National Forest Foundation | Reading Forest

Reading Forest Artwork

Welcome to Reading Forest, an artwork that explores ideas of forest health, change, and resilience on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Created by artist Todd Gilens, Reading Forest celebrates the wisdom of forests and provides a unique experience of place, inviting people to reflect on forests and society.

The National Forest Foundation commissioned the artwork as part of the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership, a collaborative effort to restore the resilience of forests, watersheds, and communities on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

(right) Reading Forest was on display from May to November 2021 at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, near South Lake Tahoe, California.

National Forest Foundation

About the Artwork

We know that tree rings express the growth of trees, and that a history of wet and dry conditions, fires, and disease can be read in the rings. Taking this a step further, the artwork merges human voices with trees, expressing how interdependent we are.

Todd made drawings of imagined trees with earth pigments and ink. The drawings were be photographed and then printed on slip-resistant sheets and adhered to the pavement.

Phrases in the drawings invite reflection on what keeps societies and ecosystems healthy during times of change. Todd adapted the phrases from science papers, anthropology and religion books, poems and essays, and personal communications with everyday citizens and forest managers. Some phrases also come from Postcards to the Future Forest, six postcards of ecological processes that invite the public to imagine the future of forests in the Sierra.

This PDF document lists selected phrases used in the drawings and their sources.

California Tahoe Conservancy

Recent Social Media

About the Artist

Todd Gilens is a visual artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He uses writing, drawing, and photography to develop site-specific artworks that bring ecology themes into conversation with cultural values. His work has been seen on public transit vehicles, in botanical gardens, arts and conference centers, abandoned factories, and wilderness areas among other places. He holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University and his website is

This project is generously supported by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, an equal opportunity provider. The National Forest Foundation is an equal opportunity provider.


Sarah Di Vittorio, Northern California Program Manager, at [email protected]