Rob Keller collaborating with Nimbus Arts and Arts Council Napa Valley (fiscal sponsor)
Award: $29,000 Visual Arts grant awarded in 2007
Rob Keller–artist, educator, and apiculturist (beekeeper)–drew on all of his talents to create the Honeybee Ecology Educator on Wheels–a mobile observation hive that is being used to teach about the plight of the honeybee population in Napa Valley. Keller and his collaborators, who included Napa craftsmen, retrofitted a 1967 Airstream Overlander with interior Plexiglas hives that allow students and the general public to safely observe the workings of a live honeybee colony.
Keller collaborated with Nimbus Arts, a nonprofit in the Napa Valley that serves children and the community through an intensive, experiential arts curriculum that emphasizes science, nature, agriculture, and the environment. Since completing the Educator on Wheels, Nimbus and Keller have offered classes and developed hands-on activities for children that use the observation hive for inspiration. The trailer also is in active use at festivals and fairs. Keller seeks to highlight agricultural practices that can protect the valley’s indigenous honeybee population.
A veterinary technician by training, Rob Keller’s prior art works included animals embalmed using ancient Egyptian techniques. He had been caring for colonies of honeybees in the Napa Valley prior to this project; and continues to win blue ribbon and best-of-show honors at the Napa and Sonoma County fairs. Keller writes, “Beekeeping connects me to the subtle movements of our world as nothing else can and, like art, is process-driven towards transcendental ends. As a concerned father and artist, I believe we have no time to lose in boldly communicating the utmost urgency of addressing the threats to our allies the honeybee—these are threats to our own civilization.”