Work by PSU Alumni Artist Ann Cavanaugh (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

Wild Arts Festival returns to Portland State University

Highlighting the intersection of art and the environment

In this modern age, it seems we are moving farther away from our natural roots. With countless corporations disregarding their adverse impacts on the environment and most people spending more time looking at a screen than enjoying the natural landscape around them, it is safe to say that nature has become less and less of a priority as the years go on. However, not all hope is lost—countless people still prioritize protecting nature and expressing their love of the natural world in truly unique ways.


From Dec. 10 to 11, Portland State’s Viking Pavilion will host the 42nd annual Wild Arts Festival, which celebrates the relationship between art and nature. In past years, the Wild Arts Festival was scheduled toward the end of November. However, this year patrons of the Wild Arts Festival will undoubtedly enjoy the event’s proximity to the holiday season. As gift buying ramps up, individuals are looking for gifts and ways to enjoy their holiday—this unique event will showcase the work of local artists, authors and musicians and serve as a fundraiser for Portland Audubon.

Arial view of Wild Arts Festival (2021). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival
Table display at the Wild Arts Festival (2021). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

For over 100 years, Portland Audubon has remained committed to connecting people with wildlife through scientific and educational programs. With the help of an extensive network of dedicated nature enthusiasts and volunteers, the Portland Audubon continually works to protect endangered species, preserve wildlife habitats, prevent climate change and more.


Some of the active ways they do this is by stoking a passion for the environment through their environmental education programs, where they assist over 15 thousand adults and children in staying connected to the natural world.


The majority of proceeds from the Wild Arts Festival will be donated to Portland Audubon to ensure that these vital resources may continue to flourish. Moreover, the proceeds will also fund the talented artists whose passion for the intersection of nature, art and protecting the environment makes this event possible.

People engaging in a Wild Arts Festival booth (2021). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival
People engaging in a Wild Arts Festival booth (2021). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

Liz Kay, who does media relations for the festival, said this year’s event would highlight fan-favorite artists from past years and introduce patrons to new, up-and-coming artists, including some PSU alumni.


“This year, they want to bring in younger artists as well because they want to keep this organization and this event very viable and sustainable,” Kay said. “At least 60 percent of the artists are brand new, which is really a new direction for this event.”


This year’s Wild Arts Festival will display the work of over 60 artists of various artistic mediums, including ceramic artists, fiber artists, painters, jewelry makers and more.

Work by PSU Alumni Artist Rosemary Tobiga (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival
Work by PSU Alumni Artist Natalie Warrens (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

In order to qualify to be showcased at the festival, artists must create work that draws inspiration from nature or wildlife as a subject, uses natural materials as a medium or promotes environmental sustainability.


“The artists are hand-selected by a jury, so not everyone gets in,” Kay said. “Everything is completely original and hand-made, so it is all one-of-a-kind.” This year’s festival will feature work from five phenomenal PSU alumni, some of whom currently work as full-time artists with flourishing studios.


These alumni include oil painter Molly Reeves, whose Oregonian roots inspire her vibrant depictions of the state’s flora and fauna; Rosemary Tobega, a sculpture artist who draws inspiration from her childhood love of birds, insects and combing the beaches of the Pacific Northwest; ceramic artist Natalie Warrens, who runs a full-time ceramics studio in Portland and whose work is inspired by the natural world, pop culture and her deep connection to animals; mixed media artist Jordan Kim, who creates intricate paper collages with everything from junk mail to magazines and owns the art business Found & Rewound; and fused glass artist Ann Cavanaugh, who draws inspiration from her childhood roaming renowned Oregon outdoors.


In addition to a showcase of some one-of-a-kind art, the Wild Arts Festival will conduct a silent auction that, in the interest of COVID-19 safety, will allow people to participate virtually via an online catalog. This year, the festival is auctioning artwork, experiences and more to support Portland Audubon.

Work by PSU Alumni Artist Molly Reeves (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival
Work by PSU Alumni Artist Laura Miller (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

In addition to a selection of truly unique art, this year’s festival will feature books about wildlife, hiking, nature and life in the Pacific Northwest. This year’s featured authors include Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Portland-based band The Decemberists, and his wife, graphic designer and illustrator Carson Ellis. The pair will promote their new books, The Stars Did Wander Darkling, a suspenseful and atmospheric horror novel set in 1980s Oregon, and This Story Is Not About a Kitten, a heartwarming picture book about a neighborhood coming together to help a stray kitten.


Another featured author will be former Oregon Poet Laureate and founder of the Northwest Writing Institute Kim Stafford. His book Singer Come From Afar is a collection of poetry reflecting on the pandemic, war and peace and Earth imperatives. Also featured will be Oregon guidebook author Adam Sawyer, known for titles like Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon, 25 Hikes on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast and Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, with his latest book Urban Hikes Oregon.

Work by PSU Alumni Artist Jordan Kim (2022). Courtesy of Wild Arts Festival

Festival attendees can meet artists and authors during the designated signing times on both days of the event from 12–4 p.m., where they can also get their purchased books autographed by their favorite featured authors.


With this year’s event taking place in the large, airy Viking Pavilion instead of the historic Montgomery Ward building that hosted the festival in the past, patrons concerned about the spread of COVID-19 should note that Portland Audubon is taking many precautions to ensure the safety of attendees this year.


“This is the Portland Audubon’s main fundraiser for the year,” Kay said. “It is definitely a Pacific Northwest favorite.” Every purchase made at the Wild Arts Festival will aid Portland Audubon’s mission to “inspire all people to love and protect birds, wildlife, and the natural environment upon which life depends.”