Fallen leaves can be a landscaping nemesis for some but a palette of paint for others.

Fresno State’s horticulture manager Calliope Correia and a pair of students assistants — recent agricultural business graduate Melissa Jacoby and agricultural education senior Victoria Tolin —  braved one of the semester’s rainiest days to create lawn art on campus with the fallen leaves.

The trio picked two trees on the south side of the agricultural science building, thanks to the bright yellow foliage from a gingko and red leafage from an adjacent liquid amber tree.

“This can be a stressful time of year for everybody on campus,” said Correia, “so we tried to make something beautiful from nature and help take people’s minds off whatever was stressing them.”

Armed only with rakes, they blended their unique styles to create the freeform art over the course of two hours without any blueprints or measuring devices.

Correia chose a more open design that had swirling tentacles. Tolin leaned on a sun-inspired pattern for the gingko piece.

“It was a really stimulating yet relaxing way to mix art and nature,” Tolin said. “Even though we did it on a Sunday, there were still people on campus, and it was fun to watch them to stop and smile. I feel our personalities were reflected in the designs. Calliope is more free form, and mine was more symmetrical.”

Students agreed as they slowed their busy pace the last week of classes to take pictures for their social media feeds. Campus grounds crew members also took note and avoided blowing the art away into leaf collection equipment.

Leaf Art


“It caught my attention,” said Paris Villa, a computer engineering senior. “I liked the aesthetic. The contrast between the red and yellow colors was very appealing. Whoever did it took their time, and it was nice to be able to stop and reflect on their art.”

Last year’s first installment, which Correia did by herself, took two-and-a-half hours and included spirals and circles.

The idea was inspired by a Sacramento State student, Joanna Hedrick, who made similar art on her campus several years ago.

Mixing nature and other disciplines is nothing new to Correia, who received her master’s degree in horticulture therapy at Fresno State. Since then, she has applied the same principles in community outreach projects that utilize nature, plants and landscape.

The day after completing her leaf artwork, she made her weekly 70-minute drive to Avenal State Prison where she hosts a class for inmates. The year-long, insight garden program encourages about 25 participants to learn about and develop new connections with plants, other natural elements and themselves, while they plan and build a therapy garden at the prison.

Correia also helped build and make updates to a therapy garden at Valley Children’s Hospital with the assistance of volunteers, Fresno State students and staff.

“Finding new ways to connect people to nature should be an important part of all our lives,” Correia said. “Personally, I liked being able to use the gingko tree, which sometimes gets a bad rap because of the way its seeds can smell. The tree has a timeless quality, and its yellow leaves are vibrant and really inspiring. Fall is an exciting time, and I hope our students and faculty enjoyed a new way to come together and see our campus and all its beauty.”