Early California Rancho Days
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Nearly a week after the fact, I recognize a feeling akin to my first poetry gathering in Elko in 1989, a sense of connectedness with other creative people, all grounded to the land, to our Kaweah River watershed. Not unlike the security of my fellow cowboy poets and songwriters, it has been reassuring to be part of this local event, to be among such dynamic and diverse presenters: real hope for creative thinking and the future of our sustainable landscapes. On a personal level, I felt that part of our function was to encourage artistic expression locally, and I think we have. Subsequently, this KLAF event will grow in years to come.
I find the timing of this first festival serendipitous with our current hard economic times, times when people look to more lasting values in a rural area where the self-sufficient gene is still carried among many of us. I’m sure others across the West have noticed a similar shift in attitudes with more friendly and pleasant interactions – in tough times, a common bond and a wonderful place to express yourself from. I’ve been energized.
The event, however, has very little to do with me, except that I think this feeling was shared and conveyed to most all of those attending the various KLAF venues. The genie’s out of the jar Niki, Matt, John and SRT – and what better way to conserve the land than increasing people’s awareness of its functions and ever-changing beauty!
Initially envisioned by Matthew Rangel and John Spivey, the 1st Kaweah Land and Arts Festival is history – noteworthy history for the watershed. With standing room only at Matthew’s exhibit of prints, a transect – Due East at Arts Visalia Friday evening, I’m glad we went early to follow Matthew’s walking perspective from his childhood home in Dinuba to the Great Western Divide. Some of his unique prints included audio interviews with landowners whose foothill ranches he needed to cross to get to Sequoia National Forest and Park, conversations with generational mountain stalwarts like Art Tarbell, Forrey Cooper and Tim Loverin. Our first time in Kevin Bowman’s gallery, we’ll be back to enjoy this exhibit again before it ends on November 27th.
With two makeshift stages at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve east of Visalia, rows of artist’s booths, guided nature walks, children activities, it was festive Saturday. I couldn’t see it all, but painter/farmer Paul Buxman’s impassioned presentation was entertaining and inspirational, ambrosia for the heart and mind. Sylvia Ross’ poetry touched deeply from the earth and native culture, an enviable simple and direct line full of meaning and feeling. All framed within Park naturalist Bill Tweed’s analytical yet ‘big picture’ perspective to the distant beat of performance poet Tim Hernandez’s band, it was a diverse offering from artists of every stripe, spontaneous stuff going on everywhere.
Saturday evening’s symposium at College of Sequoia’s began with Rob Hansen’s mapped presentation of a century and a half of changes to the watershed, followed by persentations from other participants to cap an encouragingly thought-provoking event. Special recognition goes to all the local sponsors, and especially to Niki Woodard (the ramrod), Frances Tweed, Laura Childers with the help of the many youthful and busy members of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust that made it come together so seamlessly. See ‘information’ posted below Matthew Rangle’s print in the last post for more details of what took place. It really was spectacular and invigorating - real hope for the area - as next year's plans already run rampant in everyone's mind.
photo by Bev (used w/out permission)
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