Supervisor Laura Capps with award recipients. | Credit: Courtesy

It is easy to view the natural world as a discrete and separate entity from our daily lives — a place to visit in the same way one might visit an amusement park. Yet, from the sound of the ocean waves crashing outside our windows at night to the blades of grass poking up through sidewalk cracks, it is evident that the natural world is an immutable fact of our existence — something that we can never separate from ourselves.

2023 Student Art: Collage of selected pieces from this year’s show. | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a nonprofit organization aimed at protecting the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds, has for years been reminding the public of this notion, and in particular, our deep connection as humans to the environment and ocean.

For the past twenty years, Channelkeeper has held an esteemed student art show, in which over 4,000 high school students from Carpinteria to Goleta have created artwork inspired by their individual interpretations of their natural connection with the diverse Santa Barbara Channel.

On May 4 at the Jodi House Gallery, the winners of the 2023 art show were honored with an artist’s reception and awards ceremony, judged by long-time supporters and art teachers Michael Irwin and Judith Raimondi. This year’s collection of high caliber artwork not only demonstrated the creative visions of the upcoming generation, but was also uniquely marked by the implications of environmental degradation that have become ever-pressing in the modern day.

1st Place winner, Lucy London. | Credit: Courtesy

The first place winner of the show, Lucy London, described her watercolor painting, The Diversity of Fishes, in a sentiment that integrated a sense of climate-anxiety with a push for environmental activism, noting, “…it’s come to my attention that even incredibly biodiverse marine regions (like the Santa Barbara Channel) are under threat from human impacts. This piece is inspired by a statistic that I heard, which said that ‘by 2025 there will be one ton of trash in the ocean for every one ton of fish.’ In order to communicate this fact to people, and hopefully inspire them to change, I made a piece styled after old encyclopedia pages, but had about half of the ‘fish’ pictured actually be trash. Our oceans, though vast, are struggling, but it’s not too late to save them.”

Second and third place went to Alexis Botella and Elina Lopez Garza respectively, with Botella’s creation of a scratchboard triptych titled “What Lurks at the Bottom,” and Garza’s creation of a ceramic vessel featuring leopard sharks titled “Hidden in the Fronds.”

From promoting climate-based activism to raising awareness of the vast biodiversity throughout Santa Barbara’s channel, the showcased artwork uplifted a younger generation to speak towards the destruction of our oceans and environment as a whole, and served as a gentle reminder of the always-present connection between humans and the natural world. For more information, visit


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