Art & Science Converge at Artstravaganza!

Norris Center's 6th Annual Fundraiser Emphasizes Natural Illustration

By Dan White

Posted Oct.23, 2017 at Norris Center for Natural History, News and Events

Paintings of the Joshua tree roots system and associated fungi by artist Juniper Harrower

Artists and budding naturalists should make their way up to the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz on November 4-5.

The center’s sixth-annual all-ages open house and fundraiser will place a strong emphasis on natural illustration. The aptly titled Artstravaganza!,’” will take place at the Norris Center in the Natural Sciences 2 Building, room 239. 

Students and members of the Santa Cruz community will have a chance to learn about illustrating nature and find out how to make prints using linoleum cuts. The open house lasts from noon to 5 p.m. on both days. Though admission is free, donations to the Norris Center are encouraged.

It makes sense that art and nature would join forces at this community-friendly event, said Norris Center curator Chris Lay. Artists and naturalists both benefit from “slowing down, looking carefully at living things and making good observations,” Lay noted.

With this principle in mind, Artstravaganza! will feature a student art show, hands-on art making and face painting, and artist talks and demonstrations from several student and locally renowned nature artists. Talks and demonstrations will start at 1, 2:30, and 4 p.m. each day. 

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Juniper Harrower will give a multimedia presentation inspired by research in Joshua Tree National Park. At 2:30 p.m. that day, Emily Underwood will talk to guests about natural history print-making. Then, at 4 p.m., guests are invited to a special presentation by artist Josie Iselin, known for her captivating fine-art photography that captures the colors and textures of seaweed, marine algae, beach stones, and other treasures she discovers while walking along the seashore.

On Sunday, Dillyn Adamo will talk about linocut printmaking of California native plants, followed, at 2:30 p.m., by Hannah Caise, who will discuss the use of markers in scientific illustration. At 4 p.m., Mattias Lanas will close out the day by providing “perspectives in botanical illustration.”

Also on display will be various natural history exhibits featuring specimens from the Norris Center’s growing collections, including butterflies and moths from around the world, mammals, birds, reptiles, and much more.

It’s all part of a program that is part of the Norris Center’s community outreach. “We don’t have a large public display space,” Lay said. “These events become important ways to communicate to the larger public, the student body, and the larger community about what we are doing and what we support.”

The Norris Center was established in 2014 as part of an endowment gift from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  Its mission is to inspire and provide resources for anyone interested in studying the natural world. Through its work, the center carries on the legacy of beloved UC Santa Cruz environmental studies professor Ken Norris, a world-renowned expert in whales and dolphins who inspired many generations of UCSC students to pursue their passions as naturalists. Norris died in 1998. Currently, thanks to a generous donor, the center is expanding art/nature-related opportunities for students and the broader community.

Free parking will be available at the Core West Parking Structure. Close parking for mobility-impaired guests will be available in the small parking lot adjacent to the loading dock of the Science and Engineering Library.

More information is available at or 831-459-4763

Seeking Symbiosis – Bringing Art-Science to the Classroom

Seeking Symbiosis in the Classroom

By Kara Guzman, Santa Cruz Sentinel – Posted 12/20/14

Geoffrey Thomas imagines a future with seed-spreading tarantula robots and genetically-engineered giant sloths.

These whimsical ideas, the subject of three digital art images, have a ring of truth, said Thomas, who collaborated with Juniper Harrower, a UCSC environmental studies graduate student studying the tree. The duo is planning to create an educational mobile app and short animations from the sketches within the next year. Once found throughout the American Southwest, the tree is now only found in California’s Joshua Tree National Park and small areas of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. As deserts become hotter and drier, the tree’s range marches north toward higher and cooler elevations, as animals carry the seeds in their digestive tracts.

Seeds were once spread by car-sized sloths, now extinct. Now the tree depends mostly on rats, which can’t spread it fast enough to keep up with climate change, said Harrower.

Within 60 to 90 years, climate models predict that most of the Joshua trees within the national park will disappear, she said. Thomas said humans have transformed the planet and must be intimately involved in saving it, an idea that shapes his art.“We are nature now. It’s not a separate thing from us,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Harrower also co-led a digital art class this fall in which students created their own Joshua tree projects. Harrower, a guest lecturer, spoke about the tree’s fragile future and took students to a campus greenhouse showcasing 20-year-old Joshua tree seedlings, which grow to around 40 feet as adults over hundreds of years.

Harrower said a partnership between artists and scientists is critical, not only to help science reach a wide audience, but also to push thought beyond the obvious. “I think you can get this really interesting, beautiful science from these massive paradigm shifts, which comes from being open to creative thought,” said Harrower, also UCSC’s Women in Sciences and Engineering art and science outreach officer.

Using Adobe Illustrator or digital photography, students created short comic strips inspired by the tree’s plight. Camilly Pereira, a senior art and economics double major, said she was struck by the crucial relationship between the tree and the yucca moth, the only animal which pollinates it. Joshua tree flowers, in turn, are the only place where yucca moths lay eggs.

Pereira spent more than 40 hours creating three simple, clear images: a cocoon, a seed and a flowering tree covered in moths, she said.

“I just thought it was a really good visual representation of how much the Joshua tree not only depends on the yucca moth, but also how much we depend on plants and animals to keep things thriving for us too,” Pereira said.