Channel Islands

Artful Conservation




​​A 17-foot California condor sculpture created by CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) art students Isela Munoz, Jenica Zeta and Maria Zuart now soars over Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. 

The three students, who affectionately refer to themselves as “the crazy condor ladies,” created the project for CSUCI art professor Matt Furmanski’s capstone class and worked in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to the sculpture, the trio created an array of murals depicting native flora and fauna for the refuge’s bunkhouse used by researchers, volunteers, rangers and staff. 

“Part of the capstone process is to meet several times with the client, in this case U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Furmanski explains. “Maria, Jenica and Isela met with Fish and Wildlife, wrote up a proposal, pitched the ideas and got feedback from the rangers and staff. We conducted a site visit and photographed the potential project sites. The students are the creative power behind the content of the mural and the sculpture; I gave guidance as far as some of the processes and engineering involved, but they are the artists.” 

The 23,572-acre refuge is located approximately two hours north of CSUCI in the Los Padres National Forest at Dough Flat. In 1985, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began acquiring land in the area to conserve threatened and endangered plants and wildlife. The refuge provides habitat for several listed species, but its primary goal is to preserve essential foraging and roosting habitat for the endangered condor. 

“This project has challenged us as artists in the best way possible,” the students wrote in their capstone summary. “As a group we have been able to successfully work together in merging our creative ideas as well as tackling bumps in the road along the way. This project also contained a lot of firsts for many of us, such as our first time painting a mural, the first time using a plasma cutter and even seeing snow for the first time, just to name a few. The experiences have not only brought our group closer together but have also made us better artists.”