Non-Nature Enthusiast Becomes One With Her Art

Posted by: Michele Cohen

A last minute scramble for a summer internship led Kelsey Wimmenauer, a Fine Arts junior, to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia. While not initially a nature “enthusiast,” Wimmenauer has spent more than a month surrounded by the farmland and woods that make up the Center’s grounds. Through her internship, she has begun to appreciate her environment, discovering new ways to incorporate her surroundings into her artwork.

The Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country. Its mission is to inspire meaningful connections between people and nature, using forests and fields as a living laboratory to foster appreciation and encourage stewardship of the environment.

In her internship, Wimmenauer divides her time between the Schuylkill Center’s Public Relations Department and the Environmental Art Department. In the PR department, Wimmenauer is responsible for producing a weekly newspaper for art campers’ parents, including articles and photographs of all the activities the students are involved in.

In the Art Department, Wimmenauer helps coordinate the Center’s weekend art programs, such as collecting outdoor materials to make miniature terrariums, for example. She also assists the Gallery’s curator by helping her prepare exhibitions and outdoor installations (the Center is the only art venue in the Philadelphia area to present exclusively site-specific environmental installations).

“In my first week on the job, I worked with an artist to install her work, which I never was able to do before outside of school,” Wimmenauer said. “Being asked for my opinion in a professional setting was really cool and I learned a lot.”

Being surrounded by nature has opened Wimmenauer up to new possibilities for her own practice, which has primarily dealt with the theme of anxiety and was admittedly “dark.”

“The work I was doing last semester was very abstract, but I feel like I’m learning more about the environment and how it impacts me now, instead of just looking at my life as a bubble,” she said. “It will be helpful in the direction I take with my work next semester.”

“I believe the colors that I’ve been exposed to outside have been influential,” she said. “Looking at the roots and lines of a tree also makes me think of the lines I draw.” Recently, Wimmenauer went foraging for moss for a terrarium making activity, which she enjoyed. “I collected bark from dead trees and I brought moss back to life by spraying it with water. I wanted to draw all of it.”

“Kelsey has been a joy to work with as an intern – her enthusiasm, curiosity about the natural world and artistic sensibilities made her the perfect fit,” said Christina Catanese, director of environmental art at the Center. “She has also demonstrated a lot of flexibility moving between the environmental art and the PR half of this internship, sometimes shifting gears quickly as needs come up.”

“Kelsey has also shown and expressed a strong interest in this intersection of art, science, and education and has been learning and thinking a lot about these ideas.”

Wimmenauer wanted to be an artist since her senior year in high school. She took art and sculpture classes and put together a portfolio. She enrolled as a Fine Arts major at Montgomery County Community College, taking  life-drawing classes with a professor who encouraged her to transfer to a four-year college. She said she was drawn to Moore because of its size and on-campus housing. She also wanted to have a more intimate experience with a school.

“I’m really grateful for the studio space we are given – it’s amazing,” she said. “I can go in there to create. And I really like my major.”

After graduation, Wimmenauer said she might want to pursue an art therapy degree.