When fourteen-year-old Leah visited Yosemite for the first time last year from Reno, she was struck by the beauty and the majesty of the landscape. She was also struck by the visible smoke present due to the Washburn Fire, which cut her family trip short — it made her aware of how vulnerable that beauty was to the changing climate.
“Even though we didn’t spend as much time as planned I loved how much I saw and learned about the park wildlife”, she told us.
Inspired, Leah decided to fundraise to support Yosemite Conservancy – through creating custom-made artworks drawing on Yosemite’s wildlife and landscape, and selling them within her community.
We caught up with Leah this summer to ask her more about both her art practice, and her creative fundraising.
What inspired you to fundraise through your art?
“My school does an annual “passion project” where everyone is encouraged to do something to benefit the community. For some people, that manifests as inventing a product, volunteering, raising awareness, but for my passion project this year, I decided to create and sell nature themed watercolor artwork and donate 100% of the proceeds to the Yosemite Conservancy. My hope was to help fund projects to restore habitats, so that wildlife in Yosemite National Park can continue to thrive now, and for generations to come.”
Leah offered custom handmade bookmarks, card-sets, and watercolor paintings of plant and wildlife species found in Yosemite, including the black bear, northern flicker, ponderosa pine, and mule deer to name just a few!
Her initial goal was to raise $500 for the Conservancy, but thanks to both the quality of her artwork, and her work being shared on social media, she far surpassed that and generously donated $1,350 in art sales.
“Art is something I have always enjoyed. My mom has always bought me sketchbooks and art supplies, I feel happy to be able to use something that I enjoy doing to benefit a local national park. I want to keep it beautiful for others.”
Now a freshman in high school, Leah is passionate about art and hopes to study art through school, and hopefully college too.
“My favorite medium is watercolor, it’s so satisfying to work with”
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to get creative with their fundraising?
“Take something that you really like and are passionate about, and turn it into something that can be helpful to your community — that’s a great way to help out. I made a presentation about my project at the school parent night, it was great to talk with so many people about Yosemite. Everyone has something they’re good at! I hope this can inspire people to do the same.”