Art and natural history to converge at “Artstravaganza!” open house at the Kenneth S. Norris Center

Artists and naturalists benefit from slowing down and looking closely at their subjects, says Norris Center curator Chris Lay. At this open house event, members of the public will learn from experts and make art of their own.

Artstravaganza will be a chance for members of the community to practice the art of looking closely and making art from nature.
Natural science illustration workshops are a great way to enhance natural observation skills.

Artists and budding naturalists should make their way up to the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz on November 4-5.

The center’s sixth-annual all-ages open house and fundraiser will place a strong emphasis on natural illustration. The aptly titled Artstravaganza!,’” will take place at the Norris Center in the Natural Sciences 2 Building, room 239.

Students and members of the Santa Cruz community will have a chance to learn about illustrating nature and find out how to make prints using linoleum cuts. The open house lasts from noon to 5 p.m. on both days. Though admission is free, donations to the Norris Center are encouraged.

It makes sense that art and nature would join forces at this community-friendly event, said Norris Center curator Chris Lay. Artists and naturalists both benefit from “slowing down, looking carefully at living things and making good observations,” Lay noted.

With this principle in mind, Artstravaganza! will feature a student art show, hands-on art making and face painting, and artist talks and demonstrations from several student and locally renowned nature artists. Talks and demonstrations will start at 1, 2:30, and 4 p.m. each day. 

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Juniper Harrower will give a multimedia presentation inspired by research in Joshua Tree National Park. At 2:30 p.m. that day, Emily Underwood will talk to guests about natural history print-making. Then, at 4 p.m., guests are invited to a special presentation by artist Josie Iselin, known for her captivating fine-art photography that captures the colors and textures of seaweed, marine algae, beach stones, and other treasures she discovers while walking along the seashore.

On Sunday, Dillyn Adamo will talk about linocut printmaking of California native plants, followed, at 2:30 p.m., by Hannah Caise, who will discuss the use of markers in scientific illustration. At 4 p.m., Mattias Lanas will close out the day by providing “perspectives in botanical illustration.”

Also on display will be various natural history exhibits featuring specimens from the Norris Center’s growing collections, including butterflies and moths from around the world, mammals, birds, reptiles, and much more.

It’s all part of a program that is part of the Norris Center’s community outreach. “We don’t have a large public display space,” Lay said. “These events become important ways to communicate to the larger public, the student body, and the larger community about what we are doing and what we support.”

The Norris Center was established in 2014 as part of an endowment gift from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  Its mission is to inspire and provide resources for anyone interested in studying the natural world. Through its work, the center carries on the legacy of beloved UC Santa Cruz environmental studies professor Ken Norris, a world-renowned expert in whales and dolphins who inspired many generations of UCSC students to pursue their passions as naturalists. Norris died in 1998. Currently, thanks to a generous donor, the center is expanding art/nature-related opportunities for students and the broader community.

Free parking will be available at the Core West Parking Structure. Close parking for mobility-impaired guests will be available in the small parking lot adjacent to the loading dock of the Science and Engineering Library.

More information is available at or 459-4763.