Quarry Hill Nature Center | Midnight Prairie Backdrop

Opened in 1973, Quarry Hill has served as a nature education center for thousands of school-aged students and the community as a whole. The park features 8+ miles of paved and hiking trails, a pond, and a historical sandstone cave carved in 1882 and in winter months, cross country skis and snowshoes are available for rent to use in the park. The nature center building houses live animals and an admission free Exploration Hall which has been a cherished, well-loved resource for the local community for more than 45 years--a place I spent a good deal of time as a child growing up in Rochester, MN.

Beginning in 2012,  Blue Rhino Studio partnered with Quarry Hill to help design, build and install the exhibits as part of their historic $2.6 million dollar renovation project (perhaps in part because of my existing fond connection and history with the nature center). I was delighted to head up this effort to oversee all interpretive design aspects of the project, and the final renovation, which opened in April 2018, is a shining example of modern, accessible natural science education. Most of the exhibits are made from materials such as reclaimed wood and recycled steel. Lighting systems run on energy-efficient LED blubs, and special attention was paid to ensure the health and safety of the numerous live-animal habitats throughout the building.

I created this night-time prairie illustration as part of these multi-year renovations for Quarry Hill Nature Center, completed in spring of 2018. The digitally painted background features a portion of the Oak Savannah which falls behind the raptor mew belonging to the resident screech owl. I wanted to show a continuation of the complete prairie wall mural, though with a nice dark color palette to help the little owl feel more comfortable. It needed to be carefully designed and installed to wrap around the existing complex architecture inside the owl's enclosure, and was printed on specially high-durability color-fast and waterproof vinyl material for easy cleaning. All nearby exhibits were created by Blue Rhino Studio as well. (©Blue Rhino Studio)
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