Every year, the Meadowlark Festival chooses and commissions a local artist to produce a signature piece for the festival.
This year, that artist is Bethany Handfield, whose lighthearted painting of a meadowlark family will be on display at the Penticton Art Gallery on May 14, in conjunction with her personal exhibition, Bee Alchemy and the Resurrection of Dreaming.
But that is only one part of the nature festival’s connection to the arts.
Along with all the hiking, biking, touring and other events, the Meadowlark Festival also includes a range of art experiences for those looking to connect art and nature.
That includes events like poet and Nancy Holmes, together with writer/ecologist Don Gayton, offering a combination hike and open-air discussion of nature writing.
Or how about an afternoon with Loraine Stephanson, painting in directly from nature?
“It’s a chance for people to interact with nature in a very quiet way, and an unusual way in that they are trying to make a painting using something from nature as their motif,” said Stephanson.
“What I have found is that people really get into it if they have never done it before. They don’t want to go home at the end of the day.”
With small class sizes, Stephanson said she has time to work with individuals, so she welcomes those with little or no experience, as long as they have their materials.
Artist Dianne Bersea will be setting a quieter pace with her walk around the Twin Lakes area, as she teaches about mindfulness.
“As an artist, I see the world in a particular way and people are often asking me about that,” said Bersea. “I would like to share that and talk about how I am seeing it as we walk around and point out some specific things they can maybe take the time to observe.”
Too often, she explained, people miss the subtleties in the world around them. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
“What we normally do in our ordinary world is kind of glaze over and miss most of what is going on outside of us,” said Bersea. “We are not observant and attentive.
Awareness is something artists can bring back to the world, she said, and introduce it to other people.
“When we are fully engaged in the present moment, … we are more fully engaged with our environment, physically, emotionally, mentally,” said Bersea.
“That’s what I hope to provide for people that come along with me.”
Growing up in remote areas of coastal B.C. and in Cariboo country, Bersea developed an intense relationship with the natural environment.
“I still have extremely vivid images of seeing my first red fox or a bear going by or a squirrel that always came to the window,” said Bersea, who said she remains a child of nature.
“I never lost that sense of connection. I think it is a really regretful loss that as time has gone on we have moved so far away from nature that we have lost that connection,” she said. “Walking for times in silence, just listening to the sound of your feet of the ground, the air in the trees, the sound of birds and then sitting on the ground and thinking about that … I think it is really important.”
Visit meadowlarkfestival.bc.ca to register for these or any of the many events that will be offered during the festival.