Please join us on March 1, 2018, at the Utah Museum of Art at 5PM for a preview of our new exhibit, Our Futures. An artist talk, “Designing Our Futures,” with co-creators Ryan Baxter, Bryan Brooks, Jarod Hamm, and Maria Sykes will follow at 7PM.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) presents the second exhibition in its ACME Lab, a new space dedicated to community engagement and art experimentation in the Museum’s Emma Eccles Jones Education Center. Our Futures, designed by Epicenter, invites visitors to “time travel” to the year 2039 and experience four potential futures for the residents of Green River. In doing so, visitors, specifically teens and young adults, are asked to consider the role they each play in shaping their own community’s future.
When a visitor steps into the ACME Lab to experience Our Futures, they’ll be tasked with voting for one of four possibilities: for the town to disincorporate, become a tourist town, recruit a recycling industry, or host a MarsNow space colonization facility. All of these futures are based in Green River’s past or another rural community’s reality respectively: real ghost towns like Cisco, UT, and disincorporated rural towns like Seneca, NE; resort towns like Moab and Park City; rural recycling-based towns in Africa; and the Green River Launch Facility (circa 1960-80’s), SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility, McGregor, TX, and Spaceport America in rural New Mexico.
After a visitor casts their vote—and wears a pin to show that they participated—they will step into the future to 2039. Each possible future brings both advantages and disadvantages to the community. Moreover, these fictional futures affect individual lives in ways that are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and often complicated. It’s through the diaries of two fictional teens, Mia and Cera, that these outcomes are more fully understood.
Best friends who’ve kept journals through their high school years, Mia and Cera become our tour guides through these speculative futures. Pages from their diaries illuminate how the Green River tourism industry with its Melon Queen Pageant and Hollywood talent scouts creates a dream-come-true scenario for one friend but not the other. The same holds true for a future in which a cutting-edge recycling industry appeals less to travelers and adventure-seekers, but signals new jobs to local residents as well as out-of-town families who hope to relocate there. Whether the future looks more like a ghost town, a spaceport town, a resort town, or a recycling town, it’s through the lens of Mia and Cera’s friendship that we glimpse the consequences of our individual votes.
While diary excerpts help tell the story of four futures, it’s the artifacts on display that bring this speculation to life. Visitors can try on clothing that Mia and Cera wore, take a selfie at a designated selfie spot, appreciate the beauty of Mia’s handmade jewelry, see what becomes of “old” recycled technology, and learn what a “space valentine” is. There are even stations for smelling and hearing the future. At the end, each visitor will be asked to reflect on and respond to these worlds: What might the future look like in our own town? How can I help create the future I’d most like to see? Outside of the exhibit, interconnected K-12 programming will invite students to join each other in this conversation across the miles between our Salt Lake City-based UMFA and rural counterparts.
Epicenter’s Our Futures is curated by UMFA’s Ashley Farmer in collaboration with Jorge Rojas and Emily Izzo. ACME (Art. Community. Museum. Education.) is an outreach initiative by UMFA dedicated to rethinking the public role of museums.
Our Futures will be exhibited from March 2nd to July 1st 2018.
As The Frontier Fellowship enters its eighth year, the program has evolved in response to Epicenter’s growth and the community’s needs, but the mission of the program remains the same: to discern and celebrate the town of Green River and its surroundings. Fellows’ exploration of Green River over the years has provided critical insight and reflection on contemporary Western America. Discover the work at frontierfellowship.org or request a copy of A Call to Place: the first five years of the Frontier Fellowship via email to hello[at]frontierfellowship[dot]org.
Though we’re honored to receive dozens of applicants from around the world, only a select few are accepted to participate annually. Fellows are accepted based on the quality of their recent work and must possess a proven sensitivity to and enthusiasm for working in rural or small communities, a strong history of collaboration, and a demonstrated ability to develop and creatively leverage resources. This round of applicants were of such high quality that it took us triple the amount of time that is typically required to make our selections. Additionally, we added two categories this year: emerging Fellows which pairs two early-career artists together and returning Fellows which invites past collaborators to return to Green River with a specific proposal in mind. Emerging Fellows will receive direct technical assistance from Epicenter such as portfolio and CV assistance, network connections, mentorship, and more. Our traditional Frontier Fellowship will remain a four-week research-based residency.
I am honored to present Epicenter’s next round of Frontier Fellows, an exciting group of folklorists, designers, poets, and much more.
– Maria Sykes, Epicenter Principal and Frontier Fellowship Coordinator
Waypoint: Green River was initiated by Epicenter, in partnership with the City of Green River. This document, made possible by input from local residents, outlines recommendations for appropriate reinvestment in Green River’s downtown and is envisioned as a first step in a downtown development program. As with other planning studies, it is intended to be a working document that public officials and civic groups can refer to for guidance in the redevelopment and rejuvenation of the downtown area.
The document first focuses on Green River’s past and present, taking stock of who the town is, what it has, and where it finds itself now. This is followed by an exploration of Green River’s current assets and challenges – the aspects of town that make it a special, though not always the easiest, place to live. A description of what downtown revitalization can do for the future of Green River comes next, followed by a summary of downtown’s past and the forces that shaped it. A brief narrative on the planning process steps follows this, which leads to a description of the overarching principles or “big ideas” the community’s input led to. Those principles and information gleaned from the community is then reflected in suggestions and recommendations for downtown improvement, which are separated by theme. The final, and largest part of the document, is an appendix filled with short downtown development resource guides, further documentation of the public input process, and more studies that analyze and demonstrate Green River’s built and cultural character.
Epicenter has a unique opportunity for an exceptional leader looking to create positive change in the American West. We are seeking an Executive Director to lead and shape our alternative model of rural professional practice. To help citizens of this rural community lead better lives. To demonstrate the value of design in community problem solving.
“It can be challenging to operate as a non-profit in a small rural town,” says James Wheeler, Board of Directors, “But Epicenter has consistently devised and executed pioneering programs in its areas of focus. Those successes are ushering in a new era for the organization that includes leadership and guidance at a level we’ve not needed before. We’re incredibly excited.”
With this announcement comes a renewed commitment from the board of directors and staff to creating strategic plans for the future. This is an exciting new chapter in the growth of Epicenter. One that aims to build upon past successes and create new ways to bring positive change and rural pride to the community of Green River.
Our desert town is blooming, but there is work to be done. We have funding, community partners, and the initiative to make this town as vibrant as its backdrop. If you’re not afraid to get your boots dirty, we want to hear from you. Come join us this year.
(click to view)
Erika Lynne Hanson creates weavings, videos, and installations that connect diverse materials, histories, and places. Running through her work is a concern with the idea of landscape; specifically how landscape exists, by definition, as a view or representation—a space or scene that can never be reached physically. Her work has been exhibited in various locations including Los Angeles, Kansas City, San Francisco, New York, and Houston. Hanson is currently Assistant Professor of Fibers/Socially Engaged Practices at Arizona State University.
“This is the place.
Seeing this phrase repeated upon arrival to Green River on so many documents, had two effects. One, made it clear the mission, mindset, and ethos of Epicenter, second The Talking Heads song would immediately start playing in my head (I know that it is not the exact title, but close enough).“
Since it’s founding, the accomplishments of Epicenter have been impossible to attribute to any single individual. The pioneering spirit of rural pride and positive change at the heart of the organization is the sum of the efforts of all those involved in its programs and initiatives. And yet, it is with sadness and gratitude that we announce the departure of two individuals who have given so much to the organization; Jack Forinash, Epicenter co-founder and Principal of Housing; and Chris Lezama, Principal of Economic Development. Both Chris and Jack have been instrumental in helping to develop and execute programs and projects that brought positive change to the town of Green River and its residents. Significant projects include: The Downtown Revitalization Plan, The Frontier House, Fix It First, and Potluck Business Group.
We cannot thank Jack and Chris enough for the passion and enthusiasm they have committed to the organization and community of Green River over the years and look forward to the next chapter of their careers with great pride and support.
The Epicenter Board of Directors, Epicenter co-founder Maria Sykes, and the Epicenter staff dedicated to the mission of Epicenter and look forward to welcoming new contributors to the team in the coming months to better serve Green River.
Charlie Macquarie is an artist and experimental librarian whose creative practice takes the form of the Library of Approximate Location — an ongoing itinerant project engaging with the confounding nature of environmental materiality and its disparate networks in the Western United States through the installation of site-specific libraries. He is the digital archivist at the University of California, San Francisco, and is a library research fellow and librarian in residence at the Prelinger Library, as well as one half of PLACE TALKS — a series of lectures and creative projects of location-based inquiry. For his Frontier Fellowship he installed two digital libraries inside vernacular sculptures around the vicinity of Green River.
“This Library is a collection of moments, pieces, glances, and possibilities. It is incomplete, as all collections are. It is about the future, in so much as the future is always found in the past. It is messy, sometimes insignificant, non-linear, and difficult to digest, much like most places are, when you get down into them. It evolved after wandering around town and talking to people, driving dirt roads and wondering, and even just clicking around on the internet.“
Artists Alison Jean Cole, Anna Evans, and Lisa Ward, and Epicenter hosted the first Green River Rock & Mineral Festival at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum from March 31st to April 2nd, 2017. The festival began with a lecture on important dinosaur discoveries in the Green River area by Utah State Paleontologist Dr. Jim Kirkland. The rest of the weekend featured expert-led field trips to local geological sites as well as vendors, craft demonstrators, family activities, and an exhibit of locals’ favorite rocks titled “My Favorite Rock.”
BLM regional paleontologist Greg McDonald led an exploration of Fossil Point, a colorful Jurassic fossil bed located 12.6 miles south of Green River. Greg brought the area to life and helped visitors identify fossil bearing sites, explain fossil and mineral collecting rules on public lands, and helped us envision what this place may have looked like 145 million years ago.
BLM regional paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster led visitors to the Copper Ridge & Mill Creek dinosaur track sites located 30 miles south of Green River. These sites feature the tracks of one long-necked, plant eating sauropod dinosaur and four three-toed dinosaurs preserved for 150 million years.
Steve Acerson of the Utah Rock Art Association led a tour of beautiful Sego Canyon located 20 miles east of Green River. At this site, visitors viewed petroglyphs and pictographs from three separate indigenous cultures (some dating as far back as 7,000 B.C.) on the walls of the canyon. Acerson shared both the history of the sites as well as his interpretations of the rock art. The rock art in Sego Canyon is some of the best in the world.
Artist Kirsten Southwell giving faceting demonstrations to festival attendees.
Back at the festival headquarters, visitors enjoyed rock and mineral vendors, faceting demonstrations by artist Kirsten Southwell, information booths, a food vendor, and the “My Favorite Rock” exhibit. Also at the museum, a dry-stack stone wall was constructed to celebrate the architectural history of Southeastern Utah. Elsewhere in town Gary & Kelly Orona hosted an open house at their Savage Territory Gallery, and West Winds hosted a karaoke night.
In the future the festival will become an annual city event that continues deepening Green River’s connection to geology, paleontology, archeology, and the surrounding landscape. The current City Council has shown support in making this an annual event and plan to include the festival in next year’s City budget. Stay tuned to GreenRiverRocks.com for next year’s dates.
The 2017 Green River Rock & Mineral Festival was made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program, as well as the Emery County Travel Board, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, City of Green River, J. W. Powell River History Museum, Alison Jean Cole, Anna Evans, and Lisa Ward. Special thanks to The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado River & Trail Expeditions (CRATE), Columbia Willamette Faceters Guild, Rebecca Davis, Jim Kirkland – Utah Geological Survey, Knight’s Inn (Green River), Jackie Nelson, Gary & Kelly Orona – Savage Territory Gallery, Robbers Roost Motel, Kirsten Southwell, Julie Steuer, The Tamarisk Restaurant, West Winds Restaurant, and Amy Wilmarth – Green River Coffee Co., and AmeriCorps NCCC & VISTA.
Short film and photos by Ryan Baxter.
“My Favorite Rock” is a collection of regional residents’ favorite rocks and the stories attached to them. Through the gathering of these stories, we came to realize what those interviewed already knew: these rocks are more than rocks. They’re the embodiment of memories, bridges to the natural world, sources of hope and comfort, and ancient unchanging objects in an ever changing world. Thank you to everyone who shared their rocks and stories with us.
The rocks and stories were displayed on April 1st & 2nd at the entrance to the JWP River History Museum in conjunction with the Green River Rock & Mineral Festival. This project was inspired in part by recent work by Frontier Fellows Kirsten Southwell (“The Romance of Mining”) and Pete Collard (“This Is Green River”). Click here to download the “My Favorite Rock” booklet. Bonus: Below you’ll find one rock that we were unable to include in the exhibit for reasons included in the text.
Serah Mead’s Larimar (Moab, Utah)
How would you describe the rock?
It’s larimar, a colorful gem stone and a rock only found in the Dominican Republic amongst basaltic lava. But, it’s very different from lava and looks like the opposite of what you would expect it to look like. The rock comes in a lot of different forms, but the kind I like the most is the one I have — a beautiful glacial blue and green. There’s a lot of variation in color and tone in every larimar piece I’ve seen, and in some of them, it looks like you’re looking into a piece of ice or glacier from above; cloudy in color with splinters of blue. It’s worn by women in the Dominican Republic. The lore is that it has really good properties for pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.
How and when did you get it?
I’ve only had this rock for a month but have been wanting one of this type for a long time. Right around the time I was pregnant, I got into learning about what’s part of pregnancy in different cultures. I was in Portland, Oregon, at a rock shop and asked these bejeweled women who work there about rocks that aided pregnancy. One of them pulled out a book and turned to the page describing larimar. Not only was I psyched to learn about a rock I hadn’t heard of before, but also of how beautiful it was. It was the first time I remember looking at a rock, being taken by it, and feeling something for it.
I grew up around rocks and gems, always found meaning in them, but I felt this rock was special. People’s deep love for particular rocks started making sense to me. It was like looking at an ocean galaxy. I didn’t buy larimar in the store that day because it was really expensive, and ended up getting a piece of moonstone since it was too associated with pregnancy. But, I knew I wanted to get some larimar before my pregnancy was over. Last month, my friend mailed me a piece: a chunk of it with a long chain that I now wear.
How do you display this rock?
It rests on my belly and when I look at it, it’s like looking down on a frozen ocean in a tiny world. I connect with the ocean a lot (being from the Northern California coast). This last month of pregnancy feels a lot like sitting on the bluffs, looking out on the Pacific Ocean. There’s some places you can see the curve of the earth — it’s vast, untouchable, and unknowable — but you could also walk five feet forward and know what the ocean feels like, tastes like. One the one hand, I know everything about it, but on the other, I know nothing at all. I’m part of this whole lineage of who have given birth; it’s in the core of my bones. But at the same time, I’ve never done this before.
What does this rock mean to you?
It’s been an anchor for me in this last month of pregnancy and has centered me a little bit. I have a daily ritual of taking it off and putting it on. Even if the rock is away from me, it doesn’t mean that I have less connection to it…it doesn’t lose the meaning that it has.
If this rock could talk, what would it say?
This point of pregnancy is a really liminal space to be in: between maidenhood and motherhood. Beside the metaphorical thing, this is a rock that other pregnant women have worn throughout history. And now you’re on the same boat.
Serah gave birth to Verdell Shanti Mead on March 25, 2017.
In 2016, Epicenter made immense strides towards becoming a mature organization. We prioritized reaching outside of our small community to share our work with our peers as well as to learn from others doing similar work. Back at home, we built our first Frontier House, a case study to test an affordable, quality-made, and high-performance option for the high desert West. We plunged into our second major grant from the NEA, this time to support creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into more resilient places with art centered strategies at their core. In conjunction with these downtown-focused arts projects, we will soon release our Downtown Revitalization Plan, a product of many months of work alongside the community.
Check out the report here.
Consider donating to Epicenter’s work in Green River today. Cash donations allow us to match grant-funding and are vital to the continued success of projects in Green River. Find out how to donate here.