2017 Annual Report

Since Epicenter’s humble beginnings back in 2009, we’ve maintained a holistic approach to our work which we believe to be critical to our success. We are dedicated to Green River and our work, constantly building on what we do and redefining how we do it. Our future is bright with plans to develop more housing, to continue revitalizing our historic downtown core, to host more artists/designers and events, and to keep building the future we envision alongside our community. Follow the links below to see what we accomplished in 2017 and make a tax-deductible donation to help us continue our efforts in 2018 and beyond.





Maria Sykes Named Executive Director

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Epicenter staff: Jarod Hamm, Maria Sykes, and Steph Crabtree. Photo Credit: Tristan Wheelock.

It’s with great pleasure that we announce Maria Sykes as the new Executive Director of Epicenter. Maria brings with her the institutional knowledge she’s gained as an Epicenter principal, and an undying passion for the community of Green River.

Last year Epicenter switched to an executive directorship model. The previous leadership model served the organization well and Epicenter has grown substantially in the past few years. In an effort to support that growth and ensure long-term sustainability, the board of directors has decided that hiring an executive director is in the best interest of the organization. The board of directors undertook an extensive call-for-applicants, interviewed several candidates, and ultimately decided Maria’s combination of experience and passion for both Epicenter and Green River were the ideal fit for the position.

Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University, and brings nine years of experience in rural community development as Epicenter’s former Principal of Arts and Culture. During her time at Epicenter, she has co-led the renovation of a 100-year-old building using mostly volunteer labor and an inconceivably tight budget; co-founded the Frontier Fellowship which has now hosted over fifty artists/designers; and facilitated countless successful workshops, projects, and community initiatives. Maria has been working in in this field for less than a decade, but the work has already been honored many times including by Utah Governor Gary Herbert. She is a home-owner in Green River, actively partners with the City of Green River and Green River High School, and recently sat on the board of trustees for Green River’s John Wesley Powell River History Museum.

“I am incredibly honored to be the first Executive Director of Epicenter, an organization I co-founded and had the pleasure of co-directing for many years. What appealed to me most about the privilege to lead Epicenter was the opportunity to continue developing a single strategic vision for an organization that I love in a place I now call home. The organization’s approach in our first eight years was experimental and groundbreaking, but it’s due time we reflected on our past efforts in order to refine our practice. As Executive Director, my first and immediate goal is to strengthen our local partnerships. I am currently assessing our past work and revisiting the community’s needs. With this knowledge in mind, Epicenter is drafting a new strategic plan, recruiting new talent, and refining our programs and systems. Overjoyed with the potential, I welcome you to join me in this next phase of Epicenter.”

-Maria Sykes

Please join us on May 7th from 6-8PM at Epicenter (180 South Broadway in Green River, Utah) for a barbeque to welcome Maria as the new Executive Director. Epicenter facilities will be open to tour including the recently renovated basement and workshop.

The Epicenter Board of Directors


Job Opening: Community Coordinator

Epicenter is seeking two Community Coordinators! Current Green River residents are preferred, but we accept all applicants. All levels of experience are encouraged to apply.

If you are one or more of the following, we’d like to talk to you:
– An enthusiastic person, eager to put their energy into local residents, ideas, and small businesses, connecting them to the resources needed to thrive.
– A lifelong learner interested in working with other local residents.
– An entrepreneur experienced in project management.
– An independent worker who thrives on a team.

Follow the link below to learn more and apply:




Our Futures


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.

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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.


Announcing: 2018 Frontier Fellows

2.Resonating Nexus_pond viewWendy Wischer – Resonating Nexus

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


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Green River’s Downtown Revitalization Plan


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.

Download the plan here or order a physical copy here.

Now Hiring: Executive Director


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.



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Frontier Fellow: Erika Lynne Hanson

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).

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A fond farewell to Chris and Jack

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.

To stay up-to-date on Epicenter happenings, sign up to receive The Frontier Post or become a Frontiersman.



Frontier Fellow: Charlie Macquarie

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.

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