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Learning Guide
Conserving Nature

What ways can you get involved in the arts and the natural landscapes of your community? Most of the artists featured in this exhibition are regular people with full-time jobs who seek out the arts as a form of expression, as a connection to traditions, or simply as a relaxing pastime. The activities in this section focus on how you can get involved in your community—in the arts, in the environment, or both!

Activity: Art Adventure
From Trash to Treasure

Think about waste and recycling and how you can find additional uses for things you normally think of as trash. Challenge yourself to think creatively and to look at everyday objects with an artist's perspective.

  • Check out recycled art such as "Root Monster" by Miles Carpenter. These artworks employ materials that others might consider trash. Do you think this should be considered art? Why, or why not?
  • Collect clean items from your trash or recycling, such as milk cartons, plastic jugs, soda cans, aluminum foil, fabric, buttons, bottle caps, etc. Now try and create your own trash treasures! A good place to start is making a favorite animal from your collected bits and pieces.

Activity: Web Connections

Learn more about how artists use various found materials in their art by visiting the "Bottlecaps and Brushes" tutorial on the Smithsonian's American Art website.

Activity: Lend a Hand and Get the Word Out
Volunteering in Your Community, a Great Way to Meet New People and to Find New Interests

  • Join the local branch of an environmental group.
  • Sign up to help out at the next art show or crafts fair in your community—you may discover new ideas and meet interesting local artists.
  • Form a group (or get involved with an existing group) to clean up a local park, empty lot, or playground.
  • Share your talent—if you have a bit of artistic flair, volunteer to lead an art workshop at your local nursing home or daycare facility.
  • Talk to your school newspaper about starting a column that focuses on the arts and/or on the environment.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about the importance of the arts and/or preserving natural areas.

Activity: Go Your Own Way
Some Simple Things That May Inspire You:

  • Buy a field guide or borrow one from the library and teach yourself how to identify local plants, animals, and birds.
  • Build a birdhouse and watch to see which birds nest there.
  • Stop by a nearby community center to find out about free or low-cost art workshops and art classes.
  • Visit your nearest state park, national forest, or grassland.
  • Go hiking, camping, canoeing, or birding with friends and family.
  • Visit art galleries, fairs, and museums in your area to learn more about local artists.
  • Check out online exhibitions that bring great works of art into your home: "Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art."
  • Visit a Smithsonian online exhibition called "America the Beautiful" to learn more about how American artists throughout history have interpreted the natural landscapes of this country.
  • Visit a Smithsonian online exhibition of contemporary American landscape photography titled "Between Home and Heaven," and see how different artists interpret natural landscapes.

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.