Patricia Johanson: 2003 AHN Awardee

"It is your ability as a creative person to envision positive change that will make a difference."
~ Patricia Johanson

The Arts and Healing Network presents its 2003 AHN Award to Patricia Johanson for her outstanding career in the environmental arts. Since 1968, Patricia has been creating works that honor nature and the earth, applying her skills as an artist toward solving environmental issues such as sewage treatment and balancing ecosystems.
Patricia is a master of weaving together the field of art with the field of science, people with the environment, and practical solutions with visual beauty. The Arts and Healing Network applauds the impressive scale of her work, her innovative solutions, and her immense vision.

Upon receiving the award, Patricia writes "When I set out to become an artist many years ago, I never envisioned that art could become a means of revealing the flow of nature, or that by allowing people to shape their own experiences art could encourage life-supporting, nurturing links to the future." Today she is living proof that such possibilities can become realities.

In each of her many projects (including an
Endangered Garden in San Francisco, a park for the Amazon rain forest, and a 912 acre park in Seoul, South Korea) Patricia patiently insists that art can help to heal the earth. In a project like the one at Fair Park Lagoon in Dallas, TX (pictured below) she transformed a murky, polluted, body of water that was the site of several drownings into a place where life flourishes and children frolic safely. It is her skill in combining her innovative creative vision with practical environmental solutions that makes her one of the most exciting environmental artists working today.

At the time of this award, Patricia was working with Carollo Engineers on a new water recycling facility for the city of Petaluma, California. The project includes oxidation ponds, treatment wetlands, and polishing ponds (landscapes that process sewage) and incorporates a 270-acre Petaluma Wetlands Park. Part of her role is to place the treatment plant within the larger context of the Petaluma River watershed in California USA.

She has modeled her design on earlier  inhabitants of the site, the Coast Miwok, who seemed able to mesh human constructs with the larger patterns and purposes  of nature.

The park contains a mosaic of life-supporting  ecosystems: mudflats, tidal marsh restoration (for ducks and other birds), constructed and seasonal wetlands (for birds, pond turtles, and amphibians), a restored riparian corridor (for fish), standing agricultural crops and upland habitats (for food and shelter for resident and migratory birds).

As Patricia explains, "As a designer I have always been interested in creating a sense of the journey, as well as providing maximum opportunities for personal sensory experience. More than three miles of public trails (that trace the patterns of a native butterfly) will reveal the intricacies of the tidal cycle,  ever-changing patterns of land and water, and the complex relationships between ecosystems. The most exciting part of this project is that the processing of human waste has stimulated so many opportunities for public and ecological  benefit, from wildlife habitat restorations and school educational programs to tourism, recreation, and art."

When asked for advice for other artists seeking to use their creativity as a catalyst for positive change in the world, Patricia replied: "Doing significant work is its own reward. Keep your goals high, your  personal needs at a minimum, and never compromise your ideals. There are many paths to the same place, most of them circuitous and arduous, so it is important to keep moving and not get discouraged.  Should you meet a rattlesnake, don't think you can change it into a bunny rabbit. You need to learn to love it and work with it. Never believe that money is the solution. It is your ability as a creative person to envision positive change that will make a difference. Even if nobody is interested in your ideas you can still write and draw. I consider the small drawings I made in the 1960's linking art and ecology to waterways, highways, and cities my most important work. You'll also need luck and blessings, which seem to come with doing good work."

To learn more about Patricia, visit her web site at

Listen to Patricia Johanson speak about her work by using this audio player below.

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