LEAP Kicks-off “Thinking Wilderness” with Youth Art Show

This year, Questa is joining in the nationwide 50th anniversary celebration of the Wilderness Act. A year-long series of Questa events are in the works on the theme, "Thinking Wilderness" - from film screenings and presentations in April and July, art exhibitions in April and August and NeoRio in September. Many of these events will take place at the OCHO Art & Event Space in downtown Questa.

The series kicks-off on Earth Day with "Seeds: Time Capsules of Wilderness" youth art show at OCHO, exploring the wild world of seeds as seen through young eyes. The show features works by over 270 students, preschool through sixth grade, from Questa Alta Vista Elementary, Rio Costilla Southwest Learning Academy, and Arroyos del Norte Elementary schools. The exhibition is the result of in-class workshops led by LEAP and SEED.

“I don’t think kids tend to see seeds as a vital part of our lives and here they got to touch them and see them up close and I think that was really helpful for them,” says Mariquita Rael, Questa Alta Vista Elementary School Teacher, about the recent program in her classroom.

Before beginning their artworks, students examined seeds under microscopes, smelled seeds they might find in their kitchens, and examined unusual and exotic seeds with their fingers. Next students brought this hands-on experience into a variety of art assignments from pastel scroll drawings, to clay sculpture and books.

“Our young people want to share their work with you. Please come and support them; they are the seeds of the future!” says Claire Coté, project co-coordinator.

The kid-friendly opening reception is scheduled for 5-7 pm on Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22nd at OCHO Event & Art Space (just east of the stoplight, across from the Questa Visitor Center) and will be on display there through May 4; then a selection of works will move to Questa Public Library May 5 – May 22.

The Earth Day event also marks LEAP’s announcement of its "Wilderness Thinkers in Residence Project,” a year-long, online residency series featuring diverse voices and creative works reflecting on Wilderness. The project is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the source of this succinct and poetic definition: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

From local voices, writers and artists to national figures, the residency program is actively seeking participants. There is no limit to how many people can participate; “Thinkers” can be from anywhere; and the only requirement is that creative works (essays, poems, songs, videos, stories, drawings, paintings, interviews etc.) relate to Wilderness. All Wilderness Thinkers’ reflections and creations will be archived on the project website (thinkingwilderness.org) and fifty-two people will be chosen as Featured Thinkers in Residence whose works will be highlighted and posted online weekly from September 2014 - September 2015.

The "Wilderness Thinkers in Residence" project primarily lives online, but appropriately has its roots in Questa. Flanked by two Wilderness Areas, one Wilderness Study Area and the RGDN National Monument, Questa provides an ideal location for the “Thinking Wilderness” year-long events program and launch pad for the “Thinkers in Residence Project.”

Project co-coordinator, Anita McKeown says, “We hope the ripples fan out from Questa across the state, nationally and internationally, engaging participants and audiences in a unique year long reflection and debate on Wilderness in the 21st Century.”

The “Thinking Wilderness” event series continues through the summer and fall. Next on the agenda is an open call to artists to submit wilderness-themed works to OCHO’s summer open exhibition “Thinking Wilderness,” scheduled for August.  The diverse collaborative partnership behind this project is spearheaded by LEAP (Land Experience and Art of Place) and includes OCHO Art & Event Space, Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office, Carson National Forest and the Questa Visitor Center/Village of Questa as well as other supporting partners.

LEAP is an artist-run organization that creates and hosts events, educational opportunities, adventures and residencies for artists, students and the public to explore the richness and diversity of the natural and cultural ecology of the communities of Northern NM and beyond. LEAP has been around since 2009 and is known for its annual NeoRio fall art event and associated spring educational programs.

See www.thinkingwilderness.org for local event details and how to become a Wilderness Thinker in Residence, email thinkingwilderness@gmail.com or call 575-586-2362.