The Colors of Conservation was held at the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo on Sept. 3, 2022. Credit: Maya Aparicio | Mustang News

On Highway 101 just past Avila Valley, the historic Octagon Barn stands as one of the last remnants of the California agricultural past for which San Luis Obispo is known. The Octagon Barn is hard to miss, as its uniqueness in circular shape makes the large, white barn a staple landmark of SLO’s countryside.

On Sept. 3, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (LCSLO), the Octagon Barn Center and the San Luis Outdoor Painters for the Environment (SLOPE)  hosted “Colors of Conservation” at the Octagon Barn Center. 

This art exhibit and the open house featured local artists’ reflections of the current conservation movement in SLO, bringing awareness and local traction to the efforts being made. This event also recognized the agricultural history of San Luis Obispo, while celebrating the beauty of the local preserved land. 

Originally constructed in 1906, the Octagon Barn represents the historic agricultural innovation of California’s central coast. Recently, it was introduced as a public recreation venue for San Luis Obispo residents after a delay in its restoration due to COVID-19.

The recent addition of a concrete flooring, as well as access to modernized resources for food storage and preparation makes the once dilapidated barn ideal for personal events and enjoyment from the public. Now, “the ‘Colors of Conservation’ serves as a reopening of the Octagon Barn to the public,” according to LCSLO Community Engagement Manager Jamie Creath. 

“Events such as ‘Colors of Conservation’ broaden audiences’ awareness of the art community and those attracted to conservation work,” Creath said. “This collaboration is rare in the world of nonprofits and the mindset of competitiveness for donations.”

Key artists responsible for making the event possible include Laurel Sherrie, the President of SLOPE. As an outdoor landscape artist, Sherrie said painting on location fosters a deeper sense of purpose for continuing to spread awareness for conservation in her work. 

Sherrie states in her experience that “communicating with nature,” through the access of the SLO land conservancy, “helps to foster the artists love for natural landscapes as well as hone their skills to become better artists.”

The artists’ work provided commentary on efforts to restore native beauty in San Luis Obispo after years of exploitation. This event was free and accessible for all interested in delving into local efforts to bring awareness to local natural habitat conservation. 

Access to pristine and preserved lands such as the Pismo Preserve is given to members of SLOPE through their partnership with the LCSLO. Thus, local artists are incentivized to maintain involvement within the organization.

Similar to Creath, Sherrie regarded the importance of the “Colors of Conservation” in generating traction from both organizations’ audiences. 

“In seeing the work of the landscape artists in this event, others are motivated to become involved with local efforts being made to preserve local lands,” Sherrie said. “Young art students should seize the opportunity to get out there and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of SLO.”