Elisabeth Davidson has always felt a connection to the natural environment around her, as well as the human communities within it. She recognizes the way the land and people have taken care of her, and feels it only makes sense for her to do the same. She says “Love for your people and your place is amazing and should be shared”. This feeling hit even harder after spending part of her fall 2022 semester on the Montana Afoot and Afloat course. After growing up in Helena, having the opportunity to explore more of Montana meant Elisabeth could feel a closer connection to her home. She spent the course traveling by foot and kayak through wilderness areas, down rivers, and over mountains. All the while, she learned about public lands management, human interactions with the landscape, and more. Of the course, Elisabeth said she “didn’t get these same feelings in a normal classroom”. She found a way to express these feelings through drawing and poetry. Having a tangible way to describe what she was experiencing was empowering, and a way to feel in tune with herself.

Back at the University of Montana, Elisabeth continued her senior year with the new perspective she found on her WRFI course. A capstone final project for her major allowed her to continue to express herself through writing and works of art. “Before, art was something that was very important to me, but the passion and fire I have now was not as abundant, especially in my writing. I saw it flourish while I was on my WRFI course. I’ve never been so in tune with my body and my surroundings.” More than anything, Elisabeth expressed feeling more patience and compassion than she had before. Afoot and Afloat gave her the chance to hear from community members all sides of the political spectrum, and she related with them more than she imagined she would. “They’re doing what they’re doing because they love their place and community. I felt what they feel and understood where their passion was coming from.”

She found herself asking the question “What would you spend your life saving?”, and has allowed the answer to shape the narrative of what her life should look like. For Elisabeth, this means using her inherent love for the people and natural spaces that raised her to improve the lives of others and their relationship with the land. The first way she’s doing this is to complete her capstone project with an Art Show that expresses all of the new feelings she’s found, taking place on Earth Week as a reminder of how important our relationship to the land is.

After discovering the way she could share sentiments and create connections through her drawing and writing, Elisabeth decided to let other artists join her Earth Week Art Show as a way to add more voices to the conversation. She encouraged the use of a variety of mediums, and asked some important questions of the contributing artists, including what they would spend their lives saving. The show will feature works of writing, photography, animation, painting, and more. Each artist explores their personal answer to Elisabeth’s question through their preferred medium and opens the door to further conversations within the community.

Elisabeth will continue connecting with and giving back to her community upon graduation by joining the team at Soil Cycle in Missoula, which is a small-scale composting nonprofit that aims to provide zero-waste solutions and rich, natural fertilizers for Missoulians. Both the art show and this new role are ways to dedicate her life to what she believes is worth saving, and to put what she learned during her WRFI course into practice. “It all comes down to love for people and place. That’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”

You can experience Elisabeth’s Earth Week Art Show on April 19th from 6-8pm in the UM FLAT Studio. All ages are welcome, and beverages and treats will be provided.