Art & Activism
Artists hold the potential to bring creative energy to issues and redefine public space in ways that stymie the scientist or the environmentalist and change the matter of fact. They are able to expose pertinent questions and bring light to issues by merely putting a new perspective on them without implying judgement or shame, thus safely bringing together wide and diverse interest and attention.
Water Matters Lecture Series
In New Mexico, water is scarce and climate change is further exacerbating an already difficult water situation. On an almost daily basis, critical decisions about the future of water – including who will have access to how much of it and how clean (or not) it will be – are being made; yet many, if not most New Mexicans take their access to clean, free-flowing water for granted. The “Water Matters” Lecture Series was established to educate New Mexicans about water and water-related issues and to raise awareness about the role water plays in our lives, not just on a survival level, but aesthetically, spiritually, and recreationally. Lecturers to date have included a range of perspectives, including the “Rivers Run Through Us’ team of women artists who enacted a theatrical poetry piece about the Santa Fe watershed; anthropologist, Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez, speaking on “Science & Acequia Activism”; storyteller Cisco Guevara, who entertained with tales of “Love & Loss on the River”; Dr. Melissa Savage who spoke on river otters in New Mexico; E.J. Levy (winner of the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award) who read from a coming-of-age memoir on her time in the rainforest; geologist Paul Bauer, who provided a slide show on “Rocks and Rapids down the Northern Rio Grande”; artist Scott Moore of the “Beautiful Midden” project, who provided a video, as well as found and recycled art objects in relation to his art & restoration project on the Rio Pueblo de Taos; a panel of three Pueblo women speaking about their perspectives on water; and Senator Peter Wirth on “Drought, Climate Change, and the New Mexico Economy,” to offer only a few examples.
Santa Fe Radio Cafe with Mary-Charlotte: Interviews with Lecture Series speakers
Click on the name to hear the interview.
Lee Lee - Artist, Lee Lee on her work “Plastic Ocean: An Interactive Installation”. March 17, 2014
Craig Allen - Research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Station Leader of the Jemez Mountains Field Station based at Bandelier National Monument, on “Fires, Floods, & Climate Change in Relation to New Mexico’s Forests,”. October 14, 2014
Michael Coca - Solar architectural designer, acequia activist, and president of Amigos Bravos, on “Solar Dew Ponds & Greenhouses: A Proposal For Grassroots Resilience In Response To Climate Change”. November 19, 2013
Melissa Savage - Ecologist and geographer, retired professor from the UCLA Department of Geography, on "Water Dogs: the Otters in New Mexico and Around the World". August 19, 2013
William Brown - Retired earth scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and currently a consultant on global warming, climate change, and energy science, technology, policy and economics, on his lecture “Climate Change and the Water and Energy Future of New Mexico”. July 15, 2013
Ellen Wohl - Professor of Geology at Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, on "Beavers: Architects & Engineers – Our Last Best Hope for Healthy Headwater Streams in the Face of Climate Change". March 19, 2013
Beautiful Midden Project
For detailed information on this project, please visit the Beautiful Midden Project website at www.beautifulmidden.org
Amigos Bravos is partnering with the Beautiful Midden Project in using art and education to inspire not only the people who are already eager to find constructive channels for acting on behalf of local wild and semi-wild places, but also the population that is alienated, disempowered or simply unaware of the damaging affects of degradation. The project provides a deep synergistic link between education, the arts and ecosystem restoration, an approach that we believe holds enormous potential for change.
The illegal dumping of trash and firing of lead based ammunitions into arroyos, across the mesas, along the rivers and in riparian zones has been a major problem throughout Taos County, New Mexico for many years. One site of intensely concentrated dumping is located at the end of County Road 110 south of Taos, in the area where the Rio Pueblo de Taos meets the Rio Grande. Many of the dumped materials are physical hazards potentially leading to entrapment of wildlife in addition to being toxic pollutants. Trash and its correlated toxins end up in the Rio Pueblo de Taos, then in the Rio Grande, and then downstream in reservoirs and irrigation systems, inevitably affecting the health of our public water and food sources.
The word “midden” is an archeological term that refers to a refuse heap. Beautiful Midden is by nature transformative. It is a collaborative arts and education initiative designed to unite the community in creatively addressing the systemic social issues that underlie causes of environmental degradation.
2013 presents a special opportunity to take the Beautiful Midden project to its next level of action. Beautiful Midden began as a featured project of ISEA2012, an international art conference that focused on the subject of “machine wilderness” (http://socialmedia.hpc.unm.edu/isea2012/). The kickoff was the installation of a can phone that stretched across the expanse of a trash filled arroyo, positioned as an artistic gesture of intent to begin a conversation with the community. The string of the can phone created an aeolian harp, using the natural force of the wind to create an etherial music that has indeed inspired many poignant conversations between individuals of all ages and walks of life. An exhibition of photographs, video and displays of re-contextualized “artifacts” found at the site were displayed at a gallery of the University of New Mexico and drew the attention of ISEA conference participants, UNM art students and members of the general public. As a healing gesture, a day-long vigil was hosted at the site and invited the people of Taos to bring what they do as offerings to the place. Songs, paintings, prayers, dances, and simple contemplative acts saw the sunset on that day.
Presentations of the project have been done at the Amigos Bravos conference “Spend it like Water” at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque , Pecha Kucha night at the Penasco theater, and at the ISEA Housing Symposium at UNM Taos.
A documentary has since been produced (watch it at http://vimeo.com/53624955) to outline the project and is currently on display at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. A free public showing of the documentary took place on November 10, 2012 in the auditorium of the Harwood, followed by a provocative panel discussion of the project. It involved educators, community organizers, local residents from diverse backgrounds, County commissioners, environmentalists and artists.
The pictures below and to the right illustrate the trash problem at the site, the string can phone and the ISEA artwork made from materials found in the canyon.
Writing for the Rio