Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Changing Human Behavior

A You Tube link came the other day from Steve Self in Durango. This clip features an experiment to get people to use the stairs instead of the escalator. Take a look at the Musical Stairs. It turns out this is a bit of viral marketing from VW who want to make a statement about innovation. The have highlighted several other ideas for changing behaviors at The Fun Theory.

This is a great example of how creative thinking can guide change without hitting people over the head.

Craig Childs at Wade in the Water

Great news! Craig Childs has agreed to be a presenter for the Salida 2010 Artposium: Wade in the Water. Craig is one of my favorite writers. He has written extensively about the canyon lands, water and the fate of the Anasazi. I am re-reading The Secret Knowledge of Water. It's a work that demonstrates how art can give us a new vision for the future. The book celebrates water in a unique way and encourages the reader to think about this precious liquid.

Water is a tough subject because so much of the work lately has been pretty gloomy. There is no question that world-wide our aquifers and surface waters are in serious trouble. However, we believe that creative thinking people can help guide us out of trouble. At Colorado Art Ranch we hope to inspire such people and give others new ways of looking at topics and issues.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I am very humbled and drained by the loss of Jeanne-Claude. Since 1993 she has been an artist of record on all the pieces created by her and Christo. I am well aware of the affect of a partner in any enterprise and it was clear from seeing Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s talk and conversing with them at the Artposium that she was a force, and an inspiration with everything they did. Jeanne-Claude's contributions to the projects is very evident in the films of the Maysles Brothers. Watching the films left me convinced that the projects could not have gained their scope with out her guiding hand.

I hope that Christo can continue with the projects that they had planned as they had intended. There is no question I am a Christo & Jeanne-Claude fan, and I wish the best for Christo and their family.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Colorado Art Ranch at DIA

The Colorado Art Ranch is excited to announce The Denver International Airport Art Program has offered us one of their high profile exhibit spaces January 15 through April 15, 2010. The area on the bridge to concourse A security screening will host an exhibit titled 28 Ideas and features 28 works from those who have been Nomads, speakers, or residents of Colorado Art Ranch. Work will be selected by a jury. Finalists will be selected based on work that demonstrates how the artist uses their passion, skills and knowledge to address, envision, or question human and land issues.

DIA is the fifth busiest airport in the country and 10th busiest in the world. The security screening area sees approximately 40,000 passengers and employees per day. During the length of the exhibit almost 5 million people will pass across the bridge. Now, a lot of those people will be concentrating on their lattes, late flights, angst and irascible children. That leaves maybe one million that will notice the exhibit and 750,000 who will actually look at some or all of it.

We will have the artists work and statements online so visitors can learn more.

The show will go up in early February, 2010, and be up for three months. The letter to artists and RFP is available on our home page.

Ranch Community

Here at the Ranch we've been pondering a redesign of our website. Having completed six Artposia and six residencies, we are bogged down by constant changes to the site. With a redesign we plan to migrate to a data-base driven site. That would make admin changes easier. Blah blah blah.

The more important part is the online community–all of you who do or do not participate physically, and are interested in exploring the intersection of art, science and land/human issues. We would like to have the site do more than report upcoming events and store past events. What if the site could be a meeting space for individuals of all types who are interested in a certain topic? Based on that topic, what if we could link to artists, orgs, scientists, and other thinkers? What if discussions could take place? What if recommendations could be made for future Artposia? What if the community could help envision an actual ranch for residencies and events? Huh? What if?

There is a site out there called Polyvore that allows people to create collages of fashion items. The picture becomes what we used to call a brand board–a reflection of color, mood, tone and image. Now, this site attracts me not a bit. I wear blue jeans and t-shirts unless I am getting dressed up to go to Safeway, and then I might wear a button shirt. The technology, however, is intriguing. What if (yup, another what if?) the viewser could select a topic and then add elements such as: presenters, artists, music, images, books, articles, performances, of videos to that topic? The resulting think-collage could be saved and become a point of discussion for the next person. Would you like this?

What else would you like to see on our site?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carpenter Ranch Residency

The Nature Conservancy in Colorado has agreed to collaborate with Colorado Art Ranch on an annual residency on the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden, Colorado. They previously allowed us to host three artists and an Artposium at the ranch in 2008. The ranch is in a unique setting along the Yampa River in Routt County and boasts a rare narrow-leaf cottonwood forest. The property has the original ranch house and barn that are on the historical registry.

We will begin hosting three visual and literary artists at the ranch in September 2010. These artists will work a few hours each week for the ranch and meet with school groups for one day. The rest of the time they are free to pursue their work and ramble around on the 900 acres of the ranch. There are materials available for sculpture in the bone yard, and birds, beeves and beaves on the property. Information is on the residency section of the Colorado Art Ranch web site.

Friday, November 6, 2009

TAPPED in Golden

Peggy and I went to the screening of TAPPED last night at the Mountain Center in Golden as part of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. This is a movie about all aspects of the bottled water industry in the United States although the effects are global. The film covered issues such as the privatization of water, problems with aquifer depletion, chemicals in the plastics (both in manufacturing and for consumers), and what happens to the bottles when they are empty.

I had been aware of these problems, but not the severity. Nestle's (Perrier and Arrowhead in the west) attempts to control water supplies have been legendary, but they are not alone. Coca-Cola (Aquafina), Pepsi (Dasani), Suez, RWE and Vivendi. See Public Citizen for descriptions.

I also did not fully understand the effects of bisphenol-A. The off-gassing was known to me and that it had been linked to reproductive problems, but that is just the tip of the ice berg. More than 200 animal studies have linked ingesting minute amounts of the
substance to a range of reproductive problems, brain damage, immune deficiencies, metabolic abnormalities, and behaviors like hyperactivity, obesity, learning deficits.

Prior to the screening we had dinner with John Graham and Michele Riggio of Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability who have been fighting Nestle in the Arkansas River Valley. We were also joined by Jim Wilfong, a former Maine legislator, who has been fighting Nestle in Maine for the past six years.

TAPPED is a good example of artists using their skills and passions to react to what they find in the world. What else is being done? Where are the arts being used to address water issues? Email me and let me know.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Metro Design Students and the Ranch

I used to teach graphic design and typography. I enjoyed the interaction with the students and watching to see what their minds could come up with. There was always a mix of students and over time they seemed to form archetypes–the talented, the lazy, the clueless, the hard worker, the disadvantaged. I loved them all. I knew they would not all be designers, but I could teach them to see and to think visually. I could teach them to use their creative abilities to solve problems regardless of what they ended up doing to make a living. The ones who had the drive, passion, and talent would actually become designers. It was all very fulfilling. Unfortunately it was also fulfilling of all my time, and did you know what teaching pays?

I have continued an association with Metro State College of Denver, where I last taught. For three Colorado Art Ranch Artposia I have worked with classes of design students to create graphics. What's So Funny About Art, Sex and Sensibility, and now Wade in the Water have all used student designers. It gives the students a chance to work with a real client with real parameters and real foibles. The winning student gets the added advantage of having printed work for their portfolio.

The latest winner is Marlena Baker. Marlena's work stood out from the other 17 students for it's grace and relationship to the water topic. She will now work with me to develop postcards, posters, a program, fliers, and a banner. The mark she created is at the top of this blog. Congratulations Marlena, and thank you to all the students who worked on this project and the instructor, Jess Wurtzel, who put the project together.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Water Music

Next May Colorado Art Ranch is hosting an Artposium called Wade in the Water. We'll explore art, science and policy as they relate to that most precious liquid–water. Peggy and I have been researching all aspects of water and the people who are doing inspired work related to water. The gospel tune, Wade in the Water, is compelling theme for this Artposium. It is a simple song with layered meaning. The song was sung by slaves in America and some say it is partly advice on eluding tracking dogs. It also suggests troubled times and yet hope. Beyond all that it is a beautiful song that reverberates in the soul and sticks in the mind.

Choosing an Artposium title led me to other songs about water. There are quite a few. I asked musician David Tipton to come up with a list. David can play many instruments, but his focus is on the Chapman Stick. This instrument combines elements of a guitar and synthesizer. It appears to be very complicated guitar, and can play an incredible range of sounds. David performed for two of our Artposia, What's So Funny About Art? and Sex and Sensibility.
David lives in Salida and plays gigs whenever and where ever he can.

Here is David Tipton's water music list in no particular order. Please contact us if you would like to add to it.

Water Music - Handel
Aquas De Marco - Antonio Carlos Jobim
Wade In The Water - Traditional
Washing Of The Water - Peter Gabriel
Slish - Splash - Bobby Darin
Rain - The Beatles
Take Me To The River - Al Green
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
Cool Water - Sons of the Pioneers
When The Levee Breaks - Led Zeppiln
Here Comes The Flood - Peter Gabriel
Water - The Who
Beyond The Sea - Bobby Darin
Hands Across The Water - Paul McCartney
The Water - Feist
Cool, Cool, Water - Beach Boys
Down By The Water - PJ Harvey
Black Water - Doobie Brothers
Smoke On The Water - Deep Purple
Clear Blue Water - Oceanlab
Water - Blue King Brown
Cold Water - Damien Rice
Bring Me Some Water - Melissa Etheridge
Gimmie Some Water - Eddie Money
Water - Brad Paisley
Glass Of Water - Coldplay
Still Waters Run Deep - The Four Tops
The Water Is Wide - Traditional
Water Line - Sage Francis
You Don't Miss Your Water - Craig David
Deep Water - Jewel
Cold Water Music - Aim
Sea Of Love
The Ocean - Led Zeppelin
Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
Lazy River - Hoagy Carmichael
Don't Go Near The Water - Beach Boys
Cry Me A River - Julie London
Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
Waterfalls _ TLC
Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea - Cab Calloway
Singing In The Rain - Gene Kelly
How Deep Is The Ocean - Irving Berlin

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ranch Mission Poem by Marj Hahne

A while back I asked our poet laureate Marj Hahne to react to the Colorado Art Ranch mission statement with a poem. Our mission statement reads:

Many of us are looking for ways to understand and address previously unimagined challenges in the world. Colorado Art Ranch believes that the arts, in collaboration with the sciences, can help solve contemporary land and social issues. Our organization strives to nurture the development of literary, visual and performing artists who ask difficult questions through their work; stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that help envision solution; and build the creative capital in towns throughout Colorado.

It took the board and me only about two months to draft that based on the old version.

Here is what Marj wrote:

Ranch Mission Poem

We are all of two

minds, two

halves of an earth spinning

on the axis of the spine.

When it’s winter, it’s always summer

somewhere else, the seasons a fourfold

way to know the whole

soul of a circle.

A dog chasing its tail.

Capitalism. Forest fires.

Global warming. Rain.

The food chain.

Every man may be an island,

but an island knows it’s part


a mountain knows it’s range;

a grain of sand, desert;

a wave, ocean.

And the ion that begins one thing

is the end of something else, say,

a word: question.

The end of a quest is a question.

Even Leonardo da Vinci knew

his mind wasn’t immutable.

Arte. Sciènza. Connessione. Curiosità.

To keep the feet moving.

To free the Q&A.

To see the Vitruvian Man

in a snow angel.

-Marj Hahne, 2009

A Visit to High Country News

The week before last I stopped at High Country News (HCN) in Paonia. It was a beautiful fall day with snow, rain, and plenty of sunshine–pretty much at the same time. I drove up over McClure Pass and down through bright yellow aspens and eastern cottonwoods. Paonia was quiet and I easily found parking in front of High Country’s offices.

High Country News is a great magazine that covers topics of import for people living in the inter-mountain west. Environmental articles are common (from different perspectives), but there is also a lot of writing about what it is to live in the west and why we like it.

Several years ago I noticed how the things HCN covers are topics that we like to explore at Colorado Art Ranch. (Did you notice how I made that a link incase you want to go to our website?) Issues like land use, water, wild and domestic critters, plants, ecosystems, people, mining and food. I made up my mind to talk to those folks and see where any synergies might lie.

I met with executive director/publisher, Paul Larmer, editor, Jonathon Thompson, and development associate, Alyssa Pinkerton. We had a very pleasant conversation about the magazine, water, land, food and other issues. I told them about our water-themed Artposium next May and other Artposia we’ve hosted on food, sexuality, land, mapping, humor and rivers. These people are very dialed into all these issues. Well, maybe not sexuality. I would really like to tie our explorations in with what High Country News does. We’ll see, they know about us now. The atmosphere was so congenial it made me wish I worked there, then I remembered I don’t like jobs.

Where’s the snow go?

We had a bit of snow here in Arvada since yesterday morning. They say we received about 21 inches. The scene is beautiful. The last 10 inches came without wind so fence posts are piled high and leaning like Marge Simpson’s hair-do. The trees haven’t dropped their leaves yet so they are feeling the burden and some branches are getting pruned.

I am ambivalent about shoveling the snow. I discovered in my Michigan youth that god brought the snow and god will take it away. A philosophy my parents found vexing and disrespectful. It will melt soon, as it always does in this part of Colorado. In two days it will be 60 degrees and the mounds of snow will fall like a high-altitude soufflé.

But where does it go? I have been thinking a lot about water as we plan for the Wade in the Water Artposium. If I were to shovel, I could pile snow on my yard or push it into the street. The yard snow will melt into the ground (and evaporate) before joining the aquifer. It will give our xeric plants a bit of moisture that they need in spite of the season.

The street snow will melt and run directly to Ralston Creek about 100 meters away. I have no idea what aquifer or what its properties are. I also have no idea where Ralston Creek goes, although I suspect it joins Clear Creek and then the Platte River.

I think I’ll ponder this until it all melts. No sense rushing out there and messing with a watershed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Water Artist: Betsy Damon

We have been researching artists and scientists who are passionate about water issues for our upcoming Artposium, Wade in the Water, May 21-23, 2010. Last weekend I read Blue Gold by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. That is, I read about two thirds. I fell under the spell of despair that can accompany a close look at any environmental problem. The facts are overwhelming and it seems like it's almost too late to do anything–aquifers are depleted or polluted, surface water is contaminated, paving has lead to less water retention, and greed is rampant. Whew.

Then Peggy (co-founder of Colorado Art Ranch, researcher, volunteer, spousal-unit) found Betsy Damon. Betsy is an artist whose work and life are a model for the artist as an agent of change. Her work usually involves cleaning or preserving water. She and a team put together an amazing project that addressed the polluted waters of Chengdu China by creating a park/sculpture that cleans the water. "Polluted river water moves through a natural, and artistic treatment system of ponds, filters and flowforms, making the process of cleaning water visible."

She has since founded Keepers of the Waters to help others around the world create similar projects on their polluted waters. Take a look at what they are doing.

This is the sort of thing that makes me see the shining sun, frost on the leaves, in a beautiful world. Now, if we can just get Betsy to be a speaker at Wade in the Water.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Glorious Food….

I asked Katherine Leiner, who spoke at Dinner Stories, to write up here impression of the Artposium held in September 2009 in Delta County. Here is what she had to say:

Food Glorious Food….
Snob that I am about food, many years ago I promised myself that if I could help it I wouldn’t eat with anyone who didn’t fully appreciate food.

what an honor it was for me to be invited to be a presenter at the 2009 Colorado Art Ranch Symposium in Delta County. The weekend was called Dinner Stories. Three days of sublime 80 degree weather with workshops that centered on good food and culminated with the kind of communal spirit that felt like grace.

Our first stop that weekend was for cocktails in Hotchkiss at the Creamery Art Center where we were treated to an array of delicious hors d’oeuvres and art. We had our first taste of Surface Creek Wine and home made goodies from local faire. Then the three presenters were introduced in the order in which they would present the following afternoon, all of us coincidently from big cities. I was up first (from New York City and Durango, Colorado), followed by Howard Dubrovsky (Toronto, Canada) and Catherine Bouzide (Chicago).

The following morning we were all up early and a good number of us had breakfast together before we went off to our workshops, which were all over Delta County. We drove through areas that took us either down into the sensuous sand dunes of the Dominguez Canyon that emptied out into a fertile fruit orchard–New Leaf Fruit–next to the Gunnison River (some call it the Little Grand). There, we learned from the inside out about peach, pear, apricot and cherry fruit and the way growing it has influenced the poetry of Rosemary Trommer whose poetry to the ears is like her sweet pears to the mouth.
My roomie raved about the potatoes she dug at John Cooley’s Rivendell Farm, a biodynamic farm based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. From my own experience, I know that biodynamic is the next best step beyond organic and if one does a taste test –believe me, you can even tell the difference between the two. This great taste allows one to suspend disbelief at the complicated procedures of that kind of farming. Frankly, biodynamic food on a number of levels, is simply divine. For lunch, both groups dined on local food. The group I was in had listened to the poetry of James Wright, Wallace Stevens and Rosemary Trommer as we made our way through the orchard, so for lunch we sat down by the river and while we ate, wrote our own poems.

After Lunch we met at the Stolte Apple Shed where I was first up and spoke rapidly and nervously about my newest book, Young and Hungry: A Road Map to Sustainable Eating, A LOVE STORY. For four years I traveled across America, interviewing over 150 young people between the ages of 20-38 who are involved in some manner of sustainable eating. Fifty of them are profiled in the book with photos. I spoke of what I had learned, how it had given me the understanding I needed in order to allow my youngest child to individuate; how the people I had met had given me hope for the future of food in the United States and how I had ultimately fallen in love.
Howard Dubrovsky took us on a tour of a new kind of cuisine–really an extension of a cuisine we already know, called Molecular Gastronomy and how this new tilt and chemistry–which sometimes changes the way food appears, affects our smells and impacts our tastes. We were treated to examples of this fascinating new way to approach food. Catherine Bouzide calls herself “The Corn Lady” but she is much, much more than that. She is a fine artist who illuminates a deep sense of place through her work, which is as diverse as corn sculpture tables, weavings, high-fired plates, artist books along with a continuous string of story-telling that led us through the delights of her life and work.

For dinner Saturday night, hats off to Jim and Jeanne Durr who are Surface Creek Winery –where we were treated to their selected wine-paring with each course (including local goat cheeses to start), scrumptious food including local elk for the meat eaters, and local vegetables and tempeh for the vegetarians. The whole meal was delectable with dessert made by Nancy Gore from “Just Desserts.”

The next morning we divided up into groups: some going with Howard Dubrovsky to the old time Redlands Mesa Grange where we were carefully instructed by Howard and managed to put together 7 different parts of a perfect meal–beginning with carrot soup, celery slaw, spaetzle
colored by beet juice, onion tart with a pear compote, julienne beet salad over greens, lentils, and a fine grouper ceviche as the center piece. The others went off with either Nancy Gore to make our desserts or Jim and Jeanne Durr who apparently turned grapes into wine –although what we got for lunch was a delightful grape juice!

It was a weekend full of simple delights proving once again that food, glorious food, has a way of uniting us in the deepest manner. Good food and talk about food by its very nature extends into our psyches, making us family.
It was my dream group, and by the end of the weekend, if we hadn’t before, everyone had considered deeply where their food had come from and the life it had before it made its way to our plates. Amen.

By Katherine Leiner