The Kaweah Land & Arts Festival was a great success! Thanks to everyone who came out to experience the events, whether you joined us at The Cellar Door, Arts Visalia, the Kaweah Oaks Preserve or C.O.S. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers! Thank you to all the amazing artists, presenters and musicians who donated their time and talents to this worthy cause! And thank you to all of our sponsors!
The Festival was a diverse selection of events and it was really great to see such a diverse representation of our community supporting land conservation and the arts.
The Land & Arts Symposium, “Becoming Native,” was the exclamation point to the Festival.
Five panelists from very different backgrounds each talked about their family histories and how they came to respect this region as their native home. Each of the panelists articulated to the crowd at the Ponderosa Room an almost precise moment or activity when they realized they were “native.” For Adam Longatti, landscape painter from Fresno, it was when he decided that this Valley landscape would be his infant daughter’s home, and that the smell of the spring orange blossoms would always remind her of that. For Jennifer Malone, native Wukchumni, her native identity was passed down from her ancestors. But more than that, she continues to “become native” everyday as she advocates for her heritage and teaches young Native Americans the ancient traditions of harvesting plants for food and art while always maintaining an ethic of respect and generosity for the land. Alan George, a long-time crusader for the legacy of Visalia’s valley oaks, has a vision of native that aligns with the roots and branches of the majestic oaks that populate the city. His lifetime dream is to create a more hospitable home for the valley oaks than the one that existed 86 years ago when he was born here. He’s done a remarkable job and we all owe thanks to that. Louise Jackson‘s family has a long history in the region and her native identity is nestled in the alpine meadows of the Sierra, but flows down the Kaweah to remind people in her history books of the inconnectedness of those mountain peaks and the valley farms and towns below. Richard Arenas, a sculptor, was born to Mexican parents who had relocated to the southern San Joaquin Valley in search of a better life. His native identity comes from picking grapes and olives in hot, dusty, summer fields. Though he’s gone on to become a fine artist, his hands remember that hard labor and his beautiful bronze statues reflect that “campesino” heritage for others.
We all have an identity that is grounded here in these fields, trees, flowers, in this culture, in this dirt. We all have stories that connect us to the land. Btu we don’t always talk about them and give them a stage and an audience and a round of applause. That’s what Sunday’s symposium was about. And it felt really, really good! A member of the audience got up and told a story about how gratifying it is to tend to his home’s new native plant landscape… yet another way to become native to this region.
But the real question that we all grappled with is the real message behind the Festival. How do we get everyone to take a little more pride in their native identity? How do we spread the message beyond the Festival, throughout the year, and grow the imperative to see and treat our land like the art that it is. The group consensus was that we have to educate the youth and support the nonprofits who defend and preserve the native identity of this landscape.
Please support Sequoia Riverlands Trust and our efforts to continue raising awareness about the sacredness of this landscape. Now is the time to take action. You can also look into the advocacy work of Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth. Sign their petition for the Tulare County General Plan. Also, get your kids outside. Teach them to explore, touch and interact with nature so that they can foster their own unique and enduring relationship with the land.
Take pride in what you have today by taking action to create a better tomorrow.
And, a couple pictures from The Cellar Door on Thursday, November 4 for the opening night of the Festival — “Blues & Dust” with Tim Z. Hernandez, Lance Canales & the Flood, Dayanna Sevilla and John Spivey.