Common Ground: A Celebration of Our National Parks


  • David Brower Center 2150 Allston Way, Suite 100 Berkeley, CA 94704 USA

The Brower Center is excited to announce our 2016 juried exhibition, which will run from May 20 – September 8, 2016. On the hundredth anniversary of the National Park System, the 2016 juried exhibition will address "America’s Best Idea" as seen through the eyes of local artists. The 2016 juried show jurors are Stephanie Hanor, Director, Mills College Art Museum, Katrina Traywick, Director, Traywick Contemporary, Laurie Rich, Executive Director of the David Brower Center, and Sean Uyehara, Director of Programs, Headlands Center for the Arts.

This year marks the centennial of the Organic Act of 1916, which established the National Park Service.  The purpose of the agency is, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Art was crucial to creation of the National Parks System, and continues to be essential to advocates for parks: The oils of Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, Thomas Moran, and other painters of Yosemite moved President Lincoln, in 1864, to protect that most beautiful of valleys as a park. Paintings and photographs of Yellowstone had the same effect in 1872. The success of David Brower and Ansel Adams in getting a copy of Adams’s portfolio of photographs, Sierra Nevada: the John Muir Trail, into the hands of Franklin Roosevelt tipped the balance in creation of Kings Canyon National Park.

Artists today continue in this tradition.  Maya Lin’s “Confluence Project,” made up of collaborative installations in parks along the Columbia River, and her “What Is Missing” project commemorates the biodiversity vanishing now in the Sixth Extinction.  Conceptual artist Amy Balkin proposes a “clean air park” in the atmosphere and a “global commons.”  These contemporaries carry on artistically the conceptual work of activists like David Brower, whose full-page 1969 New York Times ad proposed that this planet become a “conservation district” within the universe--an “Earth National Park"--and of the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, who, at the national parks summit last May, proposed setting aside half of our planet for life forms other than ourselves.