Online exhibition “Solvang School: Bird Studies” on view through Sept. 12

Staff Report 

School field trips were put on pause over the last year, but the Wildling Museum was able to partner with Solvang School to bring art and nature to the virtual classroom. The partnership culminated in a new online student exhibition, Solvang School: Bird Studies, on view online through Sept. 12.

Wildling Museum Executive Director Stacey Otte-Demangate worked with educator Erin Dunkle and middle school students enrolled in Solvang School’s Art and Science elective class to explore birding and the art of John James Audubon. 

After beginning the school year with a focus on nature journaling, the students turned their attention to birds with guest lectures provided by the Wildling Museum via Zoom to provide background information about bird watching and John James Audubon, in addition to guided drawing lessons. Building off guest lectures, students learned about bird anatomy, practiced identifying birds based on their size, shape and color patterns, drew living birds using live bird cams from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and analyzed Audubon’s work from his seminal “Birds of America.” 

Photo Contributed Clea Malkmus’ American Golden-plover is among the student works featured in the Wildling Museum’s new online exhibition in collaboration with Solvang School.

After selecting a bird species to focus on, students used a technique inspired by Audubon’s process of pinning collected (hunted) bird specimens onto gridded boards, allowing him to achieve accurate proportions when drawing birds on gridded paper. Students selected a digital reference image of their chosen bird species, then placed a digital grid over that image before translating their compositions to watercolor paper where they were then able to accurately map out bird proportions. Based on their research, students then added midground and background details to their paintings that reflect the natural habitat of their bird species. 

“The students really enjoyed the virtual visits from Stacey (Otte-Demangate),” Dunkle said. “I’m so grateful for our collaboration with the Wildling Museum so far this year and look forward to additional ways we can partner in the future. We are very lucky to have this amazing educational resource in our community.”

Dunkle has been teaching at Solvang School for five years and this is her second time teaching the Art and Science elective. 

“Our students have such a passion for art and getting into Mrs. Espejo’s art classes at the middle school can be competitive,” she said. “I’m a big art appreciator so I created this class. The response was very positive the first time we offered it so I’m teaching it again.”

Solvang School’s Art and Science elective class seeks to explore the skills that artists and scientists share: observation, curiosity and creativity. Over the course of the year, students investigate how art can promote scientific discovery and understanding and how science and technology have influenced art.

Students featured in the exhibition include Julia Aparicio, Alleiyah Berry, Haidy Campos, Quincy Godfrey, Ella Gotschall, Max Johnson, Clea Malkmus, Jaide Malkmus, Campbell McClurg, Sophie Miller, Alexis Mobbs, Audrey Morgan, Kaitlyn Petersen, Presley Pinoli, Cypress Raymond, Hannah Ricci, and Beau Woodall. 

For more information, and to volunteer or join as a member to support the Wildling Museum, please visit Current hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Additional digital resources are available at, including online galleries from all current exhibitions, links to art activities, videos, and more to help online visitors experience the museum from home.