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Watching Paint Dry: One of the Most Exciting Things Ever to Hit the Atrium

Artist Eva Struble to Paint Mural as Part of Atrium Enhancement

If you visit The Nat during the first few weeks of October, you might catch a glimpse of local artist Eva Struble in action. She may be painting at ground level—or perched high in the air on a lift.

Struble is a San Diego-based artist commissioned by The Nat to install a 33-foot mural in the Museum’s atrium—the vast, five-story space in the center of the Museum that serves as the arrival point at the north entrance.  

This mural is one part of a larger effort to turn the atrium into a warm and inviting community gathering space that welcomes visitors to the Museum and introduces them to the specialness of nature in our region. It’s also meant to bring the outdoors in, creating continuity between the atrium and the soon-to-be-unveiled native plant garden that will surround the building in spring 2024.

“We’re creating a lively and vibrant entry experience in time for our 150th anniversary in 2024,” says Museum President and CEO Judy Gradwohl. “Eva drew inspiration from our curators and collection, and we think her artwork will inspire curiosity and appreciation for our region's unparalleled natural history.”

The Nat has already installed new building banners and exterior window graphics (behold, the Welcome Weasel!) to pique interest and excitement before visitors step foot inside. After crossing the threshold, they’ll see a brand-new welcome desk and comfortable, colorful guest seating, both of which will be installed in late 2023. Interior graphics and fresh paint draw inspiration from native plants, and “Allie,” our resident Allosaurus skeleton, will be getting a modest facelift.

Whereas the historic south entrance off the Prado delivers guests right into exhibit galleries, the north entrance is a large, open area used as an event space as well as a gathering space and wayfinding hub to access amenities like the café, theater, and classrooms.

Museum staff hope the enhancements, Struble’s mural among them, will get people excited to explore the rest of the Museum.

Titled Frasera, the mural is inspired by specimens in the museum’s collection and showcases the incredible biodiversity of Southern California and the Baja California Peninsula.

“I’m inspired by the sensory aspects of nature—like the smell of sage or the feeling of moisture in the morning. Through hiking and teaching, I’ve also been inspired to learn about the deep Kumeyaay respect for and uses for native plants,” says Struble. “Many of these elements make their way into my work.”

She adds, “Playing with the ocean as sky, as well as with color and texture, adds playfulness to my painting for The Nat. It allows me to remake the landscape in a new way. Of course, I had to include the ocean, since swimming with leopard sharks and sea creatures in La Jolla is about the best thing to do in San Diego.”

Struble and her assistant will be working on the mural most days between October 2 and 14, during our open hours so museum visitors can watch the process unfold.

“Guests are fascinated by watching us paint walls and fix exhibits because it feels like they’re getting a peek into the inner workings of a museum,” says Director of Experience Design Michael Field. “Painting a three-story mural will be mesmerizing.”

Visitors will be able to view the completed mural by late October or they can return during the winter holidays to see the additional Atrium enhancements.


About Eva Struble

Eva Struble’s paintings deal with landscape through the lens of social, environmental, and personal histories in cities where she has lived. Her colorful work undermines traditional viewpoints using oil, acrylic, screen-printing, and textile media on 2D and 3D surfaces. She received her MFA in painting from Yale University and is a Professor at San Diego State University.

Her recent projects have dealt with Southern California botany and ethnobotany, and physical experience of landscape. Her work will be exhibited in a solo exhibit at Jane Lombard Gallery in New York in May 2024, and is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Paradisaea restaurant in La Jolla. Her work has been shown previously at the Cleveland MOCA, at Lombard Freid projects in New York, and Angles Gallery in Santa Monica, among others. She has had murals commissioned by the San Diego Airport, the City of Palo Alto, and the New Children’s Museum. You can find her work at or on social media @evastruble.

Posted by Senior Director of Communications & Exhibits Rebecca Handelsman .

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