For many years, Lori Mairs (1961-2021) was a caretaker of not only the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre but also Woodhaven Nature Conservancy next door. Lori had a wide range of connections to UBC. She got her BFA in 2005 just as UBC was established in Kelowna, and then she received her MFA here in 2013. During her Masters degree and after, she was a collaborator on several eco-art themed research grants, she mentored and tutored several BFA students, gave guest lectures on art and the Okanagan environment, and taught a UBC course on Eco Art.
In 2012, along with Nancy Holmes, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, she helped establish the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre for UBC. For the next several years, Lori cleaned the apartments between residents, oversaw an alumnus of UBC’s Steps Forward program to help keep the grounds, and was a support for the residents and visiting artists. For several years, she was the live-in caretaker at Woodhaven Nature Conservancy where she was a beloved fixture of the neighbourhood. She was deeply connected to UBC and her knowledge of the natural world and the Okanagan in particular was a treasure and an asset. She always knew if there was a bear or cougar in the neighbourhood; she noticed peculiar bird behaviour, she took amazing photographs of critters of all kinds. And she made art out of bones and antlers and beeswax and metal. Her MFA exhibition braided red rope and thread throughout the whole of Woodhaven park, through bark and down cliffsides, drawing our attention to the secret lifeblood of the natural world around us.
At the university, we often talk about knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination; Lori was a guiding light in this way. She helped us see things in front of our noses that we missed and she created ways of helping us experience important forces and elements that are usually invisible. She worked through intuition, intense observation, and joyfulness. She loved the things of this earth; animals and all sorts of phenomena seemed to open themselves to her. UBC students, professors, and staff all had memorable interactions with her. She was fun, wise, passionate, and talented. She died in April 2021 after a short illness. She is missed but her legacy remains.
This dedication was written by Nancy Holmes, Professor of Creative Writing at UBC Okanagan.