Wilderness Workshop Artists Connect Creativity and Environmental Advocacy
In a watershed surrounded by national forest and wilderness, steeped in both prosperity and nonprofit initiatives, it would be easy to presume that money flows from one to the other as freely as the rivers and streams within. But this isn’t always the case.
“Support for the arts doesn’t necessarily translate to support for the environment,” points out Rebecca Mirsky, development and program director of Wilderness Workshop’s Artist in Wilderness (AIW) program. In connecting the arts with wilderness advocacy, she says that AIW engenders “public support in a far softer way, versus asking people to sign a petition or call a legislator. Creative people might bring unexpected new perspectives on our wild lands, and their creations could engage a new circle of Wilderness Workshop supporters.”
Board member Mary Dominick created AIW in 2008. The program commemorates Dominick’s teacher and longtime conservationist, artist, and Wilderness Workshop co-founder, Dotty Fox. Fox shared her love of the wild by teaching watercolor classes at Colorado Mountain College, and her efforts helped secure extensive wilderness protection in our region—including the preservation of the Hunter-Fryingpan, Collegiate Peaks, Raggeds, and Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness areas.
AIW began with a lone artist in wilderness—one of Fox’s students, actually. Over the next eight years, word spread and support for the program grew. In 2017, five artists selected from a pool of over 130 will enjoy week-long immersive experiences this summer. Thanks to locals opening their seasonal, remote cabins, artists will savor time, place, and solitude, exploring their mediums and processes in the wild lands that the organization works to protect.
Over the years, AIW has attracted artists from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, and Costa Rica. One of this year’s artists, Brooks Salzwedel, hails from the glass and steel canyons of Los Angeles.
“During my residency, I hope to capture the essence of the land within my drawings. Is the landscape open, with a sense of loneliness?” he asks. “Or is it forested, with a feeling of closeness to the animals and plants? I hope to find new ways of adding natural color to my work. I’d also like to find the details of the native trees, like ponderosas, juniper, spruce, and aspens.”
Salzwedel’s brooding pieces inspire pause. He explains that his monochromatic works explore “the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways humankind has selfishly changed the landscape for better or worse.” His self-created process involving an atypical assemblage of materials results in “curios” Salzwedel describes as “haunted, dreamlike visions of otherworldly landscapes.”
“I recently did a series of drawings devoted to national parks and forests. One of the drawings was of the Colorado Rockies. Since that drawing,” he says, “I knew I had to go there someday.” Salzwedel will live, breathe, and work in them this summer.
AIW will also welcome Land + Shelter architect and Carbondale artist Andrea Korber this summer. Though Korber’s professional world unfolds in three dimensions of a grand scale, she seeks in her artistic life to express the somatic experience of landscape within the constraints of two dimensions.
“A rustle of grass, the moment the light turns blue before the sun sets for the night, a gust of wind passing through tough shrubs, or just a second when everything—even the sun–is still. It’s hard to tell if these moments are personal or universal, because when a wet field feels electric—so do I,” she reveals.
“Maps and landscape patterns have long been a source of inspiration for my work…I intend to work on a body of work inspired by pastures and the feelings they possess. The energy these places give off can be joyful, chilly, welcoming, lazy, brutal, teeming, or lonely. I drive by and want to meditate on what a pasture is doing,” Korber reflects. “I’m thrilled and grateful to have the chance.”
It is clear in the words of artists near and far that AIW has tapped the value of wilderness through creative expression. AIW succeeds in part through the hospitality of locals gifting time in their getaway cabins to artists in residence. Karin Teague is one such benefactor. “It is always a pleasure and privilege to share our magnificent, wild backyard with visitors, but it is especially wonderful to invite an artist, who will deeply see and feel the landscape, to spend multiple days there. It is win-win-win.”
To offer your cabin in or adjacent to the wild lands that Wilderness Workshop protects, contact Rebecca@wildernessworkshop.org.