Meet the January 2014 Epicrew! Crew Count: 11. From Right to Left: Cyrus Smith, Chris Lezama, Mary Rothlisberger, Charlotte X. C. Sullivan, Maria Sykes, Jack Forinash, Sarah Baugh, Nicole Lavelle, Armando Rios, and Ryann Savino. Not pictured: Justin Queen.
Please enjoy the diversity of the group through the Q&A session below:
Q: What’s your age, birth place, zodiac sign, and spirit animal?
Sarah: 28 / Hope, Idaho / Capricorn / white-tailed deer
Jack: 28 / Alabama / Aquarius / seahorse
Nicole: 26 / San Francisco, California / Leo (Cancer cusp) / wild housecat
Chris: 30 / Daly City, CA / Aquarius / Donatello from the Ninja Turtles
Justin: 27 / Maybee, Michigan / Saggitarius / phoenix
Armando: 25 / San Angelo, Texas / Leo / fox
Mary: 30 / Killeen, Texas / Virgo / opossum
Ryann: 23 / Placerville, California / Virgo / doe
Cyrus: 33 / Portland, Oregon / Taurus / unknown
Charlotte: 29 / Boston, Massachusetts / Pisces / red fox
Maria: 29 / San Diego, CA / Virgo (Libra cusp) / ringtailed cat
Q: Where’s your favorite place to eat in Green River?
Sarah: Breakfast at West Winds, salad bar lunch at Tamarisk, and taco dinner (seasonal) at La Veracruzana.
Jack: Chow Hound.
Nicole: Tamarisk salad bar.
Chris: A back room booth at the West Winds or a counter stool at Ray’s.
Justin: Chow Hound.
Armando: The city park.
Mary: West Winds, late night. Like, late late night.
Ryann: At my Aunt Katherine’s house.
Cyrus: Chow Hound (love the BLT).
Charlotte: West Winds.
Maria: I like to belly-up to the bar at Ray’s Tavern for a burger and a pint. Juke box, tourists, and free pool: what more could a girl need?
Q: What brings you to Epicenter this January? What brought you to Green River originally?
Sarah: I’m here for one week with Nicole Lavelle to work on the upcoming Green River Magazine! I came to Green River in August of 2012 for the Frontier Fellowship. I’ve been here a total of four times since then, mostly as a Fellow.
Nicole: I’m here with Sarah Baugh to work on the Green River Magazine, and to get my annual winter dose of Green River. I came here originally because my friend in Alabama said, “Do you know about these guys? They’re building stuff out in the desert.” I had pictured a Burning Man vibe with geodesic domes and Epicenter actually literally building stuff in the middle of the desert. Anyways, even though I was wrong about the hippy vibe, the work the Epicenter was doing was compelling to me as a young designer just out of school, uninterested in working long hours to make Nike commercials. They provided an alternative model of practice, or at least they were investigating one, and I wanted to be a part of it. Years later, the model of young-creative-professional-forging-ahead that I learned from Epicenter is integral to the way I work. I’ve been here five times, but I had stopped counting.
Mary: I moved to Green River in November because of affordable housing options. I believe the power of small communities to enable positive change and as an citizen-artist, I prefer to work and live in towns of under 1,000. Small towns are for big ideas; open spaces never close. I first came through Green River to photograph the post office. I met Maria at the beach that evening. Haven’t really left the beach since. I spent a week on the beach with Cabin-Time last summer. Went to the beach for my birthday with new friends from Epicenter. Visits to the frozen winter beach to look at the moon. Have plans to set the record for consecutive beach visits as soon as its warm enough to read outside. I ended up at the beach here by accident, but my relationship with Green River started in February 2012 when Molly Goldberg and I applied to the Frontier Fellowship. We’ll be here together in April for adventure, intrigue, and a tornado of good old-fashioned fun.
Cyrus: I am the Frontier Fellow for the month of January. While in Green River I will be working with a group of high school students on an Oral History project. I am also seeking out the “Most Interesting Person in Green River,” who I hope to meet and interview for the upcoming Green River Magazine. I first came to Green River in August 2013 as part of the Cabin Time Residency which took place north of town in Desolation Canyon. This is my first time back, and I am looking forward to spending time in town, meeting the good people, and taking walks around town.
Charlotte: I am working at Epicenter this January to help select Fellows for 2014. I originally came to Green River because I wanted to collaborate with Jack and Maria, as I was inspired (via their Vimeo account) by their “LET’S DO THIS!” style work ethic as citizen architects. I also wanted to do an art residency in a remote, desert location, but didn’t want to wait for applications I had submitted to other programs to be processed. So, with Jack and Maria’s support, I decided the fastest way to do a residency of this sort was just to start one. Since January 8, 2011, I have returned to Green River three times: in September, 2011 to oversee the installation of Epicenter’s Antipode, A Site-Specific Billboard On the Frontier, in August, 2013 to participate in Cabin-Time 5, and in January, 2014, to assist with the Fellowship selection process.
Q: What do you do full-time at Epicenter?
Jack: I’m Principal of Housing and the Financial Manager.
Chris: I’m the Community Development Specialist. I assist Green River in a few of its ongoing community development initiatives.
Justin: I’m a part time employee facilitating Epicenter’s separation from PACT into its own nonprofit entity.
Armando: AmeriCorps VISTA, Housing Resources.
Ryann: I’m the Community Development AmeriCorps VISTA. I help out with the Frontier Fellowship program, run the Epicenter Etsy store, manage Social Services, work on our High School ACE Internship program, facilitate Windows on Broadway projects, help at the Boys and Girls Club, and translate documents in and out of Spanish.
Maria: I’m a co-director. I’m the principal over all things arts and culture related. I also work heavily on economic development and affordable housing projects and programs.
Q: Why do you enjoy working at Epicenter?
Jack: It feels like an adventure in my daily life. Gaining community presence and trust provides fulfillment and legitimacy for Epicenter and for me.
Chris: I enjoy working in a collaborative atmosphere with passionate people with differing interests and skill sets. There’s also always an influx of new people, projects, ideas that makes every day at Epicenter different than the one before it.
Justin: Because it rocks my world and this world.
Armando: Well, my colleagues of course. They are all great, passionate people who share my love of the river beach.
Ryann: So many reasons! I love the variety of the tasks I am able to work on at Epicenter. The crew here is dedicated and knowledgeable which makes me excited to work alongside them. I get to speak Spanish and work on creative projects with youth. It is wonderful to get to spend my time working to help a town that I really care about.
Maria: Every day I see the impact of my work, what I’ve co-created. Also, I’m madly in love with the town, the landscape, and the residents of Green River.
Q: How does working at/with Epicenter fit into your big picture/career/life?
Jack: Epicenter serves as an alternative model of professional practice, where architects and designers are able serve as community members helping to navigate and facilitate resolutions, rather than coming in as outside, top-down experts. This model is something I believe in and want to grow to its full form to exist as a compliment to traditional practice.
Nicole: I still think about the manifesto Epicenter had in their “About” section back in 2010 and 2011. When I was teaching design I had my students read it for a different perspective on the practice and they were repeatedly compelled by it. It was passionate, it was naive, it was driven by a fervent desire for something different than what was offered, something fulfilling. And that still resonates with me. I don’t know how to speak about my “big picture” or “career,” but I do know that immersing myself into a place and trying to understand it is a model of inquiry that fits into my life.
Ryann: I wrote my thesis about the Green River Watershed and my family history within it. Coming to work at Epicenter feels like a homecoming. I know this place will always be special to me, and I know I want to continue pursuing work with youth, the arts, and Spanish.
Cyrus: Some of my favorite artists and thinkers are in Green River this winter. Could not have kept me away.
Charlotte: I am working towards having a life that is based part-time in a rural location and part-time in an urban location. Currently, I view Green River as an excellent candidate for my rural base, with New York City, being the best candidate for my urban base. There are ways of working in Green River that are impossible in New York, and there are ways of working in New York that are impossible in Green River. I think there is harmony to be found in this opposition, which is why, artistically, and spiritually, I am seeking a hybrid-life.
Q: What’s your top Green River memory?
Sarah: Rafting Westwater Canyon!
Nicole: I stole this from Ryann but: square dancing at Melon Days 2013.
Mary: I’ve had a good number of best days here. Most of them were at the beach or the kitchen table. The time I won at backgammon, early morning camp chores, the stars in late summer, endless drives to somewhere, listening to records, writing by candlelight, playing cards, the color gold, copy editing, the sound of the train, and every great vista.
Armando: One of my top memories was the whole Summer Summit experience, but a specific memory of Summer Summit took place on the mighty Green River. We had been floating down the Green for a few hours and my turn to man the ducky had finally come. I was nervous when the first set of rapids approached; especially after the river guides yelled at me, “Don’t stop paddling!” I didn’t stop, and those first rapids ended up being a huge thrill and lots of fun.
Ryann: Too many to pick just one! Square dancing in the park during Melon Days is definitely up there. The wind was whipping and I couldn’t stop smiling as my dance partner taught me how to “do-si-do.”
Cyrus: Laying on our backs on a dirt road. Staring up at a moonless sky. Deep in Desolation Canyon.
Charlotte: On August 23, 2013, I spent the entire morning thirty-five feet in the air gold-leafing Andrew Rogers Elements sculpture on Monument Hill.
Maria: My first Melon Days (2009) was also my epic quarter-of-a-century birthday: endless melon, creating the melon monster, and my first weird hippies in the desert party. Additionally, that weekend was the first and last time my brother, Steven, visited me before he passed away. It was such a special weekend for me!
Q: What’s something that you’re really excited about right now?
Jack: Right now, more than ever, every song seems to apply to my life, so it’s hard to say there is any focused excitement. Based on listening to the album repeatedly yesterday, Lorde’s song “Buzzcut Season” seems to best express my current mood, outlook, and life. That’s probably a flash in the pan, but it seems at all times there is an all-consuming song, with a couple others to round out a mini-soundtrack.
Chris: Sandwiches. I recently ate at one of the Bay Area’s celebrated sandwich shops, Ike’s Place, and at Las Vegas’ famous Earl of Sandwich. Both sandwiches were delicious. I look forward to furthering my sandwich eating experiences in the new year.
Justin: The text, Tao-te Ching. It’s wonderful.
Armando: James Blake’s album, Overgrown. I have listened to it since the day it came out, but fell back in love with it pretty recently. Retrograde is probably the best song of 2013.
Mary: Astrology. Never not working on a Zodiac Library of all my friends, colleagues and historical figures.
Ryann: Black Dragon Canyon. I’m super intrigued by the calendar system petroglyphs.
Cyrus: The sunsets this time of year are amazing.
Charlotte: Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” music video, directed by Hype Williams.
Maria: This is easy: Iceland. My life became consumed with all things Iceland a few months ago when I began planning a trip to present the community design work of Epicenter at Design March, Iceland’s annual design conference. I’ve always been fascinated by the films, art, literature, and pop music of Iceland, and now I have a focused reason to continue my research of their culture. My bedside table is packed with books on Iceland’s sagas, folklore, architecture, and history.
Q: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life? Why?
Chris: One of my favorite books is Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis It happens to be about my favorite baseball team, the Oakland A’s, but it’s also a pretty universal story about how an underdog succeeded against all odds. I’d like to think that with enough cunning and daring, an underdog can thrive, and this book demonstrates that.
Justin: St. Francis of Assisi: He’s a great model of simplicity and service and wearing sandals. Honorable Mention: Solanus Casey, Detroit’s very own almost-saint!
Charlotte: One of my current role models is Kennon Kay, the director of agriculture at the Queens County Farm, in New York City, where I work. Her leadership style is infused with un-ending optimism and unintimidating confidence. She is an avid-problem solver and marvelous strategist even though she never acts as though she knows all the answers.
Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be? Why?
Justin: Geographic manipulation (the ability to create things as awesome as Goblin Valley, the Swell, and the Bookcliffs) so there would be even more amazing hiking and adventuring to be had.
Charlotte: Teleportation, as it would allow me to travel back and forth between New York and Green River more easily.
Maria: This is one of my favorite questions to ask people. An answer can tell you a lot about someone. However, I never have a consistent answer for myself. What does that say about me? Maybe I’m still figuring it out. Today, I’m feeling like a greedy cheater, so I’ll go with power mimicry.
Q: What’s your favorite place/space in/near Green River? Why?
Jack: This is probably too overt, but it seems easy to say it’s the river beach. I require fresh water access wherever I live. It’s always been a part of my life. Swasey’s Beach is far enough away to feel a sense of escapism. Every time I’m there, everyone is relaxed, calm, and willing to be goofy. I like the systematic preparations I go through in order to go there, preparing the car with chairs, cooler with ice, site radio for music, salt and vinegar chips, Star magazine, sheets so that you can lay on the sand but not be dirty, cribbage and backgammon, and inner tube floats. A lot of activity, then about eighteen minutes of riding in the car, anticipating if our favorite spot will be available and how cold the water will be.
Sarah: Three Rocks. It’s the highest point in the area and the view is incredible.
Nicole: Three Rocks, because the high school students told me about it. This place is also known as FM Hill to the mom-aged crowd, because you can drive to the top and catch all of the radio stations in town. It’s the highest point in the near Green River vicinity (besides the Book Cliffs) and you get a 360-degree view—the town, the reef, the Book Cliffs, the Lasal Mountains, the Henry Mountains, other mountains…
Justin: The San Rafael Swell. Every time I go there, I go to Vulcan.
Armando: The State Park boat launch, it’s beautiful and you can watch trains pass on the bridge.
Mary: I like the moon from here the best of all.
Ryann: The river. It reminds me of my Uncle, who was the original reason I came to Green River two years ago. I love the history wrapped up in its silty waters, the sense of possibility you feel while floating down into the canyons, and watching it ebb and flow with the seasons.
Charlotte: I really love the White Haus, where Jack Forinash lives. When I am there, to quote the painter Joan Snyder, “I feel as if I’m away from time.”
Q: Who is the most interesting person in Green River and why?
Sarah: JoAnne Chandler. She’s a walking, talking archive of information about Green River.
Nicole: Jo Ann Chandler. I don’t know how she remembers everything, but she does. She doesn’t run the archives, she IS the archives.
Chris: I think Richard Seeley is the most interesting person in Green River. He has a lot of deep knowledge about seemingly disparate topics, including but not limited to: petroglyphs, refrigeration, Mormon history, heating devices, and pie.