Our Futures will be exhibited from March 2 – July 1, 2018.
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.
In addition to Epicenter’s core Our Futures team (Bryan Brooks, Ryan Baxter, Jarod Hamm, and Maria Sykes), Our Futures was made possible with help from Anna Evans (lapidary artist for the ring featured in the exhibit), Kirsten Southwell (assisted in the original concept development), and photographer Tristan Wheelock (panoramic photo of Green River featured in the exhibit).