Expressive Artist Jean Fournier

Integrating poetry and dance at Trails & Vistas in 2009. | Scott Thompson, Trails & Vistas
Trails and Vistas

Jean Fournier believes she was fortunate to have parents who exposed her to arts and culture. Her mother was a dancer and her father was an engineer, both with a great appreciation for the outdoors. They met at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, married and raised a family in Berkeley. The contrast between growing up in Berkeley in the 1960s and coming up to Tahoe in a station wagon with the forest and the freedom to wander has made her who she is today, she says. At Serene Lakes, Fournier would write poetry with a fountain pen on an old log and then watch it wash off with the rain.

“Back then it was a lot of wilderness, kids would just go out and daydream,” Fournier says.

She started dancing at the now-historical landmark Temple of Wings in Berkeley when she was 3 years old.

Jean Fournier integrates poetry and dance on a Trails & Vistas art hike overlooking Donner Lake. | Jeff Engerbretson, Trails & Vistas

Temple of Wings was the home of Florence Treadwell Boynton, a friend of famed American dancer Isadora Duncan, who was inspired by ancient Greek sculpture and painting and is regarded as an innovator of modern dance. In the early 1900s, Boynton designed an open-air residence/dance studio in Greco-Roman style that mimicked Duncan’s panache. Boyton taught Berkeley children expressive dance. Fournier has fond memories of being a youngster dancing there, wearing billowing gowns and embracing a form of dance that was relatively new at the time.

When Fournier was in high school, a woman moved in next door and built a dance studio under her garage. The woman was a champion jitterbugger and taught tap, ballet and creative movement. It was at that time that Fournier knew she wanted to be a dance teacher, but also in a classroom. She moved to the Tahoe Sierra permanently in mid-1980, eventually taking a fulltime teaching job with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District in 1992.

Fifteen years ago, Fournier went to a Trails & Vistas art hike and was blown away by the artistic expression represented in the Tahoe Sierra’s natural environment.

The next year, Fournier went from being a participant to a performer.

“Nancy [Tieken Lopez who founded Trails & Vistas] was brilliant in site-specific work. She read my poem and then envisioned me in a meadow with a philharmonic harpist,” Fournier says.

Fournier wrote a poem relating movement to nature, physically showing how she would mimic the swaying of the trees and ocean waves. She performed a traditional dance from the Temple of Wings that was sometimes integrated with music and always with nature. Fournier also loves creating her costumes, often flowing ethereal gowns reminiscent of Isadora Duncan.

She has often been a Trails & Vistas art hike guide, as well as a performer, leading groups through the forest to each art installation and performance in an intimate setting.

“You’re really a part of it. Some people kind of keep back because they’re not used to being that close. You experience the arts differently in nature,” she says.

In Fournier’s performances, she aims to inspire some creative thinking on the part of the viewer.

“I became involved as an artist, but I feel so passionate that Trails & Vistas is unique in the idea that you take a collective journey with a tribe to experience art and nature. I became a founding board member and love serving on it. This is an area where people value the outdoors and art. It’s pretty special and stunningly different every year.”

Jean Fournier shares her poem “Who Will Listen?”

Who Will Listen? | By Jean Fournier

Only wise ones knew

                  to rely on sounds

                  to guide their lives

                  the noises of habitat

Shaping their thoughts, movements and actions

But we forget

                  to vocalize

                  to establish territory

                  and circulate harmonies, contribute community tones

We forget to hear the sonnance of water

                  and orchestral content of insects,

To listen for rhythms

                  and the silences within them

that create pauses

like breaths

in nature’s musical whir

This morning I strain to hear

                  the river fog evaporate

                  and the warbler’s song

                  that grows softer

                  each season.

The Trails & Vistas art hikes will be on Sept. 8 and 9 on Donner Summit. | trailsandvistas.org