About This Project

Land & Water

Public Field Guide is an artist-led project that elevates stories about public land, water, natural protected areas, and our relationship to land and each other. Drawings and stories highlight the importance of natural areas, ecosystems, and .

The Journey

In 2020, prints will be exhibited in galleries and nature centers. Artist-designed books will feature drawings and stories about ecologically significant natural areas in the Midwest. The places featured are not meant to be comprehensive, but establish a baseline for the importance of land, water, and ecology through a collection of stories. The story of my journey across plains and prairie illustrates my own reverent, playful, and sometimes mystical relationship with nature. These stories intersect with places where my ancestors lived or pioneered. Respectfully, these ancestral stories exemplify how land and people impact each other. Through the well-documented agrarian and political histories of my ancestors, I offer insight on land-use cycles and recognition of lesser told historical narratives.

The drawings are neutral conversation starters and tools for finding common ground. The writing that accompanies each drawing emphasizes the unique of qualities of each place, respect for nature, humans, and cultural diversity, self-restoration, power cycles, diverse historical perspectives, and ecological narratives that connect local engagement to bioregional awareness. This layered approach to story mirrors our precarious balance in the protection and stewardship of land and water. It underscores the personal and intimate connections each of us has to land.

An Invitation

The project is an invitation to become conscious of cycles between land, people, and power. It recognizes that an inherently complicated infrastructure contributes to widespread irresponsible natural resource harvesting. It is an invitation to bring heart-centered, social equity, and clear thinking to the urgency many are feeling to protect the land and water we all need in order to survive. It’s a call to work together toward better legacies without becoming comprehensively content, exhausted, or resentful.

At the same time, it embraces the in-between-ness of reality, the undefined spaces that terrify and polarize us. It acknowledges that by becoming aware we surrender to living in a state of disorientation, untangling the musts and the maybes of reality; that magic, science, loss, devastation, hope, and the unknown simultaneously exist.

— Karen Kopacz

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