Epicenter is a finalist for ArtPlace America’s 2016 National Creative Placemaking Fund


(June 7, 2016) Today, ArtPlace America announced that Epicenter’s Riverside Common is one of
80 projects that it will consider for its 2016 National Creative Placemaking Fund. These 80 projects are 6% of the 1,361 initial applications that ArtPlace reviewed.

ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program that invests money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts activity will help drive community development projects that are addressing challenges or opportunities related to agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health, housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development. Epicenter has proposed Riverside Common, a new, affordable multi-family housing community in Green River, Utah.

As the next step in ArtPlace’s process, Epicenter will complete more extensive application materials and schedule a site visit with an ArtPlace staff member and a national peer expert this summer. ArtPlace will convene these peer experts for an in-person panel meeting this fall and will then announce the final projects in which it will invest a total of $10.5 million in December 2016.

The complete list of the 2016 finalists for ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund may be found here

About Epicenter’s Riverside Common

Green River’s 2012 Affordable Housing Plan (rated a top ten plan in the state by the governor’s office) identified a severe lack of rental housing: only twelve apartments exist in town (2.5% of all housing). Epicenter and its partners are working to construct twelve new and well-designed multi-family housing units that provide durable and efficient options for local residents. These units will innovate a model of housing in rural places, where traditional funding and access to architectural design are scarce. This Riverside Common will raise the collective standard of living, empower residents to become change leaders and beautify the community through design.

Riverside Common will double the available multi-family rental units in town and provide currently unavailable options (e.g. studio, multi-bedroom, and fully-accessible units). Elderly residents will have the option to age-in-place rather than 60 miles away from their family and lifelong home. Young adults will gain an affordable option outside of their parents’ home. The project will improve the standard of living, decrease substandard housing (specifically overcrowded mobile homes), and demand more of negligent landlords. The outdoor shared space will foster a micro-community and provide a third-space for populations that have been traditionally underserved including elderly, young, disabled, Hispanic, and low-income residents. Riverside Common will be the new standard for affordable and well-designed housing in Green River and for rural communities throughout the country.

About ArtPlace America

ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among 16 partners foundations, along with 8 federal agencies and 6 financial institutions, that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities. ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking, which describes projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development. This brings artists, arts organizations, and artistic activity into the suite of placemaking strategies pioneered by Jane Jacobs and her colleagues, who believed that community development must be locally informed, human-centric, and holistic.

Media contact: Maria Sykes

Call for Proposals: Teaching Artist


Epicenter and Pyramid Youth Programs are partnering again this summer to bring a creative summer day camp to Green River. Pyramid has some excellent summer programming (like river running!) and we’re excited to be a part of it.

Dates: July 25-28, 2016 from 9am – 2pm. These dates are firm. You would need to arrive 5-7 days prior for orientation and preparations.

Compensation: $2000 stipend and a $1000 materials budget. Free lodging for up to two people.

Support: At minimum, you would have support from one Pyramid summer staff and one AmeriCorps VISTA. Pyramid and Epicenter can provide tools, but please list needs in your proposal.

Programming: Projects need to be arts or design focused. Ideas that have been discussed by the staff include, but are not limited to: theatre/performance, visual arts, performing arts, costume design, furniture design, sculpture, singing, songwriting, writing/poetry, design/build toys, and visual arts basics. Other camps will cover the following, so please do not submit proposals focused on: food/cooking, storytelling, dance, or film/photography.

Restrictions: The kids are 5-13 years old with little to no arts experience. The number of kids can be capped if you require it, but you can expect 5-15 kids otherwise. Projects should occur on-site at the Community Center or within walking distance (located at 125 S Long Street). The project must be completed within the week and result in a final deliverable such as an opening, booklet, performance, and/or young artists taking home a completed work of art.

Potential Venues: Pyramid’s facility has one large room with a stage and a commercial kitchen. OK Anderson Park has plenty of green space, a fenced-in concrete basketball court, and a baseball field. Green River State Park also has plenty of grassy area and a boat ramp with a dock. Green River High School has two gymnasiums and one theatre. The JWP Museum has a movie theatre and one large meeting room.

Your proposal should include:
-A CV/resume, include past experience with youth
-A draft/outline of the 4-day camp (full lesson plan not required at this time)
-List skills that kids will be learning (e.g. drawing techniques, crochet, color theory, creative process)
-1-3 applicable references from teaching artist positions or applicable work/projects

Email your proposal(s) to maria@ruralandproud.org by Friday, June 17 at 9am MST. There is no limit to the number of proposals you can submit. Due to the high number of applications, we are unable to answer questions prior to your proposal submission. If your proposal is selected, we will contact you directly.

Epicenter Citizen Designer AmeriCorps VISTA

Photo of Epicenter’s Summer Summit 2013 attendees by Nick Zdon (Epicenter former Frontier Fellow and current Board Member)

We have a unique opportunity for an exceptional designer with a wide and varied skill-set: a chance to spend a year living and working in a small town in Utah. To help citizens of this rural community lead better lives. To demonstrate the value of design in community problem solving. To gain a one-of-a-kind experience in an alternative model of professional practice. To learn new skills. To improve our non-profit. To improve yourself.

We believe this desert town can bloom, but there is work to be done. We’d like to work with you to do it.

Who We Are
Epicenter is a design-driven community development organization that serves the rural town of Green River, Utah. Epicenter strives to provide local solutions to community problems through a holistic approach with projects in three sectors: affordable housing advocacy and repair, business development, and arts and culture. An agile team of designers, creatives, and doers, we have a community-centered and multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and innovation. Here, we nurture local businesses, artists, entrepreneurs, and ideas.

We’re dedicated to this town and our practice, but constantly building on what we do and redefining how we do it. We are looking for more ways to engage our community and to help citizens envision their future. That’s where you come in.

Who You Are
— You’re an adept designer who is looking to take a deep dive into a rural community to learn about its issues and to strategize how its strengths can overcome its weaknesses.
— You have an eye for detail, a mind for numbers, and a willingness to get your boots dirty.
— You have exquisite verbal, visual, and written communication skills.
— You dream of open spaces, big skies, bold colors, and promising futures.
— You have experience and/or interest in working on a team with different skills and backgrounds.

What You Will Do (examples)
— Document, demonstrate, and articulate the value of design in addressing Green River’s problems.
— Execute graphic design for Epicenter’s projects, programs, events, and the organization as a whole.
— Strategically gather information and analyze data to help determine community needs and wants.
— Facilitate opportunities to help improve local businesses and local workforce.
— Assist in planning and execution of local events that encourage community participation and celebrate Green River.
— Work with motivated local organizations and co-workers to improve this community.

Compensation and AmeriCorps VISTA
The position is a twelve-month, full-time VISTA position that is potentially extendable for an additional year, or with successful fundraising, could become a full-time salaried position. VISTA members receive a living allowance, a health insurance benefit, a relocation allowance, pre-service orientation training, assistance in finding housing, and an education award of $5,775 or cash award of $1,500 at successful completion of service.

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national service program designed to fight poverty, originally envisioned by President John F. Kennedy. Most current Epicenter staff members originally arrived to Epicenter via AmeriCorps VISTA and we are proud to offer this position once again.

We have funding, community partners, and the initiative to make this town as vibrant as its backdrop. All we’re missing is you. Come join us this year.

To apply, send your CV/resume, design portfolio, and a one-page cover letter to VISTA@ruralandproud.org by Monday, June 6 at 9am MST. If you have any specific questions about VISTA, please visit the Corporation for National & Community Service website.

We look forward to meeting you.



Arts-based Community Development Investment for Green River

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 64 awards totaling $4.3 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town program. Epicenter and the City of Green River’s partnership is one of the recommended projects for an award of $50,000 to support the “Rural and Proud Initiative” to assist and support revitalization projects in downtown Green River, Utah.

The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into more lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. The NEA received 240 applications for Our Town this year and will make awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

“For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Projects such as the one led by Epicenter and the City of Green River, Utah, help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”

“Often called ‘the Crossroads of the West,’ Green River is at a crossroads of another kind. This small desert community is in the process of choosing its next phase. Like many rural towns, this desert community can passively accept the economic conditions it was given, or we can choose to commit to strengthening our roots, embracing our people and history, and finding creative ways to empower the community. Green River has chosen the latter. The Rural and Proud Initiative will remind residents of Green River’s history and traditions, invigorate us to creatively voice our desires for the future, transform downtown into a more vibrant destination, and involve designers in making those desires a reality.” –Epicenter principal of Arts & Culture, Maria Sykes

To begin the project, Epicenter and the City of Green River will invite selected designers to support local ongoing revitalization efforts through small scale arts/design projects. Projects will reveal and reinforce the distinct character and quality of Green River and reimagine and activate locations downtown, especially forgotten spaces. Proposed projects will support and shape the ongoing local effort to enhance quality of life and opportunity for local residents, increase creative activity, and discern and celebrate this place.

Projects will foster interaction between community members and discover new ways to engage existing resources, spaces, and cultures. Participation is by invitation only. A local selection committee will select four projects.

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAOurTown16.


Protected: Frontier Fellowship Report: Walker Tufts

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Green River Vernacular Housing Study


Green River is in dire need of not just affordable housing but also durable and efficient housing to replace our deteriorated housing stock. Astonishingly, trailers account for 28% of total housing units in Green River (compared to 6% nationwide or 4% in Utah). And, based on a recent study by Epicenter, 69% of all trailers are built before July 1976, before HUD established a national building code for mobile homes. Of all housing types in Green River, still the figure is high: 47% of all homes are in need of repairs (ref: 2012 Green River Housing Plan). We seek to eliminate substandard housing in Green River through a holistic approach including home repairs (via our award-winning Fix It First program), new multi-family housing construction (currently in pre-development), and through our design and construction of the Frontier House by the end of 2016.

This study acts as a guide for precedent and best practices for the Frontier House and any future single-family construction in Green River.



front-pageImage: Anne Thompson, “Hand Sign (Higginsville, Missouri),” 2015.

We’re excited to announce our next round of Frontier Fellows and returning artists! Click here to download a PDF of the announcement.

Feb/Mar — Walker Tufts
Mar — Catherine Page Harris*
Apr — Hannah Vaughn + Damien Delorme
Apr — Sincerely Interested*
May/Jun — Kirsten Southwell
Jul — Anne Thompson
Sep — Ashley Ross*
Oct/Nov — Jessi Barber

Jan — Clive Romney
Feb/Mar — Sarah Schneider
Apr — Charlie Macquarie
May/Jun — Erika Lynne Hanson
Aug/Sep — Caitlin Denny
Oct — Tristan Wheelock

*Artists with an asterisk next to their name are returning visiting artists, technically not new Frontier Fellows.

Want to join us in 2016 or beyond? Stay tuned here.

Meet Christopher Henderson

—An interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming Epicenter designer Christopher Henderson.

ch_city_countyChristopher Henderson in front of the City/County Building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Incoming Epicenter designer Christopher Henderson is a design/builder currently practicing in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice REXX is a multi-disciplinary creative, design, and build studio. Christopher received his BFA in Industrial Design (Product Design Emphasis) from Brigham Young University in 2006. Since then he’s designed and built furniture, craft supplies, tools, and storage in Salt Lake City (UT), Centerville (UT), and San Francisco (CA). Before founding REXX, he most recently was an exhibit designer at The Leonardo, a science, technology, and art museum in Salt Lake City.

“The Epicenter is an intriguing idea. It can’t be easy. It couldn’t have seemed easy before you took it on. You all have tried something hard, and despite the difficulty—or perhaps because it was/is difficult—made something remarkable.

The spirit of this place is that we do hard things. We do them because they are hard. It’s built into our DNA through mineral miner grit and socialistic pioneer cooperation. It’s the spirit that saw a desert and made it a community. It’s a particular and peculiar West, and I love it.

I feel like what little aesthetic and cultural identity we have left is slipping away, replaced by suburban sprawl, corporate uniformity, and rote reproduction of design ideas from larger coastal cities. I want to explore our aesthetic, our culture, our community. I feel like The Epicenter shares that point of view.” –excerpt from a letter from Christopher to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: What are you currently working on?Christopher Henderson: I’m working on an installation for a library that is meant to mimic organic cloud formations, but is constructed from a system of tessellated polyhedra. Once I found the shapes I liked, the challenge was in figuring out how to produce hundreds of them quickly, cheaply, and consistently. I developed and refined a tabbing system such that the pieces could be die-cut and scored and then simply folded together quickly without glue or tape. I’m using a plastic coated card-stock that is rigid, but still light and cheap enough to allow for maximum flexibility in the final assembly. So yeah… nerd alert.

J: You’re a Libra. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Libra?
C: I am almost completely unaware of what the typical attributes of a Libra are meant to be, so yes, unequivocally.

J: Your Myers-Briggs personality type is INTP, what attributes seems accurate or inaccurate to you?
C: Wow. Pretty accurate all around. Accurate: “They seek patterns and logical explanations for anything that interests them.” —Totally. “They love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. They love to discuss these concepts with others.”—So fun! Relatively inaccurate: “They may seem “dreamy” and distant to others”— No one I don’t think has ever described me as “dreamy.”

J: What would be your superpower?
C: First I thought invisibility, because I could walk around naked. But then I decided on flight, because I could fly around naked.

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
C: Hmm.. maybe Dr. Strangelove. It’s a perfect blend of silliness and doom. I saw it first when maybe I was too young to fully grasp the satire, but it certainly tinted my world view.

J: What were you for the last Halloween?
C: Last Halloween I was grinding out a deadline and only had energy and time enough to throw on a Misfits t-shirt and paint black around my eyes. I know, weak.

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
C: Chess. I’m not great at it, but it’s an endlessly challenging and nuanced game. Plus, nowadays you can play online against other lonely nerds from all over the world!

J: Who are you named after? If not anyone in particular, why did you parents chose this specific name?
C: You know, I never asked… or maybe I did and there just wasn’t an interesting answer. I do know I was meant to be named Christian, but my parent’s best friends had a boy a few weeks before me and stole it. “Christopher” I guess was close enough?

J: Do you have any siblings? If so, where are you in birth order?
C: I have 5 siblings, 6 of us total kids. I’m number 5 in line. Second youngest.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
C: All of it really. I’ve been a city boy for a long long time. Excited to get back out in the elements.

J: How does working with Epicenter fit into your big picture?
C: I’m very interested in the prospect of practicing design in a rural setting. It’s something I’ve thought about for quite a while. Aside from that, working with as dedicated and talented a group as the Epicenter is a great opportunity to learn and grow professionally.



Meet Ryan Baxter

—an interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming summer intern Ryan Baxter

Baxter_RyanPhoto: Ryan Baxter at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite.

This May, Ryan Baxter will finish his final year of the five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture program at the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, and then he’ll join Epicenter for the summer! Although he thinks he could live and work anywhere, he only see himself staying somewhere where he “can daydream effortlessly and where inspiration is as expansive as the skies.” Sounds like he was made for Green River, right? We think so.

“I haven’t made the same career plans that many of friends have made. In fact, I’m not sure where I’ll be in five years. I do, however, know that I will be working at a firm where I am engaged in every part of the design process. I have a never-ending interest in the field of making things and in the people who have the same desire to make our daily life a little better for all peoples.” –excerpt from a letter from Ryan to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: Let’s start with your name. Who are you named after? If not anyone in particular, why did your parents chose this specific name?
Ryan Baxter: My mom says that my name was given to me because my dad insisted. My dad has no memory of this. My best guess is that it has something to do with the names of my brother and sister: all of our names start with an “R.”

J: How does this internship fit into your big picture/career/life?
R: This internship fits my belief that architecture (and all fields of design) are of public domain. The ideas that can give people a better life and enhance their experience of built and non-built environments should be available to everyone. Good design doesn’t need a large pocketbook when designers make good decisions based on intuition and understanding.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
R: The skyscraper-lined street canyons of Manhattan and Chicago have nothing on their analogue. The way the sun bounces across the rippling rock walls and disappears to an early sunset, giving the twilight another hour or more to the canyon’s inhabitants is remarkable. I grew up hiking in Arizona’s canyons and it is clear to me that Green River has no lack of this fantastic beauty.

J: What would be (or what is) your superpower?
R: Flying and teleportation have their advantages sure, but the superpower that I have wanted for quite some time is the ability to instantly understand and speak any language (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Babel Fish”). This power would not only be the ability to comprehend but to be essentially native, with all knowledge of idioms and dialects for the complete grasp of cultures, people, art, and love.

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
R: It’s difficult to parcel out my library into only a few books that have inspired me the most; however, Ray Bradbury must be the author to whose stories my mind returns the most. His evocative landscapes, sculpted with a flowing poetic prose, may be the settings for his wonderful stories, but for me they are free-standing environments where things lay halfway in shadow and halfway in light.

J: What were you for the last Halloween?
R: My girlfriend and I went as Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s Duck and Decorated Shed (I was the shed).

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
R: My favorite board game would have to be Cranium; just as you get bored of Charades or Pictionary, you get to do a word puzzle or play with some clay.

J: You’re a Taurus. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Taurus?
R: I am a Taurus, but to be honest I never knew more than that until now. I suppose that I do exhibit some of the attributes assigned to the typical Taurus. I am loyal and dependable and I don’t mind taking the long way around if I think it’s the right way to do it. Though I normally wouldn’t associate myself with a bull. Really, if I were an animal, I’d be a wolf: independent and fiercely loyal to his pack. In this way, the description of the Taurus and the Wolf fit quite well together.

J: What are most looking forward to in your work with Epicenter?
R: I can’t wait to work with the people of Green River to develop a plan for downtown revitalization. I know that everyone will be bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table and I’m excited to be a part of the team that helps Green River plan its future.

Meet JD Scott

—an interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming Epicenter Housing Specialist JD Scott

JD-scottPhoto: JD Scott assembling a conference table.

JD Scott is a public interest designer currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is nearing completion of his Master of Architecture degree from Tulane University. JD and Epicenter are a match made in heaven: in addition to his design-build experience, he is a Bike & Build alumnus and was a site supervisor for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Colorado! We’re ecstatic to add him to the Epicenter team in May.

“Making is my obsession. This is evinced by my independent work in the visual arts. I am constantly searching for new media, new tools, and obstacles to challenge my hands. What began with the simple pleasures of charcoal on paper has recently shifted into collage, furniture design, and printmaking. Far more satisfying, however, are opportunities to make with others. This past fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a design-build studio at the Tulane City Center. My teammates and I designed and fabricated a mobile produce market for a local non-profit dedicated to food justice. I found this environment — characterized by collaboration and improvisation — to be a limitless source of inspiration.” –excerpt from a letter from JD to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: Let’s start with your name. Who are you named after?
JD Scott: I’m named after my grandfather, John David Scott.

J: You’re a Pisces. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Pisces?
JD: I’ve never been interested in astrology, but I do think qualities like compassion, adaptability, and devotion are important to me. Qualities like laziness or escapism have never really applied to the way I live.

J: How does this internship fit into your big picture/career/life?
JD: I see this position as an opportunity to learn from a model of practice that is interdisciplinary, highly collaborative, and rooted in a specific community. These are values that I can apply to my career goal, which is to establish a community-based design practice in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.

J: As an El Pasoan at heart, what of El Paso’s history, demographics, and/or prestige do you find to be the biggest draw for you to one day come back to?
JD: I don’t know where to begin. It could just be the smell of the creosote bushes in the desert when a thunderstorm approaches. It could be the huevos rancheros at H&H Carwash, the machaca burritos at Lucy’s Cafe, or the horchata that old ladies serve on the streets downtown in the summer. It could be the trails in the Franklin Mountains that I have explored since I was a kid.

As a designer, the place interests me for many reasons. It sits next to Ciudad Juarez, which in my teenage years was one of the most violent cities in the world. So perhaps design can facilitate healing there. Texas Tech University recently opened a school of architecture in downtown El Paso, so that represents an opportunity for me to teach one day. The city (like most places in the southwest) suffers tremendously from sprawl, yet it has many opportunities to create pedestrian and bicycle corridors. El Paso has a thriving music and arts scene, yet few venues actively promote these sectors; so perhaps design could help to create a thoughtful backdrop for this culture.

J: Name the character you would be for a day in a TV show you’re currently watching, and describe why you would take on that persona.
JD: I don’t watch TV currently, but when I used to watch TV, one of my favorite shows was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I would take on his persona for obvious reasons – he constantly gets to experience new cultures and meet new people. Beyond this, I really appreciate his work – a mix of film, writing, food, and relationships. Bourdain represents someone who uses his training and knowledge base (cooking/writing) in a very public setting; this is how I’d like to practice.

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
JD: Liverpool is my favorite card game. It is slow-paced and social; you can easily eat and drink while playing (the game takes a long time to finish, so this is crucial).

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
JD: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve read it twice now, and each time it has prompted me to reflect on my life and to critically evaluate the work that I do. As a designer, I can get caught up in the details or in the simple joy of making things. This book is a reminder to constantly be mindful of broader social issues.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
JD: Canyons and dark night skies.

J: What are most looking forward to in your work with Epicenter?
JD: I’m looking forward to a lot of things. I’m excited about the hands-on problem-solving offered by the Fix it First program. I’m excited to engage with local residents and to work on projects that can directly improve their daily lives. The opportunity to be involved with other Epicenter programs and projects is exciting to me as well. I’m looking forward to meeting new collaborators and to learning from their skillsets.

J: What would be your superpower?
JD: The power to breathe underwater.