The Edge Effect: re-Imagining the East Jemez Landscape

If you’re in the vicinity of Bandelier National Monument in the next week, check out The Edge Effect: re-Imagining the East Jemez Landscape. You’ll find it at the historic fire lookout tower as you first enter the park and it’s on display until May 6, 2018.

In the foreground is Shawn Skabelund’s element of the exhibit. In the background, artist Kathleen Brennan speaks with an exhibit visitor.

LCI is partnering with a number of organizations to advance the East Jemez Landscape Futures project. This collaborative effort engages scientists and managers, and the wider community, in visioning for what could come next for the severely drought, fire, and flood-impacted areas of the eastern Jemez Mountains.

One of the ways we are reaching out to engage the diverse communities of the Jemez is through story and art. The Edge Effect is a place-based art installation created by artists Kathleen Brennan and Shawn Skabelund as the first Artists in Residence at Bandelier, in partnership with the Pajarito Environmental Education Center.

The Edge Effect (Bandelier National Monument 2018) from Minesh Bacrania on Vimeo.

LCI and the Olajos-Goslow Endowment have taken part in conservation science-art collaboratives several times over the last six years, and this project, like the others, has offered numerous learning opportunities. Here are a few things we’ve discovered:

Breaking out of our silos is both challenging and rewarding.

I suspect you’ve had a moment where you look around the conference table and realize that everyone you’re working with is quite a bit like you– similar socioeconomic status, ethnic and racial background, political persuasion, educational level, etc. (At least as a member of the dominant conservation culture, I’ve run into this a time or two). Humans tend to gravitate toward people with whom we have a lot in common! At LCI we spend a lot of time working with other scientists and resource managers—they’re great; we love it! But working with artists has been an eye-opening way to mix things up. They think about and see the world differently and help us break out of the rut.

Partnerships make the magic happen.

Partnering with Bandelier National Monument, Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) for this artist in residency has been critically important. Want to know a good way to reach a bunch of people outside of your normal audience? Partner with an organization that communicates outside your circle! BAND and PEEC receive visitors from around the world and specialize in making information about ecological and human communities of the Jemez accessible to the broader community. Last weekend we tabled at PEEC’s Earth Day festival, sharing information about The Edge Effect, and got to speak with Los Alamos community members of all ages about this science-art installation and the work that LCI does in general. So fun! In addition to reaching different audiences by partnering with entities who operate in different realms, you might have a chance to partner on a broader set of funding options—cha-ching!

LCI Research Specialist Sasha Stortz and The Nature Conservancy Conservation Coordinator Collin Haffey manning LCI’s Earth Day table at the PEEC festival

Have a vision, find people to work with who are fun and whose work you respect, and then retain flexibility.

This is kind of a no-brainer, but one of the challenges of working with artists as a science-based organization is that you’re going to need to give up some attachment to a particular vision of how things will go. Oh, you went into this project hoping to see a collection of oil landscape paintings on display at the exhibit you’re collaborating on? Too bad! The artist you’ve partnered with has decided that she will be decoupaging fetal pigs to her body and reading crude limericks to passers-by! (JK—that’s never actually happened to us, but we have had artists take their art work in a different direction than we’d expected.) It’s this open-ended possibility that forms the heart of the opportunity you assume in any partnership, but it can also feel a little risky! That said, we’ve always worked with art partners who we respect and who take the group’s ideas in an inspiring, evocative direction.

One of Kathleen Brennan’s transparency maps. An element of the Edge Effect exhibit

So how about y’all? If you’ve participated in a project with an interdisciplinary team, did you walk away with some lessons-learned? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

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