Help Paint a Climate-Action Mural

Sacramento River Scene Wins UC Davis Challenge

Photo illustration: Climate mural on side of barn
Photo illustration shows what the mural will look like when painted on Mike Russell’s barn along Road 102 between Davis and Woodland.

Quick Summary

  • Donors aim to inspire efforts to mitigate climate change
  • Mural will go on the side of a barn visible from Road 102
  • Painting supplies will be provided, along with food, music

Community members of all ages are invited to help paint a mural on the side of a barn along a well-traveled road between Davis and Woodland, in the culmination of the UC Davis Climate Raising Challenge.


  • WHAT: Mural painting, with food and music, too
  • WHEN: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, March 26 (rain date March 27)
  • WHERE: 22777 Road 102, about halfway between Davis and Woodland (Pole Line Road becomes Road 102 at the northern city limit of Davis)
  • ADMISSION: Free, and all supplies provided

In a riff on barn raisings of old, this is a mural raising — with art, food and music, free and open to the public — to celebrate and inspire climate activism.

UC Davis graduate student Rachael Dal Porto won the mural design contest with her depiction of the Sacramento River on its journey down the Sacramento Valley, from Mount Shasta to Sacramento. Now comes time to paint it, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday (March 26). There’s no charge to participate, and all supplies are included.

The partnership behind the project — Sustainable UC Davis, the UC Davis Institute of the Environment and the One Climate Initiative — is working off an idea put forth by community members Mike Russell and Steve Shaffer to support the environment through public art. The mural is going on Russell’s barn, and he and Shaffer have given financial backing to the Climate Raising Challenge.

The challenge asked UC Davis students to identify climate-related agricultural issues in the Sacramento Valley, take positions on those issues, and develop mural proposals to communicate those positions to the public. The content drew 27 entries.

“We’re hoping that this mural project will create a spark of interest, creativity and engagement so that people will think about the movement of environmental activism more,” Shaffer said. “This mural will build community.”

Russell and Shaffer hope the mural is the first of many for the community to enjoy the artistic representation of the region’s commitment to climate activism. They invite all to come, grab a paintbrush and enjoy the fun.

Sacramento Valley mural

Picturing a social discussion

Dal Porto, an environmental engineering consultant who is in her second year of graduate studies in civil and environmental engineering, said her design, “Hungry for Connection,” was inspired by a combination of her personal beliefs and recognition of the effects of climate change in the Sacramento Valley’s ecosystem.


The landscape in her mural depicts a hopeful future for the valley with floodplains and restored wetlands. Dal Porto said she foresees community efforts that could arise, say, to promote city cooling centers, food co-ops and community gardens, and bring about decreases in greenhouse-gas emissions and water use.

While Dal Porto does not consider herself an artist, she said she enjoys creating art as a hobby. She’s also excited about the potential impact the mural can have on the region and environmental justice.

“Street art has intense meaning and a social discourse. It’s public and it invokes beliefs that represent the community it’s drawn in,” Dal Porto said. “Seeing beautiful art in the city makes people feel welcomed, like there is a sense of community.

With UC Davis’ large, diverse student body, numerous clubs and the county’s commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle, Dal Porto felt that Yolo County was the perfect place to paint the mural.

Prizes: Dal Porto won $400 for “Hungry for Connection,” while Rocio Chavez, an undergraduate majoring in landscape architecture, won the second-place prize of $200 for her entry, “Bring Back the Bugs.”

An environmental ag legacy

Shaffer and Russell are both retired from their extensive experience in environmental agriculture and community development.

Shaffer worked for the California Department of Food and Agriculture for 35 years, specializing in environmental issues associated with agriculture. He supported on-farm renewable energy production and conducted research on energy crops. After retiring from the CDFA in 2008, he worked as an environmental consultant to help farmers use natural resources more sustainably.

Russell’s AmeriCorps training in community development led to jobs at Youth Educational Services and other nonprofit organizations, after which he worked at UC Davis as a surgical neurophysiologist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and conducted clinical research with the Center for Neuroscience on Alzheimer’s Disease. He also started three companies, R&E Designs, Active Diagnostics and Aaken Laboratories. Today he is an almond farmer residing in Davis.

More recently, Russell and Shaffer have partnered to engage students on climate activism. They connected with Emily Schlickman, assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental design at UC Davis, to devise the mural competition as a way to inspire the agricultural community around Davis toward climate-friendly practices.

Unseen person holds mural drawing along riverbank

Drawing people in

Russell, Shaffer, Schlickman and Dal Porto all hope the UC Davis Climate Raising Challenge project will inspire people to come together.

“People are afraid of climate change but we can dispel these fears by encouraging people with positivity,” Russell said. “We want this painting event to be the factor that uplifts our community.”

The goal of this mural painting event is to include as many people as possible in the discussion of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

“There are various ways to approach climate change in agriculture,” Shaffer said. “It’s our future and we need to find a way to be a part of the solution.”

Daniel Park ’23 is a student writer in the UC Davis Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

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