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Natural Discourse is an ongoing series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explores the connections between art, culture, and science within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums.

Natural Discourse began as a collaborative project between the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley (UCBG) and a multi-disciplinary group of artists, writers, architects and researchers curated by Shirley Alexandra Watts and Mary Anne Friel. The exhibit was on view in the garden’s collection from July 2012 to January 2013.

In October 2016 and February 2019, Watts curated Digital Nature, an evening of video projections, performance and installations at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. In August 2019, Natural Discourse @ Sagehen invited a group of artists to Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierras for an evening of performance and video at the scientific field station.

From 2012 to 2017 six day long Natural Discourse symposia combining artists and scientists have been curated by Watts at UCBG, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, The LA County Natural History Museum, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. 

Natural Discourse is grateful to all of the institutions it has collaborated with for their support and for major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pasadena Art Alliance, LA County Arts Commision Community Impact Grants, Ralph Crispino Jr, Marie Csete, Ann Hatch and Alta Tingle.


Shirley Alexandra Watts

Curator, Natural Discourse

Shirley is an artist and designer, principal of sawattsdesign, an award winning design build firm that creates gardens all over the Bay Area. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, studied at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and Tyler School of Art in Rome. 

Shirley is curator of the ongoing project Natural Discourse a series of symposia, publications and site-specific art installations that explore the connections between art, science and the humanities within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums. 

Advisory Board:


Dr. Marie Csete, MD PhD, Principal, Marie Csete Consulting LLC, President, REV THERAPEUTICS LLC, Visiting Associate, Caltech Medical Engineering, Adjunct Professor of Anesthesiology, Keck School of Medicine, USC

Ann Hatch, Arts Advocate and Supporter, Founder Workshop Residence

Mia Lehrer, FASLA, Mia Lehrer + Associates,

Dr. Rosie Mills, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Associate Curator of Decorative Arts & Design, LACMA

Daniel Matarozzi, Principal Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders,

Richard Turner, Editor Emeritus, Pacific Horticulture Magazine

Richard Schulhof CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum









© 2017, Natural Discourse
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