Update 8/12/2015 0- here’s a link to an article about the program from the Pasadena news:
“What’s an artist in residence?” No one quite knew what to make of an art program in a Forest Service campground, until I pulled out what came to be known as my “arting gear”, including small personal sketchbooks, colored pencils, rubber snakes and toy bears, and invited them to join me at the shady picnic tables.
The campground families and kids hopped right in, choosing their favorite “model” and colored pencils, and about an hour later there were drawings of dragons and condors and landscapes and flowers, and lots of happy campers, including me! The program gave all of us a way to simply be together in the woods, quietly sharing our insights about nature, looking more closely than we usually do, making drawings that will take us back to those woods for years to come. The art sessions also gave families a way to keep the kids busy without having to organize a big expedition. My two favorite participants were A.J. and Zack, the sons of the cafe manager and his wife. Their parents were very hospitable, and their excellent food kept me from having to do much camp cooking and being able to just make art!
Before I began this Artist Residency adventure a few weeks ago in mid-June 2015, I didn’t know there WAS a national forest anywhere near Los Angeles! But there is, and it’s beautiful by any forest standards. Mountains, vistas, forest, flowers, fresh air… but no water this year. The drought is So Very Real… However, the Crystal Lake Campground has an infrastructure of historic facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the Depression era that give it an aura all its own – who needs water when you’ve got ghosts?
There are remains of the stone walls, fireplace, bandstand, and dance floor of a fabulous ballroom (or maybe a tent with a stone foundation?) which was legend for big band events in the 1930’s – 1950’s, hidden in plain sight. If you can’t hear the music and see the dancers at night, you aren’t paying attention… but oddly, photos of that era are hard to come by. I would love to do more research, but being off the grid up there at 5,500 feet, there weren’t many opportunities. There are also plenty of ghost stories involving attacks by phantom bears back when the facilities were being built… gave me the shivers…
When I wasn’t “arting” with other campers or exploring the trails, I had full use of the welcome coolness of the Studio, an old building re-vamped for use by artists, to work on my own art. Over the course of a week, I completed 20 mixed-media sketches in the journal that now belongs to their program – the sketchbook gallery below includes my favorites. My husband and I hiked and wandered until it got too hot by Oregon standards, then I sketched and he wrote. I worried about bears and mountain lions, and there was plenty of evidence of the critters, but all we encountered were lizards and blue jays and one horrendous spidery bug… I didn’t know whether to be relieved or just the tiniest bit disappointed about the bears…
The Angeles Forest has just been augmented by the newly-designated San Gabriel National Monument, and I got the first calendar slot for the new-this-year artist residency program. The rest of the summer will bring nine other artists working there at different times in different media – it should be a terrific season!