Guest blog by Dan Brawner, associate professor of Design & Illustration at Belmont University’s Watkins College of Art
Inspired by conversations with Sarah J. Love, who gave a Coffee Break talk in November 2023 and who also happens to be my niece, I was recently introduced to Sky Island Alliance and their work in southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Impressed by the mission to protect and preserve these unique ecosystems, and intrigued by their poetic name, I was motivated to learn more and hopefully create an opportunity for my students.
As a practicing artist, illustrator, and educator, I’ve found enormous value in extending the educational experience beyond the classroom, enabling students to assist others with their work. Thanks to the expertise and enthusiastic participation of Love and SIA’s Program Director Emily Burns, we created a research-based, nature-focused assignment “to protect and restore wild lands, wildlife, and waters” through the power of art.
Thirteen talented students crafted thoughtful illustrations, as you can see in this blog, and we (non-scientists) learned a lot together. The collaboration was meaningful on many levels and included student presentations and feedback from both Love and Burns. We look forward to more partnerships with SIA in the future, as well as opportunities for our students to put their art to work engaging others.