Feature

Unique Mural Captures Essence of the Sustainable Recreation Movement

Julie Padilla and Denise Ottaviano
Southwestern Region, U.S. Forest Service
September 1st, 2016 at 3:15PM

A photo of Sustainable Recreation mural
Sustainable Recreation mural created by artists from the VSA North Fourth Art Center. Photo credit: VSA Arts of New Mexico

Recently, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited the agency’s Southwestern Regional Office in Albuquerque, NM, to review the status of a number of different programs. However, on this visit, the setting was very different than the normal business setting of a boring conference room.

This is because the Very Special Arts (VSA) North Fourth Art Center in Albuquerque was asked to paint a mural that represented what sustainable recreation meant to them. The art center immediately embraced and ran with the idea, creating a 6’ x 16’ movable mural that helped bring the outside inside.

A photo of Artist Rudy Via
Artist Rudy Via from the VSA North Fourth Art Center. Photo credit: VSA Arts of New Mexico

The resulting work illustrates the message of an exciting recreation management movement calledsustainable recreation and clearly articulates their love and passion for the land. Sustainable recreation is a new way of acting and thinking about how recreation improves lives, communities and the natural world. It engages with the enormous and creative energy of people who care for and benefit from public lands. This passion for natural resources inspires citizen stewardship of the land, creating a relationship in which people recognize the need to protect national forests and grasslands for future generations.

The mural paints the picture of public lands as the joyful heart of the community with people enriching their lives by being outdoors. A river represents the flow of benefits from public lands into the community and the words: only you, reminds us that citizens have a responsibility to be stewards of our natural heritage.

In addition to the mural, two prop specialists from the Albuquerque Opera voluntarily contributed numerous hours and amazing talent to create a fake campfire, and brought in trees and benches to help create the outdoor scene.

The Recreation department also collaborated with one of their partner schools, the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy, whose students beautifully signed the song “This Land is Our Land” to the campfire group.

Forest Service employee Francisco Valenzuela, Regional Director of Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness Resources, was inspired to create a unique outdoors scene for meeting participants that would exemplify the concept of sustainable recreation.

Valenzuela’s vision was to create a campfire environment that would lend itself to storytelling between Chief Tidwell, agency employees and several partners in attendance who collaborate with the Forest Service.

A photo of Campfire scene created in the basement of the Southwestern Regional Office.
Campfire scene created in the basement of the Southwestern Regional Office. Photo credit: US Forest Service