Maria Sykes: Hi Doug. First off, welcome to the team! Tell the readers a little bit about yourself. Where are you coming from? Where were you born and raised? What did you go to school for?
Douglas Tolman: Howdy! I’ve lived around Salt Lake City my whole life, but have spent many good nights under the stars in southeast Utah. I have a lot of family history in this area too, so stories around the fire were always more fun when you could see the places in the stories. I recently received a BFA from the University of Utah with a photography emphasis, and am seeing a career trajectory in art which promotes awareness of and solutions to socio-ecological issues.
MS: Why did you apply to be an AmeriCorps member?
DT: I’ve been wanting to live in a small town for some time, but have been waiting for the right opportunity in a community with quality art and recreation opportunities. Promoting positive social change in places like Salt Lake doesn’t often show tangible results, but being a part of Green River’s growth already feels very rewarding. Between Epicenter, personal family history and recreation opportunities in the area, this AmeriCorps position felt too good to be true.
MS: Your background in art, as well as the fact that you know Utah so well, made you a perfect fit for Epicenter. Why did you want to work with Epicenter?
DT: I had initially heard about Epicenter’s Frontier Fellowship, from which I learned they were not interested in furthering the self-serving, extractive nature many artist residencies have. Instead of inviting an outside artist to use resources and leave a mark on the landscape, Epicenter invites Frontier Fellows to engage with the community and landscape to create purpose driven work. I’m very drawn to Epicenter’s core purpose of addressing the specific needs of the Green River Community. Some design organizations may sympathize with communities they are trying to help, but it’s rare for one to actually become a part of and work directly with the needs of the community like Epicenter is.
MS: Now that you’ve been here for a couple of weeks, what are you most excited to work on in Green River?
DT: I’m finally starting to find my role in the community taking shape. Between teaching high school photography, after-school art classes for elementary students, and my documentation/design role in revamping the old city park, the little tasks feel like they’re starting to find some collective shape.
MS: Ok, enough about work. How do you spend your free time?
DT: I enjoy making place-based art and traveling over unique landscapes at a slow, human-powered pace (biking, paddling, climbing, running, etc.).
MS: And we’ll end on one of my favorite questions: If you could have one superpower, what would it be? And no cheating (eg. power mimicry)!
DT: Definitely the power of flight! I love seeing things from above, and it would be so cool to go such far distances.
We’re excited to have Doug on our team for the next year! Go here to see more of his work.