We remember when professional ceramic- mosaic artist Mark Rivera of Davis joined fellow artists in May of 2013 to install newly created art projects at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.
The talented artist was there to assist the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, launched and directed by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, UC Davis professor of entomology and former chair of the department, and artist-educator Donna Billick of Davis, a self-described "rock artist."
We remember Mark's paint-daubed hands, his gracious humility, and his gentle soul as he worked with Ullman and Billick to install the ceramic mosaic art on the planters at the haven. He and all of us around him were admiring the honey bees: bee motifs on the planters; bees foraging on the flowers in the half-acre garden; and bees hived at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Mark Rivera died in sleep on May 22 at age 49. He would have been 50 on June 10.
His daughter, Jessica Williams, remembers him as "a kind, compassionate, and genuine soul who touched the lives of many. He was also a talented mosaic artist and created countless pieces of art throughout his community of Davis, California."
"Art and emotion intertwined for Mark. He channeled himself through different mediums, ultimately settling on ceramics, terrazzo and mosaics; these became his 'Mosaic Marks.'
"He was drawn to working on public works of art that were large and impactful. He started with public art in Denver and decided to make the big move in 2000 to Davis for additional opportunities to grow as an artist. He continued with pieces around Davis that reflected the evolution of his soul — having a daughter (Jessica), becoming an uncle (to Josie and Allie) and losing his father."
"His soul and his spirit shined from him and was witnessed by all who met him, leaving an everlasting impact."
"A Celebration of Life is planned for Thursday, June 10, in Central Park in Davis--preceded by an Art Procession from the Co-Op at 4:30 p.m. The Celebration of Mark's Life will start in the Central Park gardens at 6 p.m. for a sharing of stories by those who experienced various aspects of his life."
Ullman recently wrote on her Facebook page: "Mark was a talented man, very kind and compassionate. He was a wonderful teacher and partner in community-built projects. In the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, Mark assisted with nearly every installation we did on campus and even helped us install Nature's Gallery in Washington DC. In this go fund me campaign, his family is raising money for his funeral costs and memorial. If you wish to help, the link is here. His art installations grace our daily lives in Davis. He will be terribly missed."
- "Mark has always filled me with joy. He transformed the world around him. He inspired me and so many others to be better. I miss him terribly."
- "He was an amazing, unique artist and I always remember him as a solid and cheerful person."
- "Mark Rivera was a prolific ceramic & mosaic artist, you literally cannot go anywhere in Davis without seeing his colorful and vibrant installations. He was also an incredibly caring, gentle, and humble man, who seemed to always have a big smile on the ready & a twinkle in his eye."
Another friend posted author-poet Anita Krishan's quote that captures the artistic magic of the legacy of Mark Rivera:
“We are mosaics--pieces of light, love, history, stars--glued together with magic and music and words.”
Titled "Miss Bee Haven," it anchors the half-acre bee garden, which was installed in the fall of 2009 and named for its primary donor.
The sculpture is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She designed, fabricated and constructed Miss Bee Haven, using rebar, chicken wire, sand, cement, tile, bronze, steel, grout, fiberglass and handmade ceramic pieces. The project took her four months to complete.
Miss Bee Haven, appropriately placed beneath an almond tree in June, 2010, is no lightweight. Anchored with 200 pounds of cement and with six bronze legs drilled into the pedestal, this worker bee is destined to stay put—unlike the thousands of bees that forage from the hives at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Billick used lost wax bronze casting to craft the six legs, which extend from the thorax to rest on a ceramic “purple dome” aster, fabricated by Davis artist Sarah Rizzo. The purple dome aster is among the flowers in the garden.
She created the double set of translucent wings with three sheets of fiberglass. The result: wings that are fragile-looking and true to life, but strong.
During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick told us back in 2010. For inspiration and detail, she visited the Laidlaw facility apiary, read about the functions of bees, and held the thoughts close. “It was not about expressing anything other than the beeness. I have a lot of respect for bees. It was fun and satisfying to do. I learned a ton.”
Billick toyed with a scientific career before opting for a career that fuses art with science. She received her bachelor of science degree in genetics in 1973 and her master's degree in fine arts in 1977, studying art with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Billick traces her interest in an art career to the mid-1970s when then Gov. Jerry Brown supported the arts and offered the necessary resources to encourage the growth of art. He reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent.
The mid-1990s is when Billick and Ullman began teaching classes that fused art with science; those classes led to the formation of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion.
The garden, maintained and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and managed by Christine Casey. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.
Meanwhile, "Miss Bee Haven" is likely the most photographed bee in the garden. Visitors pull out their cell phones to take a selfie. Children love to touch it and help the younger ones climb to the ledge. Bee scientists marvel at the anatomical accuracy, right down to pollen baskets and stinger.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology operates and maintains the half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus. It is open from dawn to dusk; admission is free.
The garden is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, and managed by Christine Casey, academic program management officer.
While parents learned about bees and plants, youngsters engaged in a catch-a-bee-release-the-bee activity in the vegetation, using a bee vacuum. They scooped up the foragers, looked at them, and released them.
"Hey, I caught the queen bee," said one boy, unaware that the queen was in her hive, busily laying eggs. During the busy season, a queen bee can lay about 1000 eggs a day, and during the peak season, about 2000 eggs a day.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, was founded and "came to life" during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition.
The half-acre bee garden is anchored by Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long mosaic ceramic bee sculpture that is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman co-founded and co-directed the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
The garden is named for the primary donor, the premium ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs. Other major donors include the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (under the leadership of then State Regent Debra Jamison of Fresno). Names of many of the donors--those who gave $1000 or more--are inscribed beneath the Miss Bee Haven sculpture.
Missy Borel Gable, now director of the statewide UC California Master Gardeners' Program, served as the founding manager of the garden. Under her leadership and the work of the 19 founding volunteers, the bee garden was listed as one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 garden destinations. The 19 volunteers chalked up 5,229 hours of service between May 2010 and Feb. 15, 2013, when they opted for other opportunities. At the $10 minimum wage, that would have amounted to $52,290.
Native bee specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019) distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified more than 80 bee species in the garden.
Today diversity continues. An addition to the garden since its installation is a live bee colony.
The panels feature mostly native bees.
The project dates back to 2011 when 22 UC Davis students enrolled in an Entomology 1 class, "Art, Science and the World of Insects," taught by entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, professor of entomology at UC Davis and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis.
The half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road is open from sunrise to sunset for self-guided tours. No admission is charged. The latest news: The Haven will now be staffed every Friday morning from 10 to noon. You can not only see pollinators foraging on the plants, but view all the art, including Billick's six-foot-long mosaic/ceramic sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," that anchors the garden. On Fridays, you can also see the bee display case, sign up for a "catch and release" bee vacuum, and buy bee guides and plants, according to the academic management officer Christine Casey.
But back to the bee mural. Then doctoral student Sarah Dalrymple of the Rick Karban lab, served as the graphics project coordinator and teaching assistant, guiding the students on design, creation and installation of the panels. She went on to be named the 2011 recipient of the UC Davis Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award and praised for fusing the boundaries of biology, art and culture.
The 22 students portrayed 22 bees, including such natives as mason, sweat, squash, leafcutter, blue orchard, carpenter and bumble bees. Notice that the honey bee is not listed? That's because it's not a native. European colonists brought it to America in 1622, and it wasn't introduced to California until 1853.
Another non-native is the European wool carder bee, first detected in the United States (New York) in 1963, and in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007. The carder bee is so named because the female "cards" fuzz from plants for her nest.
The students celebrated their work and talked about their projects at an end-of-the-year gathering in 2011.
And now visitors to the garden can celebrate--and appreciate--all the dedication, ingenuity and creativity that went into this mural.
(Editor's Note: Who are the students and what species did they study and design? They're all listed on this website, as well as the identification of the students in the group photo below. The configuration of this blog does not allow a long caption.)
And what better time for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to host an open house than during National Pollinator Week?
It's from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 23 at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.
Here's what you can expect to see or do:
- learn how to catch and observe bees up close
- see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
- learn about bee diversity and identification
- learn about what and how to plant for bees
- learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
- see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.
A Little History: The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education.
It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
Today. Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, serves as the faculty advisor and director of the garden. Staff member Christine Casey is the academic program management officer. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, plays a key role in the garden. Thorp has recorded more than 80 species of bees foraging in the garden since 2009. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.