Sample Ingredients for a Place-Based, Long-Term Ecological Reflections Program

(Based on the experience of the Andrews Forest Reflections program)

  • Statement of program and intent –A program should resolve and declare matters of program intent, such as: who is instigating this project, what are its thematic, time, and space scopes, why do it, what is expected of artist/writer participation.  A one-liner statement of intent might be along these lines:  “To encourage artists, writers, and scientists to reflect on long-term ecological change and our human place in the natural world, prompted by the beauty and rigors of the ____ landscape.”  An interesting example of a brochure describing a program can be found here.    The Andrews Forest Reflections program statement can be found here.
  • Invitation to participate and what participation entrails.  This can be a letter to an individual, a blanket statement to all pending residents, a webpage posting of invitation such as invitation to apply for a residency.  Charles Goodrich (charles.goodrich@oregonstate.edu) can provide an example letter of invitation to an individual.  The Andrews version of a general, programmatic webpage invitation can be found here.
  • If Reflection Plots are part of the program, select several using the relevant criteria suggested below.  Describe qualities leading to their selection.  The purpose of the plots is to give some threads of continuity across participating artists, writers, and scientists so that in the future we can see how place and perceptions have changed over time.  Note that some plots may be well contained, singular, and distinctive (e.g., within a patch of big forest), and some features are large landscapes that can be viewed from quite different vantage points.  In that case, the landscape could be considered the “plot” and it is viewed from several locations.
  • Document the Reflection Plots to give visitors step-by-step, descriptive entre to the plots.  One approach is to give several levels of description from the most basic (e.g., “this is a forest of spruce and hemlock established after wildfire in 1868”) to description of the types of larger stories told at the site (e.g., where the plot fits in a regional network of such plots and use in regional contribution to assembly of the global carbon budget).  The visitor can engage with the place with no introduction and then work through the background information one step at a time, seeing how their perceptions change with the addition of more background information.  The Andrews plot descriptions can be read here.
  • Field tour to introduce new residents to the Reflection Plots, give safety tips, etc.  A local person should help the visitor locate and engage with the plots.  The guide may be a scientist or artist/writer, and may be on staff or volunteer or contracted.
  • A critical part of participation in the program is that the artists/writers make their work available for inclusion on the webpage (or other outlets), although there may be a lag in making it public to avoid compromising publication.  Charles Goodrich has examples of correspondence about this.  The North Temperate Lakes and Bonanza Creek LTER programs have examples of contract language for artists.
  • Close-out activity.  This can be a combination selected from many candidate forms, such as: performance (reading, lecture, display and discussion of art pieces, …); one-on-one discussion; video interview plus written comments that are either open-ended or responses to a few questions concerning artist/writer reactions, the context of their work, and how to run the program better; or other forms.  In some cases this material would be posted on the webpage either with or without public access, depending on the artist/writer’s choice.
  • Develop and maintain a system for webpage archiving and sharing of the works and any events/activities that are part of the program (e.g., gallery showing, other public events, workshops, …).  It may eventually be useful to develop site webpages with as many parallels with other sites as possible with the idea of making it easy for web visitors to find material across multiple site webpages.  For documentation of resulting works it would be useful to have a controlled vocabulary for terms describing the medium of the work, subject matter, theme, etc.  This would facilitate later searches and scholarly work.  Below are links to examples of webpages for arts and writing.
  • Both program leaders and residents should be aware that this is part of a larger network of sites/programs with similar activity.  Leaders participate in development of that network and represent their site on the network webpage.  Residents consider residencies at other sites in the network that could lead to exploration of inter-site comparisons and harmonies.  An effective network can help emerging sites by giving examples of success and useful models of how to carry out a program, provide a growing body of work for analysis by scholars, and expose wider audiences to the work.

Reflection Plots – Purposes and Criteria for Selection:

  • Purpose for using Reflection Plots
    • Places that provide a few frames of reference and experience that are common across most or all residents, so we have some common threads when scholars analyze the many works across many arts/humanities contributors or compile an anthology.
    • A central theme is long-term change in the land and our engagements with it, so it is useful to have a few places for this sequential tracking of place and human change.
  • Criteria for selecting Reflection Plots and how they might function as prompts for artists, writers, and others
    • Inspirational places – great vista, towering forest, …
    • Examples of human interactions with the land – e.g., examples of “management”/resource exploitation (e.g., clearcut, selective logging), restoration practices, research plots, …
    • Examples of science approaches to learning about the system – e.g., instrumentation (and researcher trash) on the land, observation vs. experimentation, …
    • Expressions of commitment to long-term learning – e.g., long-term field experimental installation, the headquarters facilities themselves, …

Archival and sharing system for works from a Reflections program.  Candidate models for webpage documentation/sharing of art works and also gallery showing with associated media coverage:

 

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