ART OnSite debuts first public art project on September 7

On September 7, ART OnSite will unveil their first public art works project — aiming to bring people and the natural environment together in an innovative and artistic way.

The project features works from eight international artists installed along the nine-mile Deer Creek Tribute Trail, in Nevada City, CA. Each artist was selected based on proposals that best interpret the culture, history and ecology of the Deer Creek watershed. The works range from hidden cameras capturing the flora and fauna on the trail to sculptures made with natural found materials to an interactive naturalist’s treasure hunt.

ART OnSite/Tribute Trail is collaborative effort between Nevada City, Nevada County, Nevada County Arts and The Sierra Fund. ART OnSite was one of 80 projects nationwide to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town Initiative. Projects were selected for their ability to improve quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help revitalize local economies. The Our Town Initiative Grant is a two-year, $25,000 matching grant.

“Our goals for ART OnSite are to bring high caliber land art to the Deer Creek watershed and, in doing so, draw our community and visitors to view, study, and hopefully learn from it,” explains Nancy Fleming, ART OnSite Project Chair. “We are thrilled with the installations – they will challenge, provoke and stimulate conversation – just what art should do.”

The artists selected include Richard Baker, a photographer from Nevada City, who has installed five digital “trail cameras” along the wild and urban stretches of the Tribute Trail to record happenings over time. Baker is curating a living show of images of life on the trail as seen on his blog and in downtown exhibitions.

San Francisco sculptor Mark Baugh-Sasaki has collected large stones from the surrounding landscape and has incorporated them into several sculptures called “Cascade” that explore the way humans have reshaped the landscape. In particular he references the mining operations that were in the area.

Conceptual artist Lisa K. Blatt, creates a unique experience of Deer Creek’s natural and cultivated environment and history with a list of 12 experiential instructions that focuses the viewer’s attention on particular history, sights, sounds and experiences unique to the trail.

Oakland based sculpture Mark Brest Van Kempen’s piece titled “ Sculpture to Temporarily Slow Decay” intervenes in the decay of two dead trees on the trail. The piece deals with our fear of death and decay, obsession with preservation, and ambivalence about interfering with nature.

Artist Daniel Brickman of Sacramento sought inspiration from Nevada County’s rich mining history and our four-legged friends for “Nevada City Alchemy”, his piles of golden poop by drawing a correlation between the two and the notion of dealing responsibly with the environment.

Unmanned Minerals, an artist collective that includes Matthew Hebert of San Diego, Jared Stanley of Reno and Gabie Strong of Los Angeles, explores ways history and language mediate landscape through a series of interactive installations located along the trail.

“This project exemplifies our mission – to bring new resources to the Sierra Nevada – by bringing new ideas about how to build relationships between people and the natural environmental that surrounds their city,” explains Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, chief executive officer, Sierra Fund. “The project will help draw our local residents out to the Deer Creek Tribute Trail as well as attract folks from the urban areas of our state and nation that want to see how these artists have brought their special sensibilities to our town.”

Completed in 2011, the Deer Creek Tribute Trail is a nine-mile cultural and ecological multi-use trail that begins at Pioneer Park and runs through downtown Nevada City along Deer Creek and Old Downieville Highway towards Newtown Road. The trail meanders past grinding rocks made by the Nisenan tribes and historic mining relics; is shaded by a canopy of oak, pine, and cedar trees; and is always within earshot of the rushing waters of Deer Creek. Construction of the trail was a collaborative effort between Nevada City, Nevada County, The Sierra Fund and 15 other regional environmental, educational and historic organizations.

Deer Creek is the reason for Nevada City’s being. It was the location of the first gold discovery in the region, and subsequently the town, originally named Deer Creek Dry Diggins, sprang up on its banks. Over time Nevada City, as it came to be known, grew along and around Deer Creek. The creek provided a water source, a transportation corridor, and a sense of place for the community and is still, to this day, a very important regional resource.

“Nevada City has long been the home to numerous talented artists and has attracted residents and visitors, alike, who appreciate art. Additionally, Nevada City has acquired and preserved green spaces for many years—starting with the Deer Creek Environs over 25 years ago, where some of the ART OnSite installations will be located; continuing with the purchase of Hirschman’s Pond and adjacent properties; and crowned by the recent acquisition of Sugar Loaf Mountain, the backdrop to our historic town, found in many artists’ renderings of Nevada City,” says Sally Harris, Mayor of Nevada City.

“The ART OnSite Project is important as it brings together Nevada City’s appreciation for both art and our beautiful open spaces and celebrates our new public trail system.”

Opening Celebration and Premiere of Artworks will take place, Saturday, September 7th at Robinson Plaza during the Nevada City Farmer’s Market on Union Street, Nevada City, at 10:30am. Speakers will include Nancy Fleming, Chair, ART OnSite; Sally Harris, Mayor of Nevada City; Dave Brennan, City Manager; Jon Blinder, President of the Board of Nevada County Arts; and Izzy Martin, CEO, The Sierra Fund.

Attending the ceremony are the eight ART OnSite artists, the ART OnSite Steering Committee, representatives of the projects 15 stakeholders, the media, the community and other artists who have been involved with the project.

Following the ceremony from 10:30-noon, individuals and families will be invited to walk the Tribute Trail and preview the multiple installations. The eight artists will be available along the trail to talk about their works. A brochure with map and location of the works will be provided.

Children’s Nature-Based Art activity during the Nevada City Farmers Market, 10:30-noon. This activity will take place under the trees in Callahan Park (at the edge of the Farmer’s Market). Instructors will provide natural elements (leaves, twigs, acorns, rocks, etc.) and each child will create a sculpture that they may take home. This event is free.

—Jesse Locks for ART OnSite; photos by Simon Weller Photography

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