to the mural solely painted by August—and a quote from environmentalist Jane Goodall: “The small choices we make each day can lead to the kind of world that we all want for the future.”

click to enlarge Wildling Museum unveils new tree mural with environmental pledge station
Photo courtesy of the Wildling Museum Of Nature and Art
HEARTFELT AND ARTISTIC: Located near the Wildling Museum’s new oak tree mural, an environmental pledge station invites museum visitors to pick out a pledge leaf with a pre-written prompt, take its message to heart, and post it on a growing wall of leaf pledges.

“I hoped that our tree mural and our Jane Goodall quote would lead visitors to want to make an environmental pledge, and then share that with other visitors,” said Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director of the Wildling Museum, referring to a new feature at the museum that invites guest participation.

Adjacent to the tree mural—painted on a wall in the museum’s George and Barbara Goodall Education Center—is a table with a basket of leaf-shaped notes. One of several different prompts is printed on each note, and visitors are encouraged to take these messages to heart and pick one to add to a communal pledge wall.

Among the pledge options are phrases like, “I’ll minimize plastic usage,” “I’ll spend more time in nature,” “I’ll talk about the climate more,” “I’ll volunteer for the planet,” and “I’ll reduce energy consumption.”

“I was inspired to have the Wildling offer a pledge station adjacent to the tree mural in part by an environmental pledge activity that the Climate Museum in New York City offered at a pop-up venue,” Otte-Demangate said about the origin of the leaf pledge concept.

“The original idea was that the leaf pledges would be placed on the tree mural,” Otte-Demangate added. “But the mural is so gorgeous and dense with its own leaves that I didn’t want the pledge leaves to take away from the mural. So, we set it up adjacent to the tree.”

click to enlarge Wildling Museum unveils new tree mural with environmental pledge station
Photo courtesy of the Wildling Museum Of Nature and Art
BRUSH HOUR: Rebecca August (top) and Stacey Thompson (bottom) are two of the three artists who spent several hours this summer at the Wildling Museum, hand-painting the venue’s new tree mural in the George and Barbara Goodall Education Center.

Over the years, the Wildling Museum has hosted similar projects that rely on visitors’ participation to accompany its art showcases, including a letter writing activity that was paired with Xavier Cortada’s installation, Letters to the Future—on display at the museum during 2022 in Fire and Ice: Our Changing Landscape, a climate change-focused group exhibition.

“We saw that visitors, young and old, wrote dozens and dozens of notes to future generations, which gave me hope that visitors want to be able to express themselves,” Otte-Demangate said about guests’ feedback to the letter installation.

Otte-Demangate added that the Wildling Museum plans to add a feature that allows guests to write their own environmental pledges from scratch later in the fall, with the addition of choosing from the current pledge prompts.

“By having pre-written pledges, we are hopefully planting seeds for them to think about various ways to support nature,” Otte-Demangate said, “whether pledging to get outside in nature more, or think about the environment when voting in elections, or using less plastic.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood’s favorite leaf is the tree star from The Land Before Time. Send comments to [email protected].

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