Growing up on a wildlife preserve in California surrounded by farms, homesteaders, nature writers, and the Tahoe National Forest, Maria Ryan (Sculpture 2005) spent most of her time outdoors. When she got to CCA and heard about the availability of Center Student Grants, an idea germinated, and the outcome proved life-changing. She used the grant money to spend the following summer studying plants in the Sierra Nevada and teaching a complementary course, titled "Quilting Indigenous Plant Life of the Sierra Foothills." The project combined her love for nature, handwork, and textiles, and in the end led to the production of a public artwork.
"I used an abandoned building as a community center where I held classes for local children. I hired two guest teachers: one a Maidu woman, who taught the ecological and botanical value of each indigenous plant, and the other Louis Bluecloud, a skilled Mohawk artist who gave lessons in graphic pattern design by stenciling.
"Writing the proposal and seeing this project to completion, I recognized the strength that any project acquires through collaboration. I gained priceless experience, working to engage various factions of the community and utilizing local institutions as assets in the creative process."