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Tahoe Activist Artists: We the People (2017)

On September 9th 2017, Tahoe Activist Artists held our first event entitled ‘We the People: Visualize a world of Conversation and Connection”. It was a huge, one day interactive event hosted by our very cool local co-working space, Tahoe Mountain Lab. I curated and organized the show, and also a march into the event down Highway 50. Over 200 people came, and we raised over $2500 for charities.

Graphic Design by John Bollaert

The community of artists and activists I had gathered together to respond creatively to the current political climate came out in force. Each of us had our own way of expressing our views, and the event was a great success. We also had food vendors, and kids mural, a political forum, a hands on letterpress workshop, live music, silent auction and film. All artists donated a percentage of their profits to charities and causes that they felt connected to. We believe that leading by example is a way we can begin to effect positive change, and that by acting in opposition to the greed that motivates our current leadership, we can take a step towards a future we want to see.

Participating Artists, Activists and Vendors:

Guy Gilmore: A Deadly Sin. Ceramic

“I am a sculptor, and student at Lake Tahoe Community College. I have been sculpting for four years. I focus my heart and soul into my artwork, and it has been very therapeutic for me. In my sculptures I use animals to symbolize the messages I hope to convey. My favorite mediums to work with are clay and bronze.

My artwork is an expression of my life experiences; therefore it contains dark imagery and symbolism. As a recovering heroin addict, I get my inspiration from the struggles I have endured and from the friends I’ve lost along the way. Addiction impacts society as a whole, families, and the individual. Addiction is not a moral failing, it is a disease.

America is currently facing the largest opioid epidemic in history. For the first time in U.S. history overdose is the leading cause of death among people under 50. Opioid overdose kills about 78 people a day in the U.S. In 2015 more than 33,000 people died of opioid overdoses, which was a record high. Now, in 2017 the death rate has increased 19.8% in the past 2 years.

This is a serious issue that is plaguing both individuals, and society as a whole. Opioid addiction has been an uphill battle for me, and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. A heroin addict only has 3 options; get clean (with a 90% relapse rate), go to jail, or die.  Through my sculptures I am hoping to offer insight into drug addiction and the effects it has on lives and society. There is such a negative stigma associated with people who suffer from this deadly disease. I am hoping to change the common misconceptions people have about addicts.

Addiction has no boundaries, therefore if can happen to anyone. It does not know race, class, religion, political views, age, gender or economics.

As a step forward in my recovery, I have expanded my aesthetic focus to consider political issues, that affect a broader population. Government corruption, police brutality, animal cruelty, GMOs, pollution and global warming really concern me. I feel the whole political climate has changed for the worst since Trump was elected. Who knows what’s next? World War 3? I am trying to create conversations about these issues through my work. I feel the more they are discussed, the sooner change can occur.

I really enjoy being a member of a group of like-minded artists. With Tahoe Activist Artists, I hope to spread positive thought, and to reach a larger audience with my work. Positive activism leads to change. Many injustices would have never been abolished if people didn’t rise up and take a stand. Sculpture is my way of standing up, and speaking out for change and awareness.”


Daphne Osell: Dance of the Poppies, Oil on Canvas

Understand, I am always trying to figure out what the soul is…when I found on the beach the ear bone of a pilot whale…I thought maybe I was close to discovering something…”

Mary Oliver, “Bone,”  from Why I Wake Early (2004)

Hiking through the mountains with supplies on my back, or working in my studio, I strive for the intimacy and physicality of a moment. What does it mean to be human in this place and time? Digging into the living and dying, the light and the shadow, the joy and the pain, I seek authenticity, a simultaneous arrival and exit.

Living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I find myself pulled away, away from myself, by the tremendous power and energy of the vast, humbling geography. But to access it, I must return to my body. Physically heaving myself, and my load up and over boulders, across streams, each step drums up hazy memories of things that once were; The amorphous snow that covered the trail last winter, the tracks of a bobcat that are now long gone, the childhood that was so fleeting, the constant ebb and flow of the river, reverberating like a heartbeat. What makes up a life?

Balancing work that focuses on immediacy and craft with larger, more time-consuming studies, I incorporate landscape and conceptual ideas surrounding love and loss, life and death.

Time. A sense of place. Place and time. Destruction, loss, joy and beauty. What does it all mean? Through the medium of painting, I explore these ideas and eternal questions about nature, our nature, change, and this moment in time.

Barbie Kaseman: East Fork of the Carson River. Photography

I’ve been backpacking nearly twenty years, the last six as a solo backpacker, and as a woman, the experience of being out in the wilderness alone is very liberating, and at the same time, meditating. Although, I can’t say I’m completely alone, my loyal dog, Jake goes with me always; my camp security. While on the trail recently in early October, a concerned hiker asked me questions about my trip: where I was going; for how long; was I prepared for the cold weather…Of Course, I told him I was, but most importantly, I told him I felt safer in the backcountry than I did in the city. The cities, the country, and the world have become a dangerous place to be; he agreed.

Unfortunately, the early October backpacking trip I took was my only trip this year; I usually backpack, or hike every weekend in the summer months, but due to a personal crisis that brought me to my knees and left me broken, I found myself severely depressed with only enough energy to try and survive the profound depression that was taking my mind to places I was afraid of. I found no joy in anything, especially photography; the one pleasure that once brought me peace, I now had no interest. Luckily, with time, the help of friends and a strong will to survive, I feel myself healing more and more everyday. I have found joy in photography again, and I’ve always known there was never a shortage of “unique” and “nature” in the wilderness areas, but now I find I have clarity…

Now that I’m lifting myself up from my knees and putting the pieces of my life back together, I couldn’t imagine life without nature, photographing nature, hiking in nature, taking a nap in nature, or just sitting back and staring at Mother Nature’s beauty. As a “human” species, our planet, and the creatures who share it with us, rely on us to do the right thing. We have the ability to save our planet. We just have to want to.


Michelle Maclean.  Photo: El Castillo Cave, Spain. Neanderthal handprints, created 40,800 years ago, before the arrival of Homo Sapiens in Europe. This challenges what we formerly assumed about Neanderthals: they were not simply ‘brutes’ too busy surviving to be creative. They also made jewelry and clothing. Many of us share 2% or more of our DNA with them.


Originally from Scotland, Michelle trained and worked in the field as an archeologist. She is now a teacher and Master Gardener at Sierra House School. She was one of the driving forces behind the garden program, and the growing domes you can see from Pioneer trail.

Michelle has always been creative: She writes, and creates fiber art. “I joined the group because I felt a need to express myself creatively, to make connections with others on a deeper emotional level without aggression or anger, reflecting upon our current social environment.”

About the installation she created at the Tahoe Mountain Lab:

“The piece was literally be a ‘hands on’ community collaboration. We recreated the earliest known artwork in the world, a series of handprints.

The room was darkened and lit only by flickering candle light and the walls were covered in a natural colored paper. Visitors were taken back in time to the caves of the Pyrenees and the beginning of human connection through art.

Families participated in the act of ‘creation’, which has connected humanity through time and space. Creation of separate cultural groups and yet the creation of one immense group of humanity- undivided and in essence one and the same – past, present, future (as in Einstein’s Theory of Time) “

All materials were provided, and Michelle was ‘on hand’ to help visitors with the project, and explain the significance of this primal artistic act.

Ana Valdez, Shackled. Charcoal on Paper

“My name is Ana Valdez-Estrada. I am a stay at home mother of three young children. I moved to South Lake Tahoe seven years ago. I grew up in the Bay Area where I had a strong Catholic school education. I graduated from UCSC with a B.S. degree in Ecology and Evolution .

I believe in science but I cannot deny that I am a spiritual being. I believe that our lives are forever changed and mutating. I also understand we are responsible for our planet and the organisms in it. Living a life of compassion and understanding only helps us rise above our primitive being and improve our world.

I was asked once how can I be a scientist and believe in God. I guess my answer is; I am smart enough to know that I don’t know everything. Our scientific discoveries are based upon previous discoveries. We need each other. We better learn how to get along among ourselves.

My faith has forced me to choose a road of compassion and love. Sometimes I do fail but I continue to try. It seems to me that our social structure as a human race has only improved when we choose compassion and love over hatred.

The reason why I joined the Tahoe Activist Artists is fear. I fear we are losing what we have learned as a society. I fear we are choosing to focus on our differences as a negative. We forget those differences, which are merely DNA sequences, have often saved humanity. Without genetic variation we would probably be wiped out.

As an immigrant myself; I’ve lived my life in fear. Fear as a place, I would not wish for anyone. If our society gives into fear we are allowing that primitive instinct to control us. Casting off all that we have achieved as a society. Fear is, primitive it’s instinctive. It’s also something that should be overcome and controlled by us.

The artwork I’m working on are sketches. Sketches of what fear does to me and how I choose to overcome it. “


Elenor BonBon – Broom Riding Bitches


Laura Stamen, Meditation for Peace. Photograph: Barbie Kaseman


Laura Stamen: Merged Monk. Mixed Media

Kahlil Gibran”s quote resonates with me in these times, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven.”  There is so much suffering in the world and I am looking at it and making art to hold it all.  Art is meditation for me.  It is a way to be present and see that love and joy is still there, in the midst of it all. I can then be present and act from a place where I am not overwhelmed, but empowered.  At first I feel fear when faced with the threats to our environment or atrocities to human beings, but making art is a way to see the connection of all things.  I weave it together with natural materials or photograph people sitting in the silence and love, or reach for a new medium to understand and hold it all.

Neta Simkovitch

In the wake of increasingly frequent natural disasters such as fires, droughts and hurricanes, it is impossible and unethical to keep turning a blind eye to the injustice and devastation we cause on a daily basis to the only planet we have to share with many other equally important species and all future generations. Farming agriculture is responsible to more than 51% of global warming.

The meat and dairy industry alone use 1/3 of earths fresh water and every single day on a plant based diet, you save 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain that can feed the hungry instead of imprisoned animals, and 30 square feet of forested land, a crucial part of our ecosystem. We can all make an immediate and important change today by simply leaving our friends off our plates and choosing compassion for the animals, the earth, the hungry, the indigenous people, the growing number of extinct species, endless acres of deforestation for grazing and the children that will have to endure the quickly coming consequences of man made carelessness. Let’s all open our eyes and see the horrors of the dairy and egg industry,  industries of rape and male baby killing,  hear the screams of the fish who have no vocal chords but feel pain just as we do, and stop eating the dead who cried real tears and ran for their lives, like all living beings, at the sight of their brothers and sisters’ throats being sliced in the name of a 10 minute meal.

Anthony Capiauolo: Art & Science in an Age of Unreason, with Shelley Zentner

First Tracks Productions is a full-service digital media firm based in South Lake Tahoe, specializing in photography, action sports movies, documentaries, commercials, tourism films, and event and promotional videos. Studio, backyard, or deep in the backcountry — we have the equipment and the experience to shoot, edit, and produce videos that create exposure for your brand or organization.

We take projects from brainstorm to conclusion, and we do it on time, on budget, and with unmatched creativity and technical skill. Though our projects are viewed by audiences in the millions, we’re small enough to provide individual attention every step of the way.

Learn more about our video services (including aerial) and photography services. Whether you’re still in the what-if stage or you know the exact story you want to tell, get in touch. We love new adventures.

Who We Are

Anthony Cupaiuolo traded a career as a political consultant for his passion — snowboarding — and founded First Tracks Productions in 2001, the same year he moved from San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe. Through 2009, First Tracks focused on snowboarding videos, releasing full-length movies for DVD and network television.

Along the way, Anthony (seen above with his dog, Emmie) and his team of riders and producers started picking up contract work for other companies — a freeskiing movie here, a tourism promo there. First Track’s reputation as a skilled videography company with urban and backcountry on-location experience began to spread. Avid, the biggest video editing company, took notice and partnered with First Tracks in 2005.

Today that work has become First Tracks’ focus. With more than 15 years of filming experience, Anthony can assemble a team that fits your needs and budget, whether you’re looking to hire one person for an afternoon or a full-scale production crew for a week. First Tracks manages all logistics and collaborates with people at the top of their field, including David N. Braun, a South Lake Tahoe photographer and videographer whose work is featured in galleries around Lake Tahoe.

Anthony, David and the other crew members share a love for the outdoors and a commitment to environmental preservation. Their goal with any backcountry assignment is to film safely and responsibly and to leave no trace.

Steve Robison of Tahoe LetterPress


Annie Davidson, Singer/Songwriter
Lisa Foley & Edmund Andrews of Tahoe Move On


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