Art Education

The Day I Met the Sky

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The Day I Met the Sky Quilt and Poetry Installation

Nancy Tieken Lopez collaborated with artists of all ages to create an extraordinary installation of poetry and textile art celebrating humanity and our home: the earth. The Day I Met the Sky art and poetry installation worked with the themes of hope, charity and moving human consciousness a step forward after the September 11, 2001 tragedies. As an artist-in-residence, Nancy Tieken Lopez instructed two hundred students at two elementary schools, and collaborated with artists, poets, and quilters from across California and Texas to create over a dozen quilts for The Day I Met the Sky art installation project. The art included Endangered Species Quilts, Batik Silk Poetry Banners, Small Threads, Large Dreams Quilts, and three Hero Quilts, as well as a poetry book.

Artists and quilters from across California and Texas made over a dozen quilts for The Day I Met the Sky art installation project, including Endangered Species Quilts, Batik Silk Poetry Banners, and three Hero Quilts. Nancy guided children living in the Truckee Tahoe region to write a poetry book with the theme of the interconnectedness of humanity. The poems were batiked into large silk banners and toured along with the quilts to Washington D.C., sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, and generous funding from the California Arts Council Artist in Residence grant, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Barbara Tieken, Nancy and Cesar Lopez, and Terry and Ken Yagura.

Collaborating artists included Nancy Tieken Lopez, Small Threads, Large Dreams Quilts and My Message to the World poems under the direction of artist Cathee van Rossem St. Clair, Truckee Quilters, poet Barbara Tieken, Cesar Lopez of Atypical Design, and quilters living in Shiner, Texas, and Sacramento, California.

The Day I Met the Sky quilt and poetry exhibition toured in the following locations:

Cal•Neva Resort, Crystal Bay, NV, 2002

National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Coos Bay, OR, June 2002

California State Capitol, Sacramento, CA, 2002

Russell Senate Building, Washington D.C., 2003

The Day I Met the Sky Poetry Book

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The Day I Met the Sky poetry book was written by children highlighting the themes of peace, hope, special places and special people. A heroic teacher was selected to receive the World Hero Quilt for her work setting up secret schools for girls living in Afghanistan. In addition to the quilt, eighty poetry books were sent to students living in Afghanistan, and funding raised for school desks. The front and back covers of the poetry book were two art pieces selected from hundreds of World Flag designs created by third and fifth grade students. The children's poems were also batiked on silk poetry banners, seen above at the Cal•Neva Resort at Lake Tahoe.

Below is a selection of poems written by 5th grade students from Kings Beach Elementary School, Lake Tahoe and Glenshire Elementary School, Truckee.

The Blue Sky by Joanna Perez

In the night went the blue sky.
A beautiful white dove comes out
With her black eyes and her wings
Stretching in the blue sky.
And in the mountain behind her,
Wolves see her
And they start too howl.

Opposite Faces by Antonio Viurquez

There are two faces,
One is crying,
Tears are rolling down his cheeks.
One is smiling,
like he was in the circus.

The one that is crying
Is crying because his dad died in war.
The other one is smiling
Because he got a job.

Our World by Alison Stringfield

We stand together
Peace is the world smiling...
No one is alone.

Wildlife Community Poles

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Three 14’ wildlife wooden pine poles
As an artist-in-residence for over two decades Nancy collaborated with hundreds of artists, art and environmental nonprofits, botanists, park rangers, teachers, and third and fifth grade students to create large art projects about our relationship with each other and with the earth.
Artist-in-Residence Nancy Tieken Lopez collaborated with Glenshire Elementary School’s fifth grade students, engineers, teachers, along with Randi Thompson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help educate students and families about the local flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada region. The Wildlife Habitat Poles project earned the Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots Activity Report Sweepstakes and the students ranked this art project their favorite of the entire year.

Nancy Tieken Lopez works and lives on unceded land of the Martis and Washoe, and gathering place for Maidu, Shoshone and Paiute. Tieken Lopez's art showcases the wildlife, wetlands, lakes and mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

"Nancy’s art program at Glenshire Elementary is by far the best that I have experienced in my 25 years of teaching. She provides a program that is rich, varied, and educational. She teaches the students techniques and concepts in art in a structured way, while allowing creative self-expression.
Nancy is a creative thinker and an effective planner of projects that include all aspects of learning and community service. Nancy’s skills to organize are as impressive as her artistic abilities and she is a master at finding that creative spark that lies in each child. Children from all walks of life come together under her supervision to accomplish amazing projects that enrich their education and foster their creative spirit."
- Kathy Echols, Fifth Grade Teacher, 2008, Glenshire Elementary School

Helping the Wild Art Club

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Along with teaching visual art, Nancy volunteered as Art Club Director, for the student led group Helping the Wild. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students increased their environmental awareness through creating visual art projects. Helping the Wild allowed young artists to create endangered animals artworks from individual paintings and ocean trash sculptures, to large scale murals that were installed at the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Office. Visit the website:

This club was about improving wildlife habitat and educating students about what they could do to help endangered animals.  

Along with my dad, I created a website for this club called that contained art projects, information, and fun games for children. Helping The Wild raised money through art sales that went to adopting three elephants from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and donating funds to Truckee Donner Land Trust for open space land in Truckee Tahoe. Helping the Wild also adopted baby sea turtles and purchased a foundation brick for the new rescue center in South Padre, Texas. It's an Ridley. We named one of the turtles Tahoe Sugar, but Sugar for short. It was born and raised in South Padre Island (that is an island in the Gulf) and Sugar will return there when its all grown up. -Siena Lopez, Helping the Wild artist/3rd grader, Truckee, CA

Students learned the importance of the social function of art, and how it can shift community awareness, for example encouraging community members to increase understanding of climate change solutions. Through their art projects students and art viewers learned about endangered animals and how our own actions impact nature and our natures resources. For example students researched that elephants act as keystone species, in maintaining grasslands in savannah habitats. Elephants are sentient and emotional beings with vast knowledge that they pass on to their young. The loss of an elephant means a great loss to the heard.

Momma and Baby Bear Mural: 2012-2013 Theme: What's good for bears is good for wilderness
Students learned that it is possible to protect wild places by protecting a single family of animals. As wilderness ambassadors, bears are a barometer for the health of North American forests and ecosystems. If bear populations are thriving, it's more than likely their natural surrounding are, also.

Ocean Wildlife included a mural of sea otters and fun facts about sea otters living off the coast of California. Individual watercolor paintings included seahorses and Ten Ways to Help the Earth facts. Every week, students researched endangered animals and create paintings, sculptures, books, with “fun facts” about the animals that they loved and wanted to help.

School of Fish Watershed Project

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In 2007, The Trout Creek School of Fish art installation was awarded a proclamation from the town of Truckee. Collaborative strategies between Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, Artist-in-Residence Nancy Tieken Lopez, community artists, fifth grade teachers and over one hundred fifth grade students highlighted the connection between local waterways and fish habitat. Along with raising community attention to Trout Creek existence, this project enhanced education regarding watershed functions for local wildlife, and provided a means for civic engagement.
Truckee River Day Project, 2007
Photos above of fifth grade students with project manager and teacher, Kathy Echols at Trout Creek Watershed, Truckee, CA

The Dreaming Tree Art in Nature Field Trips

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In 1999 Nancy Tieken Lopez moved to Truckee, California a rural mountain town and began teaching visual art to third and fifth grade students with a focus on the social function of art and wildlife studies to bring about environmental awareness. For more than twenty years Nancy collaborated with hundreds of artists, art and environmental nonprofits, botanists, park rangers, teachers, and third and fifth grade students to create large art projects about our relationship with each other and with the earth. Nancy Tieken Lopez works and lives on unceded land of the Washoe, and will continue to collaborate with the Native People of the land of Lake Tahoe and Truckee region to teach about the land and water that we all share.

As founder and artistic director of the arts nonprofit Trails & Vistas, Nancy creates The Dreaming Tree Field Trip at Lake Tahoe which is a stunning project dedicated to the arts and environmental stewardship. Trails & Vistas The Dreaming Tree Field Trip started as an effort in 2011 to host an outdoor classroom and has since grown into an experience of land, art, and community. The art in nature field trips are designed to uphold the value of hands-on environmental education through nature hikes infused with creative arts such as music, poetry, visual art and storytelling. Trails & Vistas field trips support the idea that an outdoor classroom in nature is where learning comes to life and connections to the natural world are discovered through writing poems, creating art, listening to a storyteller and exploring the natural environment on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

Nancy was a grantee multiple times from the California Arts Council Artist in Residence program while employed with the Community School of Music and Art in Mountain View, and Truckee and North Lake Tahoe schools.
Photos above include third grade students at Sand Harbor State Park and Donner Memorial State Park. The Dreaming Tree field trip artists included interactive drum site with Rhythm Child Network with Norman Jones, storyteller Cathee van Rossem St.Clair, musician Angelika Schaffer, and poet and teacher Jean L. Fournier.

Artist in Residence: 3rd & 5th grade Art Projects

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Why a blue panda?
As Maya Angelou wrote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Even if the children forget the image of their artwork, or why they colored their panda blue, or forget my name, I hope that their memories from an art class experience will linger in their heart and mind and possibly start a deeper conversation of equality, respect, and the interconnectedness of all beings and our home, the earth. – Nancy Tieken Lopez

Tahoe Wildlife Tile Mural

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Tahoe Map Tile Mural, Installed at Kings Beach Elementary School, Lake Tahoe, 2004
This was a collaboration between Artist-in-Residence Nancy Tieken Lopez, Jan Ellis from Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, tile company, a classroom guest poet, Kindergarten through 5th grade students. Students wrote poetry both in English and Spanish, and created watercolor wildlife paintings on ceramic tiles.

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