Restoration as an Embodied Arts Practice: a Collaboration with the University of New Mexico's Land Arts of the American West Program.
Photo by: Colin Treiber
Land Arts of the American West, at the University of New Mexico, is an ongoing experiment and
interdisciplinary model for creative and critical arts pedagogy based in place. This program puts
students in direct contact with place of the American Southwest through Field Investigations,
Research, Creative Production, and Public Presentation/Dissemination. During the program,
students travel extensively throughout the Southwest for up to 50 days, while camping and
investigating environmental sites, human habitation systems, and questions facing the region.
Methodologies include the melding of direct experience, critical research, creative inquiry,
interdisciplinary collaboration, and artistic production. Recent topics of investigations have
focused on Watershed, US/Mexico Border, Foodshed, Utopian Architecture, Land Use, Eminent
Domain, Resource Extraction and Rights of Nature.
In October 2017, Land Arts students will visit Patagonia, AZ for one week to consider Rights of
Nature in the U.S./Mexico borderlands. Students will collaborate with Borderlands Restoration to
investigate the various forces of movement that have a hand in shaping both the physical and
cultural landscapes of this unique region- from hydrology and population fluctuations, to
migrations of flora and fauna, and other human activities that impact land (i.e. extractive
industries or the increased presence of Border Patrol). The group will examine how humans
inevitably have a hand in impacting these natural movements, such as altering geomorphology
or causing loss of habitat through building projects, and will inquire about ways to intentionally
make this impact restorative rather than degenerative. Finally, students will investigate the role
of land stewardship work as a means of giving visibility and voice to life which cannot demand
its rights in a language intelligible to humans. Active engagement in a collaborative habitat and
watershed restoration project will provide an embodied experience of the landscape and
experimentation with ecological restoration as a form of site specific art.
Photos by: Collin Treiber
This month Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute launched its inaugural Institute Forum, an open community meeting for sharing ideas, creativity, and vision towards advancing the creation of a restoration economy in the bi-national Borderlands. The forum is open to all community members, visitors, and practitioners alike with the aim of advancing the mission, vision, and principles of the institute, exploring possibilities for creative collaborations, community-based partnerships, and as a way for community members to inspire, shape, and participate in the great work happening across the region.
Held up at the Institute offices at Old Main, the first Forum brought together a diverse group of people including institute members and community members from the Patagonia area, Nogales, other border towns in Mexico, and around the United States and Canada. It was a much needed chance for those who gathered to celebrate the formal launching of the Institute Forum, reflect upon successes to date, and explore ways to advance the field-based work of the institute.
The meeting began by Joshua Cubista, Interim Institute Director, providing an overview of the development of the institute thus far, including the recent launch of the first Ecological Restoration & Applied Restoration Economy Field School. Ron Pulliam, BRLI Board Member and Institute Sr.Fellow, then provided a visionary talk on the aims of a restoration economy, followed by dynamic and engaging small group discussions focused upon a variety of questions to help shape future forum meetings, advance projects and programs across the region, and explore key elements of the vision of a restoration economy in action.
An unavoidable reality of the Borderlands, a wall spanning 700 miles of the US-Mexico border and costing an average of $16 million USD per mile. Its primary objectives - inhibiting terrorism, drug trafficking, and human migration, but its collateral impacts have been are the devastation of wildlife, families, and the land.
Driving from Nogales to Janos, we looked at the North with Southern eyes and enjoyed honest discussions with our counterparts. We learned about the challenges of conservation work in Mexico - a lack of funding, law enforcement, a depressed (eco)-tourism industry and competing land uses. Despite this reality, the people and organizations we met and learned from demonstrated a great deal of ingenuity and generosity. With them, we explored ways to align economic and ecologic aims while offering dignified livelihoods to people.
First days in the books for the Field School! The team kicked things off in the San Rafael Valley learning more about the challenges, wildlife, and story of the borderlands. They examined dried creek beds, discussed the positive impacts of intentional cattle grazing, and explored a section of the Santa Cruz river that beavers have returned to! The second day was spent exploring parts of the Wildlife Corridor just north of Patagonia, checking wildlife cameras, learning about rock structures built to combat erosion, and watching harvester ants gather seeds.
On Wednesday, the team headed to Mexico. Schedule includes working on a restoration project on Mexico's portion of the Santa Cruz River, measuring the impacts of rangeland management on ecosystem services and learning about restorative enterprises restoring grasslands while producing saleable and tasty Sotol. We expect a fun-filled and educative week spent exploring the borderlands and the restoration economy growing here.
The Restoration Economy begins with local skills and know-how. Deep Dirt Farm Institute, LLC is playing a role in growing the restoration economy of Patagonia through organizing workshops to train staff, interns and local volunteers in the art and practice of masonry and adobe construction.
Updates, News, and Resources from BRLI and Our Partners