KAWEAH Land and Arts Festival

KAWEAH Land and Arts Festival

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The Kaweah land and arts Festival is a San Joaquin Valley community arts initiative that myself and writer John Spivey envisioned some time ago as a result of my project a transect - Due East and his book The Great Western Divide. It celebrates the creativity and stories of the Kaweah watershed - from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the valley farms and cities below.

The festival has been underwritten and organized by Sequoia Riverlands Trust (a non-profit land conservation trust located within the San Joaquin Valley) and I'm proud to say that the California Council for the Humanities contributed a relatively large grant that enabled the festival's first round in the fall 2009 to be a success!

We anticipate that the festival will take place again so keep an eye out for more information in the fall of 2010!

Introduction by John Spivey, Author & Photographer

Querencia is the deep sense of inner well-being that comes from knowing a particular place on the Earth; its daily and seasonal patterns, its fruits and scents, its soils and birdsongs.

-Kirkpatrick Sale

As I drive through the Kaweah region, all these things press themselves upon me: the patterns, the fruits, the scents, the soils, the birdsongs. The smells of the various crops on the Valley floor (alfalfa, orange, tannic walnut) give way to the smells of sycamore and oak then cedar, pine, and fragrant kitkitdizze. Every sensory input provides some knowledge of home, some intimation of the deeper processes at work in life. This is my home, this is my body in relation to the land. This is home no matter where I happen to live.

The logo that Matthew Rangel designed for the festival shows the many tributaries of the Kaweah descending from the high reaches of the Sierra, converging to a single, common watercourse, then once again diverging into multiple realities—the St. John’s, Mill Creek, Cross Creek, Outside Creek, Packwood Creek, plus many smaller and smaller divisions of the flow.
KLAF Logo_image only
In many ways, this logo also symbolizes the many writers, artists, and scholars who have helped create the Kaweah Land and Arts Festival and bring it into reality. These people are as much a part of the landscape as mountains and rivers, each living their own day-to-day, moment-to-moment version of querencia. Like the tributaries of the Kaweah, these writers, artists, and scholars have come together into a common flow, soon to divide again after a mixing of the waters. Many of you readers will also become part of this current and ultimately help to irrigate and nurture life on the Valley floor. The Kaweah once created and hosted hundreds of square miles of oak forest within its delta. What can we together create and host?

The story of how the festival came into being reads like a map of the Kaweah. One day I was sitting at the Wildflower Café in Exeter, my hometown, when I was struck by the impulse to take a copy of my book into the Book Garden to see if they wanted to carry it. I almost rejected the notion, but then felt compelled to follow through on it. The book made its way into the hands of Trudy Wischemann, who then sent it out in multiple directions. She gave it to John Dofflemyer, who in turn gave it to Matthew Rangel. She also sent it to Steve Laymon, who then passed it on to Rob Hansen among others. Matthew soon contacted me. Somehow my written vision of the Sierra backcountry matched his own artistic vision. After a bit, Matthew told me of his idea about creating a festival of art and writing based on living in and celebrating the Kaweah watershed, from the backcountry of the Great Western Divide down to the missing and forgotten shores of Tulare Lake.

Prior to these events surrounding my book, Matthew had been selected to be part of a program called Artists in the Backcountry produced by the Sequoia Parks Foundation, a program created in part by Bill Tweed. Bill nurtured Matthew’s idea to walk from Dinuba to the Great Western Divide and artistically record the journey. One of the artists in Matthew’s group was the celebrated poet Gary Snyder, who put Matthew in contact with John Dofflemyer.

I took Matthew’s festival idea to Sequoia Riverlands Trust where Niki Woodard picked it up and ran with it. She was able to secure a large grant from the California Council for the Humanities to produce the festival, an amazing feat considering that the Council had not awarded any money to Central California in over 15 years. The result of this confluence of creeks and rivers is the Kaweah Land and Arts Festival and your present experience of it. Every link in this causal chain was necessary. Without the synchronicity inspired by the landscape and without each synaptic connection of creative minds, this celebration would never have happened.

One of the gifts of being human is our sense of natural beauty. It is that which gives us a sense of home. When we give up that sense of natural beauty we enter into destruction. When we give up that sense of natural beauty we also give up part of our soul. Our job as human beings is to work together to keep that sense alive among us so that each of us can find our own version of querencia. Each of the participants in this festival, rooted as they are in the soil and landscape of the Kaweah watershed, is dedicated to that work as a way of life.

(Published in the Kaweah Land & Arts Festival Booklet, 2009, which consists of bios, artwork and poetry from featured participants. Copyright, Sequoia Riverlands Trust, 2009. Copies are still available so contact me if you'd like one.)


Featured Participants from 2009

Paul Buxman — farmer, painter
John Dofflemyer — cowboy poet
Rob Hansen — biologist, naturalist
Tim Z. Hernandez — poet, performer
Ron Jefferson — California folk musician
Matthew Rangel — visual artist
Sylvia Ross — author, poet, illustrator
John Spivey — author, photographer
Dr. William (Bill) Tweed — author, natural historian


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