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 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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Green River Rock & Mineral Festival 2017

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.”

RMF-Fossil-Point-76smOne of two field trip groups to Fossil Point.

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.

RMF-Mill-Creek-30smFestival attendees viewing dinosaur tracks with palentologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster.

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.

RMF-Sego-Canyon-2smSteve Acerson at Sego Canyon.

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.

RMF-HQ-21smArtist 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 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

“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.

Epicenter’s 2016 Annual Report


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.



Green River Ignites the Nite!

IMG_0528bPhoto: Ignite the Night pyrotechnics display on South Broadway.

Winter in Green River is typically a time to hunker down by the fire at home. You can rarely find residents venturing outdoors in the Winter at night, except maybe en route to a Green River basketball game. (Go Pirates!) This year was a different story, though, as Epicenter in partnership with the City of Green River, hosted the first annual “Ignite the Night” on South Broadway in Green River to bring people together and celebrate the unveiling of new lighted signs on Main Street.

The evening got started with a bang! Quite a few bangs, actually: a custom fireworks display by Marisa Frantz and Lisa Ward. The display began as a slow-burning fuse that set off a highly-anticipated series of events that could best be described as a pyrotechnic Rube Goldberg machine. Though the fireworks were seen and heard for miles, up-close was the real show. The team had rigged up an elaborate “ladder” of sparkling fuses hung over the street that led to an unlit bonfire in front of the Green River Fire Department.

Once the bonfire erupted into flames, the team celebrated the successful chain reaction alongside an audience of over 60 spectators. The bonfire lighting signaled that it was time for s’mores, chili, hot cocoa, and a live music performance by Clive Romney and friends at the Green River Firehouse. Clive Romney, Executive Director of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts, was joined by Hank Mason and Jana Wells of Grand Junction, Colorado. They sang original songs of Utah’s rural heritage, pioneers, and folktales. Armed with glow-bracelets and LED accessories, the all-ages audience swelled to over 80 participants who danced and sang along with the musicians.

Those in attendance hope this celebration can become an annual tradition. Epicenter Principal Maria Sykes explains, “We held this event in the dead of winter to bring people together during a time when we tend to be kind of reclusive in our homes. I love that we can do this sort of thing in Green River. To adapt a Phil Conners quote, ‘Standing amongst the people of Green River and basking in the warmth of their hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.’ Sure, Ignite the Night will never be something as big as Groundhog Day, but it’s in the same spirit.”

Mayor Pat Brady shares, “I was not sure what to expect at Ignite the Nite. My expectations were greatly exceeded. The artists hired for the neon lights, the new welcome sign, and the fireworks were absolutely the right people to have done it. Clive Romney and his two vocalists were a perfect fit for the evening. Great lights, great music, great food, and a great crowd. Hopefully, next year even more of the community will participate.”

ITN-B-92bPhoto: The new neon sign at the Green River Coffee Company. Clouds by Lite Brite Neon. Quote from Edward Abbey.

During the week leading up to the event, a team of designers and builders led by artist Lisa Ward had been busy completing the reason for the Ignite the Night celebrations: the creation and refurbishing of lighted signs on Main Street in a project called Green River Lights. Made possible through the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program, Epicenter created a new neon welcome sign for Green River (located on the South side of Main Street just West of the Green River Medical Center) and a new neon sign on the Green River Coffee Company, and partially refurbished the La Veracruzana sign, formerly the Ben’s Cafe sign. Clive Romney also held music and storytelling workshops throughout the week for the youth of Green River at the High School, Book Cliff Elementary, Pyramid Youth Programs (PACT), and the Green River Library.

ITN-B-1bPhoto: The new Green River welcome sign.

Also unveiled at Ignite the Night was [light], a prototype for a lighted-bench designed in partnership with the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning. [light] is currently on display in front of Epicenter (180 South Broadway, Green River, Utah), but will move to Main Street once more benches are fabricated and installed.

IMG_0544bPhoto: [light] on display at the Green River Fire Department for Ignite the Night.

This project and event was made possible with support from: AmeriCorps VISTA, Ryan Baxter, Bryan Brooks, Erin Carraher, City of Green River, Alison Jean Cole, Steph Crabtree, Phil Engleman, Marisa Frantz, Amber Furrer, Mike Goode, The Green River Coffee Company, Green River EMS, Green River Fire Department, Jarod Hamm, Christopher Henderson, Mary Holyoke, La Veracruzana restaurant, Chris Lezama, Lite Brite Neon, Juan Lovato, Kitty Marshall, Hank Mason, Oregon Arts Commission, PACT, Gwen Peck, P&L Electrical, Sara Polito, Waly Pont, Justin Queen, The River Terrace Inn, Robber’s Roost Motel, Clive Romney, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Nate Stapley, Maria Sykes, Steve & Juanita Sykes, University of Utah: College of Architecture + Planning, Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts, Lisa Ward, Lesa Weihing-Madsen, Jana Wells, Amy Wilmarth, Colin Zaug, and the Green River community.

Please visit our blog in the near future for a film by Ryan Baxter documenting the Green River Lights project and Ignite the Night event.