A Call to Place

—Utah Arts & Museums – For immediate release on March 1, 2016


SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Arts & Museums announces A Call to Place: The first five years of the Frontier Fellowship. The exhibition highlights the town of Green River through a project initiated by Epicenter, an interdisciplinary nonprofit organization.

The town of Green River lies within the lunar landscape of eastern Utah: rock cliffs reveal striations of sediment with boulders clustered below fracturing buttes. Green River is a place where the land is plentiful and the red dust, burnt cliffs, and lonely sky lie just beyond the end of its roads. Prismatic sunsets give way to stars that shine bold and close. If you’ve never seen monolithic terraces under an oceanic sky, Green River is the seeing place. The only town of consequence for many miles, Green River has been a welcomed sight to travelers for well over a century. Uranium mining, the construction of a missile base, and other economic booms led to times of prosperity that proved short-lived. As jobs disappeared and the newly built Interstate 70 routed travelers around, rather than through the town, businesses closed shop, buildings fell into disrepair, and the town’s population dwindled to its current size of 952. During the recent recession, Epicenter began partnering with the city and residents to reverse Green River’s economic misfortunes and strengthen the community.

Epicenter’s visiting artists, “Frontier Fellows,” prove an integral part of this revitalization by discerning and celebrating Green River’s rural pride and pioneering spirit. The exhibition, A Call to Place, features the first five years of Frontier Fellows, 50 visiting artists and collaborators who have each spent up to one month in residence generating place-based work in Green River alongside the community.

“We’re delighted to celebrate and reflect on one of our most stunning rural communities in Utah” said Gay Cookson Utah Arts & Museums Director, “Epicenter, and the respective fellows, are playing an important role in their community while expanding the boundaries of how we think about art making. Undoubtedly the contributions and perspective offered by these visiting artists will make a lasting impact.”

The exhibition runs from Mar. 18th-May 13th, 2016. An artist reception will be held on Mar. 18th from 6-9 p.m. for Gallery Stroll. The Rio Gallery is located inside the Rio Grande Depot at 300 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. Additionally the Gallery is open in partnership with The Downtown Winter Farmers Market every other Saturday from 10am-2pm from January 16th-April 23rd, 2016.

Thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts (Artworks), Utah Division of Arts and Museums, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Steve and Juanita Sykes for their generous support of this project.

Participating artists/collaboratives:

Charlotte XC Sullivan, Zoe Minikes, Zorth Pilioneta, Miles Mattison, Nick Zdon, Daniel Strauss, Nicole Lavelle, Ali Osborn, Jamey Herman, Richard Saxton, Sarah Baugh, Justin Flood, Raphael Griswold, Emily Howe, Aidan Koch, Shawn Creeden, Catherine Page-Harris, Kristina Fong, Corbin Lamont, Zach Bulick, Russell Kerr, Cabin Time, Erica Dixon, Dylan Adams, Bennett Williamson, Gina Abelkop, Colin Bliss, Lucia Carroll, Cyrus Smith, Sincerely Interested, Michelle Benoit, Molly Goldberg, Mary Rothlisberger, Celia Hollander, Ryan Ford, Grayson Earle, Jordan Topiel Paul, Andrew Hamblin, Spence Kroll, Eliza Fernand, Geoffrey Holstad, Rob Loucks, Pete Collard & Alice Masters, Lisa Ward, Emily Howe, Jordan Gulasky, Phil Dagostino, High Desert Test Sites, Laurelin Kruse, and Sarah Lillegard.

Curation: Epicenter
Design: Corbin LaMont

For more information on the Fellowship visit frontierfellowship.org.

RSVP to the event here.

Frontier Fellowship Report: Michelle Benoit

Unexpected Frontiers: A Journey West

The destination

For my past 25 years, my education and interests have taken me on travels abroad, including a year in Rwanda, France, and a summer in Istanbul. I studied decaying neighborhoods with hopes of aiding their revitalization, and assisted in building hospitals and housing for those who needed it most. All of my wanderings brought the sharp realization that for as much as I have seen of the world, I barely knew my own country. I am somewhat ashamed that I had been drawn to the mystery and excitement of traveling to foreign countries long before admitting that the United States had countless, equally compelling landscapes waiting to be explored.

In my quest to discover life closer to home, I ironically chose an environment that was as unfamiliar to me as any foreign country—I chose to spend a month in Green River, Utah. “Why Green River?” were the first words I heard from anyone I shared my plans with. I had no particular reason. Or, at least I didn’t have one that was immediately apparent to me. Without a doubt, I was eager to escape the cold, harsh Chicago winter. More importantly, I was drawn to the work of the Epicenter. I admired the way they had chosen to embrace small town life, and work on a scale in which they could see their efforts realized. It was a type of local engagement and dedication that I sought to emulate and hoped that I could learn from by spending a month there.

The journey

The journey to Green River was equally important as the destination. In lieu of more efficient modes of transportation, I chose to take the train. I was intrigued to experience the historic route, one that started in Chicago’s Union Station and continued to California, passing directly through Green River, Utah. It was not a quick journey—the train ride lasted roughly 28 hours—but it was one that I knew I had to take. In my mind, it solidified my reasons for stopping in Green River, as countless other travelers coming from Chicago had done before me. I relished the moment of slowing down. As the train progressed, I saw the bleak, flat plains morph into undulating landscapes of mountains and valleys. The snow slowly melted away into rivers, and brought me to a place of wide-open blue skies and the dusty Book Cliffs.

My month in Green River was a mix of engaging in projects that the Epicenter was currently working on, and conducting some research of my own. After a few days in the Green River Archives, I found more and more connections that tied back to my home near Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Elgin, the town that preceded Green River, was named after Corporal George W. Durant’s hometown of Elgin, Illinois after he first surveyed the land in 1895. I fell in love with the old buildings on Broadway as I learned about their former lives, many which had faded from vibrant pasts and included tales of an opera house, lively dance halls, bootlegged liquor, and outlaws as notorious as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. My understanding of the history was enriched through a workshop at the Green River High School where I had the opportunity to work with one of the art classes on a small exhibit celebrating the bygone days of four of the oldest buildings in town. The exhibit was my own attempt to bring life back to the empty storefronts on Broadway, and perhaps inspire a new chapter in their histories.

The warm, sunny days filled with adventures to national parks, drives to ghost towns, stops at roadside diners, and lazy afternoons spent at the river beach, passed quickly. Although my month spent in Green River was closer to a traveler passing through rather than settling down, the welcoming friends and support that I received there made the town feel like a second home. It is a place that I will not easily forget and hope to come back to sometime soon for continued adventures, renewed spirits, and endless inspiration.

Funding for the window display projects is provided by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums’ Random Acts of Art grant.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014