18th Annual Wilderness Spirit Awards

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 28, 2024
Kevin Walthers, Stacey Otte-Demangate, Belinda Hart, Rachel Metz, and Joe Romero (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The California Nature Art Museum, formerly known as the Wildling Museum, held its 18th Annual Wilderness Spirit Awards Brunch at the Buellton Marriott’s Grand Ballroom, Sunday, May 19. For the first time in its history, a new category was added, “The Sustainability Award,” and awarded to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

The Wilderness Spirit Award honoree was the Community Environmental Council (CEC).

CAM Founder Patti Jacquemain (center) with the 2022 Wilderness Spirit Winner Karl Hutterer and his wife Nancy (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Representing the SYBCI were Custodian Service Manager Mark Funkhouser, Government & Legal Specialist Sam Cohen, Executive Assistant Legal Allison McAdams,and Jasmine Mate-Taylor. The CEC’s CEO Sigrid Wright, also named Congressional Women of the Year 2022 by Congressmember Salud Carbajal, was with the SB Foundation’s Person of the Year 2024 Peter Schuyler, an A-lister of environmental work
and funding.

Executive Director Stacey Otte-Demangate welcomed the guests and thanked the honorees for the work they do for the environment, and the local artists donating their time while painting a work to be sold at the live auction. Otte-Demangate also thankedher board and staff. She provided a Land Acknowledgment for the Chumash Indians and reminded guests the event’s funding goal is $50,000 for operating expenses. 

Speaking next was Alan Hancock College President Kevin Walthers PhDwho also is currently serving as California Nature Art Museum Board President Board President. He and Otte-Demangate restated the museum’s mission, “To inspire our community and visitors to enjoy, value, and conserve wildlife and natural areas through art. We provide artistic, educational, and field experiences of nature for that purpose. Each year, the California Nature Art Museum presents the Wilderness Spirit Award to a person or group who strives to bring awareness to natural places through various platforms.” 

Following a buffet brunch, the awards were presented by Otte-Demangate to Funkhouser and Wright. Funkhouser, who has been with Chumash Casino since 2003, spoke on the sustainability and environmental practices that are an inherent part of the SYBCI’s culture and program, and which they bring to their properties. He shared, “We have always done reduce and reuse. In 2023, the casino recycled 92.6% of the generated 3.6 million pounds of trash. The food scrapes are dehydrated to 70% of their initial weight and used for suppression of weeds. Glass is reduced to silicon sand used on our pathways and sports courts. How it is done is through our four-member team. We also offer recycling to our tribal community.” Wright gave a ten-minute talk about the work the CEC does and shared a personal experience.

Peter Schuyler and CEC CEO Sigrid Wright (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Celebrity emcee Nick Di Nieri introduced the artists who were set up painting in the center of the ballroom, and then auctioned the works. The artists included the renowned team of David Gallup and his wife Nansi Johnson Bielanski, new Westmont College graduate Clare Carey, and San Francisco Art Institute graduate and Oak Group artist Jeremy Harper. These artists will be showing works at CAM’s upcoming exhibition titled, A Deeper Love: New Paintings Inspired by Coral Reefs. The Gallups, who are leading the exhibition, shared they are diving around the world to examine coral reefs, which are a critically important factor in ocean health – and in serious decline. With that, they have committed reefs as the subject of their fine art to bring awareness to the issue. David graduated from Otis/Parsons College of Art & Design L.A. and is a friend to, and worked with, artist Hiro Yamagata. Bielanski, a former TV Director-Producer, is a certified scuba diver, fine artist, and is involved with the Ocean Artists Society, Reef Check, Sea Save, Heal the Bay, and Artists for Conservation.

Di Nieri raised over $20,000 from the live auction and ask. Monies were also generated by raffle tickets and event tickets.

Noted attendees were the museum’s Founder Emeritus Patti Jacquemain, Belinda Hart, Rich Nagler, Margaret Weiss, Morgan Bennett, Holli Harmon, Gail Persoon, Susan Plummer, Rachel Metz, Joe Romero, Karen Hanson, Lilyana Blehm, and Sheila Francis

Also, the 2022 Wilderness Spirit honoree and Director Emeritus of the SB Museum of Natural History, Karl Hutterer with his wife Nancy; Gold Sponsor, the Schiele Family Foundation; Silver Sponsors, Allan Hancock College and Louise Clarke & John Carbon; and Table Sponsors, Pete and Becky Adams, Richand Janice Nagler, Belindaand Robert Hart, Gail and Jan Persoon, Kevin and Terrie Patterson, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Susan Plummer and Howard Wittausch, and Judy and Jack Stapelmann.  

411: www.calnatureartmuseum.org


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