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Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Art of Natural History at Prescott College - The Josephine Arader Collection

The Art of Natural History at Prescott College

Natural history--the practice of focused attentiveness to nature—is as old as humanity: there have never been people without natural history.  Natural history field observations have adorned cave walls in France and canyon walls in Arizona, as well as served as the foundation for sophisticated scientific theories in museums and universities in great cities of the world.  And as readers of this newsletter well know, the artistic traditions inherent in natural history art are endlessly captivating. Natural history represents the integration of sciences, arts, and humanities in a unified approach to understanding the world around us, and plays a central role in a liberal arts education.  In recent years, however, natural history has been marginalized—many academic institutions have removed natural history curricula—and shrunken—the arts and humanities have too often been wrung out of remaining natural history programs.
Prescott College has long been recognized nationally as a leader in field natural history.  Students have engaged in field study of habitats through North America and beyond for decades—the commitment to the centrality of natural history has never wavered.  Recently, faculty, alumni, and students from the college have been at the core of a national renaissance in natural history.  
We continue our attempts to lead the way in an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to natural history, facilitated by the Arader Galleries and several kind donors.  We are now proud and grateful stewards of the Josephine Michell Arader Collection of natural history prints--a major collection of works by Audubon, Catesby, Gould, and many other renowned artists.  The collection is named for Josephine Arader, a distinguished alumna of the college and proprietor of the Arader Galleries operation in San Francisco.  This collection is being co-curated by the Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse (www.prescottcollegeartgallery.org) and the college’s new Natural History Institute (www.naturalhistoryinstitute.org), which I serve as Director.  This exciting collaboration between the Art Gallery at Sam Hill and the Institute exemplifies a unified approach to understanding nature, drawing on all aspects of human psyche.  This November we’ll be hosting a special weekend, The Art of Natural History, the Art Gallery at Sam Hill will feature a special exhibition of selections from the Arader Collection (open through December 14), as well as the grand opening of the Natural History Institute.  There’ll be a panel discussion on the relationship between arts, sciences, and observation, a series of nature hikes, a stream restoration workshop, lectures, and more.  
This weekend is just the beginning for the Natural History Institute, and for its collaboration with the Art Gallery at Sam Hill.  The Institute consists of a small Natural History Gallery, featuring a portion of the Arader Collection on permanent display, along with exhibitions of natural history art by students and others.  Additionally, the Institute will offer programs of natural history on- and off-campus workshops and field explorations, public events and outreach programs, including a distinguished speaker series, as well as hosting research collections (both digital and physical), research space for faculty and students, and a natural history lab for teaching. The Institute strives to live up to its slogan--“Integrating Art, Science, and Humanities.”
This new Natural History Institute, working closely with the Art Gallery at Sam Hill, will allow Prescott College to build on its long, continuous history of integrated natural history education and offer more of its distinctive programs to greater communities, and to the world at large.  We welcome all friends of the Arader Galleries—to The Art of Natural History weekend, and beyond.  

(The Natural History Institute is currently raising funds for staffing and programming; thanks to a generous donor, all contributions through November 10th will be matched.  Donations can be made at http://naturalhistory.kintera.org/.   The Art Gallery at Sam Hill, which manages the Arader Collection, hopes to raise funds for upgrading of its archival capacity; donations can be made at https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Simple/Donor.asp?ievent=1059508&en=8rIFJRMvG7LOK1OyE6ILJYMJJiLIJXOKIlLML0OOKrJ5F)

Thomas L. Fleischner, PhD, is the Director of the Natural History Institute at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona.  He can be reached at tfleischner@prescott.edu, and found at tfleischner.net.

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