SAN DIEGO—The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is moving forward with exciting plans to celebrate its 150th anniversary next year. One priority is a significant refresh of the Atrium—the vast, five-story space in the center of the Museum that serves as the arrival point from the north entrance.
Visitors can already enjoy a completed 33-foot mural by San Diego-based artist Eva Struble. Commissioned by The Nat, this mural is one part of a larger effort to turn the Atrium into a warm and inviting community gathering space that welcomes visitors to the Museum and introduces them to the specialness of nature in our region.
The Nat has already installed new building banners and exterior window graphics to pique interest before visitors step foot inside. Once they cross the threshold, they’ll see a brand-new welcome desk and comfortable, colorful guest seating which will be installed in early 2024. The Museum is also working on expanded cafe and retail offerings and a mini-makeover for “Allie,” the iconic Allosaurus skeleton that’s a visitor favorite. These amenities are set against the impressive backdrop of Struble’s three-story mural.
Titled Frasera, the mural is inspired by specimens in the Museum’s collection and showcases the incredible biodiversity of Southern California and the Baja California Peninsula.
“I’m inspired by the sensory aspects of nature—like the smell of sage or the feeling of moisture in the morning. Through hiking and teaching, I’ve also been inspired to learn about the deep Kumeyaay respect for and uses for native plants,” says Struble. “Many of these elements make their way into my work.”
Struble was assisted by local muralist Jonny Pucci. Visitors were able to experience the “work-in-progress” as the team worked for two weeks to complete the piece. It will remain on view throughout 2024.
“We’re creating a lively and vibrant entry experience in time for our 150th anniversary in 2024,” says Museum President and CEO Judy Gradwohl. “Eva drew inspiration from our curators and collection, and this artwork will inspire curiosity and appreciation for our region's unparalleled natural history.”
“To make the design for Frasera, I was excited to use library archives, see collections, and meet scientists at The Nat, where I explored prints, paintings, glass plate photos, and other ephemera as inspiration,” explained Struble.
“Playing with the ocean as sky, as well as with color and texture, adds playfulness to my painting,” added Struble. “It allows me to remake the landscape in a new way. The work includes landscape elements from Iron Mountain in Poway, where I love to hike. Of course, I had to include the ocean, since swimming with leopard sharks and sea creatures in La Jolla is about the best thing to do in San Diego.”
The Atrium renovation is made possible through support from foundations and private philanthropy. Paint for the mural, covering over 760 square feet, was donated by Dunn-Edwards.
About Eva Struble
Eva Struble’s paintings deal with landscape through the lens of social, environmental, and personal histories in cities where she has lived. Her colorful work undermines traditional viewpoints using oil, acrylic, screen-printing, and textile media on 2D and 3D surfaces. She received her MFA in painting from Yale University and is a Professor at San Diego State University. She currently has work on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The San Diego Airport, and The New Children’s Museum. She lives in the College Area.
About the San Diego Natural History Museum
The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and scientific institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum works to preserve and protect this amazing place we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit sdnat.org. Follow The Nat on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on Facebook.
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