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There is a hush that envelops Sitka and invites listening as December deepens. Moisture collected by the forest canopy in the night falls to the duff in muffled drips and drops. Birds nesting high above ruffle and fluff their feathers. I am reminded of the opening lines from a favorite Mary Oliver poem:
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
Observing the natural quiet on campus heightens my awareness of my own domesticated whirrings, my coffee-quickened pulse and the tick-tick-ticking of my end of year to-do list. The deeper nature’s silence, the more my inner noise is amplified.
Access to natural quiet – environments where humanmade noise is minimal or absent from the soundscape – is an increasingly rare and privileged experience. More and more of the artists and interdisciplinary creatives Sitka now hosts come to us from urban geographies and ecosystems. Here in Sitka’s local community, as Nestucca Valley Schools Superintendent Misty Wharton expresses it, “the kids we serve live on the coast but never experience the beach.”
This week marks the culmination of the first of two collaborative residencies Sitka is hosting with Portland-based artist Intisar Abioto. These group residencies are part of Abioto's Black Art/Ists project and will help inform the Portland Art Museum's Black Artists of Oregon exhibition, scheduled for June-December, 2023, and guest curated by Abioto. The photo essay at the end of this newsletter takes you inside some of their studios.
For those in Portland, Intisar and Studio Abioto's exhibition, Red Thread: Green Earth, is showing at the Reser Gallery in Beaverton through January 7, 2023. Abioto's work in this exhibit was created while in residence at Sitka. She was recently interviewed on OPB's Think Out Loud and talked about the photographs she created here during her residency. Abioto also has work at a group show at Oregon Contemporary now through January 8, 2023.
Reflecting on this year, one of the greatest joys is receiving more and more updates from you. In addition to Abioto’s exhibits, this newsletter is filled with announcements for new projects and publications by longtime and recent Sitka residents, instructors and artists. Sitka’s physical footprint may be small, but our community is branching and growing, with much singing coming from the tops of the trees.
Another joy is seeing more guest artists and naturalists sharing their talents through hands-on workshops in rural Pre-K through 8th grade classrooms. I hope you are heartened reading Youth Program Manager Leeauna Perry’s update in this newsletter on the fruition of her Sitka spruce ink collaboration with artist Iris Sullivan Daire.
In just a few days, Sitka’s 2023 Spring and Summer Workshop Season will be announced and available to preview online. We hope it sparks your winter imagination. Members-first registration
Fostering curiosity and creativity is vital to restoring balance in our relationship with the natural world. Thank you for all of the ways you support Sitka in serving more – and more diverse – people with art and nature access while preserving the serenity of this cherished place.
For those who have lost loved ones this year, who are struggling with health issues and hardships and who continue to serve on front lines of our health system, may we all actively listen to one another with compassion and hear what is needed as a New Year dawns.
Wishing you all peace and quietude,