Maria Sykes: Hi Frances! First off, welcome back to Green River, and this time to the Epicenter team! Tell the readers a little bit about yourself. Where are you coming from? Where were you born and raised? What did you study in school?
Frances Erlandson: Hi Maria! I’m coming to Green River from a few weeks at home in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in Santa Monica, on the border of Venice, and spent a lot of time at the beach and in the desert. I went to school in rural, southern Vermont at Bennington College, where I studied mainly architecture and poetry, as well as some art history and sculpture.
MS: You’ve previously visited Green River (with your Dad who I’ve known since I was an architecture student at Auburn!) a few times, right? Besides the beautiful landscape, what appealed to you about moving your life and creative practice to this region/place specifically?
FE: I first drove through Green River with my family in high school, after they picked me up from a semester I spent at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, Colorado. My dad and I have been huge fans ever since. A couple years later, I drove cross-country home from Vermont, and met up with my dad in Denver, stopping in Green River together on the way home.
I heard about Epicenter again at Bennington, in a class on land art and landscape-based institutions, where we learned about Epicenter, Land Arts of the American West, M12 Studio, CLUI, and other similar organizations. It was really exciting for me to learn about the southwest in this new way— the places I’d grown up driving around, but not knowing how unique they were until I went to the east coast. I think I’ve been trying to get back to the West without quite knowing it.
When I was deciding to come to Green River, I really felt that my writing practice would benefit from being in an open space— to always have that release point to get out in the desert.
MS: Why did you apply to be an AmeriCorps member?
FE: I’ve always loved being a student, but I was surprised by how excited I was after Justin talked in my interview about the literacy program at PACT. I kind of just fell for the idea of the power of reading and the ability to actually help a kid develop a passion for reading. I started to think about all of the things that got me into reading and writing at a young age and how I could adapt those things to fit into after-school programming.
MS: Your background in design and literature made you a perfect fit for Epicenter. Why did you want to work with Epicenter?
FE: I feel really lucky that I’m in an environment where I can continue not to choose between design and literature. I was lucky that Bennington let me study both throughout, doing advanced work in poetry and architecture, but I always thought I’d eventually have to do one over the other. It’s been perfect for me to get to focus on literature-related activities at PACT and support in the design work at Epicenter. I’m really interested in the publication/editing process of community/design projects, which I think ties the two in nicely.
Since following Epicenter, the quality of work always impressed me and I think that comes from the combo of design and literature— how the work is presented, how its relationship with Green River is described. The writing is so important. Epicenter was one of the first places I learned about that used architecture, without being all about actual buildings— that really stuck with me when I was studying architecture and feeling boxed in by the career.
MS: Now that you’ve been here for a couple of weeks, what are you most excited to work on in Green River?
FE: I’m super excited to see what the kids at PACT and the students at the high school will write! We’re in an exciting position with the park project to be able to engage the youth of Green River in our design process and I really think their documentation of the space will guide the project.
MS: Ok, enough about work. How do you spend your free time?
FE: I like to be outside— sometimes hiking, but also walking on the sidewalk. Driving into the desert. Listening to the radio. Running on Airport Road. Watching the trucks on the highway from our back porch. Camping! Taking lots of notes about what is happening…
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)!
FE: Teleporting? I think I’ll go with that. But I also love the space of the car.
We’re excited to have Frances on our team for the next year!