what is forest⇌fire

FOREST⇌FIRE and its companion public and educational engagement platforms, Fire Circle and Forest Home, is a new project engaging the Truckee-Donner community living within the Tahoe National Forest curated by Nevada County Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Michael Llewellyn. A culminating art installation, scheduled for late 2020, will invite science-based solutions to catastrophic fire and offer an economically sustainable, hopeful future. FOREST⇌FIRE is a partnership between Nevada County Arts Council, Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District and UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station.  It is currently in development.


During 2018 Nevada County Arts Council formed a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, situated in the Tahoe National Forest eight miles north of Truckee in the High Sierra on the Eastern edge of our county.

Sagehen’s Director, Jeff Brown, participated in a short documentary film called “Belonging”, which premiered at Nevada City Film Festival in September 2018 and at Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January, 2019. In Belonging, Director Ruth Chase meets with local people to seek insights into our most sensitive issues, whether forest management, land ethics or cannabis farming – and into displacement and what it means to be indigenous.

In the process of Belonging we were exposed to a new way of thinking about the land we live on, and the people – past and present – who have been responsible for its care. These include Nevada County’s earliest tribespeople, the Nisenan.

At the same time, Nevada County Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Michael Llewellyn, began to work with us on plans for an ambitious public art installation in collaboration with Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, Truckee Public Art Commission, and a core group of California artists and cultural leaders, including our Washoe tribespeople. Our project is called FOREST⇌FIRE.

California is experiencing a wildfire crisis. Much of Eastern Nevada County is anchored by the Tahoe National Forest and Donner Memorial State Park, under the jurisdiction of Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, whose mission it is to inspire creative, active lives for a healthy mountain community.

To many, the history of Truckee begins with pioneers crossing the Donner Pass on their way to California. However, human occupancy can be traced thousands of years before this to the peoples of the Washoe and Nisenan tribes who depended upon these lands for food, water and recreation. In managing their lands, fire was as natural and essential a part of their lives as the passing of their seasons.

More recently, what used to be a 6-month fire season has grown to become a year-round challenge – the result of both climate change and past forest management practices. On the one hand our timber industry – having contributed to the problem – is slow to respond to key research findings and change and, on the other, environmentalism has resisted any kind of forest management at all. Neither approach is natural or beneficial.


FORESTFIRE and its companion civic and educational engagement platforms, Fire Circle and Forest Home, are designed as a new project that will engage the Truckee-Donner community living within the Tahoe National Forest in the Sierra Nevada. Its purpose is to help residents arrive at a transformative cultural understanding about the forest they live in, its relationship with fire and their role within that relationship. Through an interpretive art installation and artist led field trips, FOREST⇌FIRE shares a science-based solution to catastrophic fire and offers an economically sustainable, hopeful future for the forest and the Truckee-Donner community.

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how you can get involved

Beginning in early 2020 FORESTFIRE will offer our public an opportunity to understand and participate in issues and solutions, instead of retreating to polarized arguments that have delayed much needed policy change. It will serve one of the most vulnerable communities of California to wildfire, both directly and indirectly. 

In late 2020 our public exhibition will share stories of how we got here, and how we might get through this crisis together, using art and creativity that responds to forests, to fire, and to the people who live and work with both.

stay in touch

Join our facebook group - coming soon - and receive updates on our progress. Share your own insights on the life-giving forces of our forests, and your own relationship to fire culture. Contact us by email if you want to know more at heather@nevadacountyarts.org.


For now, you can help us get FOREST⇌FIRE off the ground by donating any amount. Every dollar raised will help us leverage much needed funds to create this extraordary public art program. We thank you in advance!


the bigger picture

FOREST⇌FIRE anchors a larger movement emerging now in California connecting the arts with issues of forest management and fire, so that residents can arrive at a healthier, more sustainable relationship with a force of nature that has always been here, and always will be. The website for this larger emerging movement is under construction at forest.ucnrs.org/.