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Nature Consortium Preserves Arts and the Forest

Seattle nonprofit uses donated technology through TechSoup to help strengthen its community programs

Nature Consortium Preserves Arts and the Forest 
Ginny Mies - May 31, 2013
Nature Consortium is dedicated to preserving Seattle's forests as well as its artistic heritage. Through free youth art classes, music festivals, and forest restoration projects, Nature Consortium is focused on building community. In order to run all of these programs, the organization relies on technology donations from TechSoup, especially Adobe and Esri products.

 Deep Roots: Youth as Creative Leaders

With its urban old-growth forests, Seattle is one of the most unique cities in the world. But in the past 40 years, Seattle has lost half of its natural forest. Nature Consortium's mission is to reverse that trend through its forest restoration projects, which are focused on the West Duwamish Greenbelt. More fun than work, Nature Consortium invites local musicians and artists to play while volunteers remove invasive plants, clean up litter, and plant native vegetation.

Nature Consortium is preserving not only the forest, but Seattle's rich art and music heritage as well, through free youth art classes in Seattle's underserved areas. The classes range from organic gardening to t-shirt design to African drumming. The classes expose youth to new creative and environmental experiences, and also help them build up their skills and confidence (see related video). Nature Consortium also organizes the Arts in Nature Festival, an event that brings together music, dance, interactive arts, and sound in the woods at Seattle's only campground. One unique facet of the organization is that it pays all of the artists it works with, which helps keep the community strong.

Executive Director Nancy Whitlock founded Nature Consortium because she was looking for a deeper connection with her community as well as with the arts and nature. What started as a small neighborhood arts festival has blossomed into an organization that reaches Seattle residents of all ages and backgrounds. In order to keep all of these programs running, Nature Consortium needed a strong technology foundation.

Creative Technology for a Creative Organization

TechSoup has been a huge help for Nature Consortium, as it allows them to receive several donated products from one place. "We can't wait for the new year to start so we can put in our order," Whitlock said.

Nature Consortium hires local musicians to play during forest restoration events (attribution: Mira Poling, courtesy of Nature Consortium)
Nature Consortium hires local musicians to play during forest restoration events (attribution: Mira Poling, courtesy of Nature Consortium)

An organization rooted in the arts needs software that lets them push the creative limit, which is why the Adobe Creative Suite 6 donation from TechSoup has been essential to Nature Consortium. From making flyers to designing eye-catching postcards to producing inspirational videos, Creative Suite 6 helps Nature Consortium get the word out about upcoming art and music events.

Because Nature Consortium works with so many artists, they need to have a well-designed and attractive website. Creative Suite has played a key role in the redesign of Nature Consortium's website. "We get a lot of kudos for our look," Whitlock said. "It allows us to reach more people and ultimately fundraise."

Mapping Restoration Efforts

Nature Consortium uses Esri ArcView software to create highly detailed maps of its forest restoration efforts. ArcView uses a geographical information system (GIS) to create, analyze, and display spatial data. It is typically used to create maps that show specific information, such as forest density or invasive plant species. Because it is a fairly difficult program to use, TechSoup offers training along with the software.

Before receiving Esri ArcView, Nature Consortium didn't have a good solution to mapping its forest restoration progress. The restoration director uses ArcView on a ruggedized laptop (one that can endure outdoor elements) to visually report on Nature Consortium's accomplishments. The organization can then show these progress maps to their funders and volunteers.

The Technology They Used

Without having to worry about getting funding for essential programs like Creative Suite and ArcView, Nature Consortium can better focus on its mission. "Having access to the right technology has allowed us to strengthen our capacity and infrastructure," Whitlock said.

Take a look at the tech products that keep Nature Consortium running smoothly. Could your organization benefit in similar ways?