Capturing A Moment On The Prairie Workshop Melds Art, Science and Meditation

Tucked behind the well-manicured football stadium at Free State High School in Lawrence, sits a former football field that is covered in native prairie plants and sings with sound of insects and birds.

This 1.4-acre field is a prairie restoration and community ecology experiment that began in 2013 after herbicide was used to kill exotic grasses on the abandoned football field. In spring 2014, the entire site was drilled with prairie grass seeds, and the Free State Prairie was born.

Free State science classes regularly visit the Free State Prairie to collect data, work on projects, and to collaborate with scientists from KU and the Lawrence community. But earlier this month, local natural science illustrator Sara Taliaferro invited community members to gather at the Free State Prairie for a Capturing A Moment on the Prairie workshop, where participants observed the prairie through an artistic lens and recorded what they saw using pencil and watercolor. While one goal of the workshop was to hone observation skills, there was also a meditative and restorative element to the class.

“Getting in touch with the natural world is good for your well-being,” Taliaferro said. “This is a really unique environment, and when you start looking at the detail and the beauty and the complexity of the things out here, it is very restorative.”

Taliaferro’s Capturing A Moment On The Prairie workshop began with participants gathering under a shelter adjacent to the prairie, and then taking several moments of silence to both listen to and visually observe the urban prairie setting. After some warm-up sketching exercises, people wandered into the prairie to quietly draw a plant that captured their attention. With sketches in hand, participants then used watercolors to create a spectrum of greens to add shading and color to their pieces.

The Kansas Land Trust, the Kansas Biological Survey, and the Grassland Heritage Foundation all sponsored this event. Scroll down to see some of the participants' creations and to hear their reflections on the workshop.