Arts in Society Proposal - INSPIRED: Art at Work

Please provide a brief 3-sentence synopsis of your project.

INSPIRED: Art at Work brings three artists to Paonia, CO, in summer 2018 for a two-month residency. Working closely with local artists, scientists, and policy makers, they will create socially-engaged artworks that address preservation of culture, environment, and values under threat by fracking, development, and loss of jobs. These collaborations and a final symposium are designed to broadly engage the community and promote dialog about concerns vital to the future of this rural area.

Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?

The North Fork Valley (NFV) is home to the largest number of organic farms, ranches, orchards, and vineyards in Colorado. It was, historically, home to coal miners, but with the recent closing of local mines, the economy is diversifying and becoming a center for sustainable energy and agro-tourism. Delta County ranks 44th out of 64 counties in Colorado in median household income. Additionally, the valley is under pressure for extensive natural gas extraction, endangering our air and water quality and our way of life. BLM put 30,000 acres of land up for lease and local citizens came together to fight this threat to our agricultural base and food-focused endeavors.

These are some of the problems our community faces and led to the project INSPIRED: Art at Work. This project is an innovative way to help bring the diverse elements of our community together to dialog about difficult social and economic issues and potential solutions through socially-engaged art production. Throughout Colorado and our nation, rural communities are working to preserve our incredible natural resources while confronting difficult economic and social needs. Through collaboration, we have the opportunity to raise awareness of the issues faced by many small towns and share how our particular valley might address them through art.

INSPIRED: Art at Work will bring together three artists (literary, visual, and performance) for a two-month residency at Elsewhere Studios, as well as two locally-residing artists. They will all collaborate with local organizations, community members, scientists, and policy makers. Elsewhere Studios, an artist residency program in Paonia, will oversee the project and a project manager will be hired to facilitate it. The local partner organizations are Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC), Western Colorado Conservation Center, Farm and Food Alliance, Solar Energy International, and the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition.

Through a series of meetings/discussions, the artists and community members will define a particular issue or set of issues (such as, the impact of fracking, Gunnison River health, air quality, changing energy resources, the loss of coal mining jobs, changing cultural norms, etc.) Using creative practices and community engagement they will target and address selected environmental, cultural, social, and economic issues vital to preserving the natural world and the quality of life and sense of place in the North Fork Valley. Although these works will address a unique geographical and cultural landscape, the issues are universal with national and international pertinence.

We envision the final projects being displayed/experienced in locations throughout the North Fork Valley. The artists will also have the opportunity to speak about their work and engage in public discussions about the ideas and process of making socially-engaged art while they are in-residence at Elsewhere—a great benefit to local artists and community members. The project will culminate in a symposium at Paradise Theater and/or Blue Sage Center for the Arts, featuring the artists and local and national speakers. The work produced during the collaboration will be highlighted along with readings, films, music, live art, and tours of the valley to visit art installations, farms, and wineries.

The selected artists will receive both living and studio space at Elsewhere Studios, stipends, and a materials budget. They will be supported in engaging with the local partnering organizations and collaborating with each other to the extent they choose.

Tell us about your community. (You may copy and paste from your original application if nothing has changed but please be sure to answer the questions included in the description below)

-Tell us about your community and how they will be engaged by this project. 
Tell us how this artwork / process is relevant to the community you are engaging? Are there other initiatives or projects that your project draws on or supports?
Describe how the project will strive for inclusivity in its planning and implementation.
If applicable, tell us about your organization and how this project furthers the mission of your organization.

The North Fork Valley of Delta County, CO consists of three small towns, Paonia, (pop 1500), Hotchkiss (pop 950), and Crawford (pop 450) with a total population for the valley of about 7000. It is remote—an hour and half drive from Grand Junction, the closest town of any size. The nearest stoplight is a half hour away.

“The North Fork Valley is filled with people who take pride in taking care of themselves, their neighbors, and the larger community. The fierce spirit of the West and of independence is alive and well. It is reflected in the lines carved in people’s faces and hands as they work the land to grow food and livestock feed, mine for coal, and raise animals for food. It can be found in the predominant “git ‘er done” work ethic, the abundance of artists and entrepreneurs, tight social and religious networks, committed volunteerism and the diverse lifestyles of the people who call the North Fork Valley home.” (What Matters Most in the North Fork Valley, Heart and Soul Project). Each INSPIRED: Art at Work artist will receive a copy of the white paper from this recent project, funded by the Orton Family Foundation. The project identified the stakeholders and shared values of the community and will provide context for the visiting artists and be used as a base of information. (

For having such a small population, the NFV is blessed to have a great number of creatives of all disciplines—writers, performance artists, visual artists, composers—as well as businesses and organizations supporting the arts. The North Fork Valley Creative Coalition (NFVCC) was founded in 2012 by local artists interested in strengthening a balanced economy through the creative sector. NFVCC now manages the North Fork Valley Creative District, certified by the State of Colorado. One of our partner organizations, it is a great resource for networking with and engaging the creative sector. (

This is a community that cares and wants to be proactive about where it is going, but has little opportunity to engage in productive consideration or brainstorming solutions for social/economic challenges. INSPIRED: Art at Work will encourage residents to engage in planning, collaborative work with artists, educational events with local specialists, and the final symposium showcasing the creative output of the project.

The project will strive for inclusivity by inviting community members from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints—ranchers, farmers, artists, small business owners, government officials, ex-coal miners, etc. We will reach out to people of differing ages, backgrounds, and education through social media, radio interviews, press releases, and presentations to community groups. Throughout the two months, local citizens will have multiple opportunities to participate in the project.

Elsewhere Studios’ vision is to transform lives and the culture of communities through the arts. This project is in alignment with this vision and will further our mission to bridge local culture and global communities by providing a unique and fertile landscape that nurtures the artist and their processes through focused time and space.

The artists will share their work and process with the community through bimonthly events at Elsewhere Studios—Meet and Greets, talks, open studios, exhibitions, readings, and performances. The partner organizations will offer opportunities for the artists and local community to exchange ideas and opinions.

Please list the names of the artists involved in the project. Why did you choose them and what are their roles in the project? If you have not yet chosen an artist to work with, please include description and process for artist selection.  

Artists for INSPIRED: Art at Work will be chosen through a competitive process in January 2018. An artist selection team of professional artists, representatives from the participating organizations, and past Elsewhere residents will be formed and a Call for Proposals will be distributed in summer/fall of 2017. The selection team will set the selection criteria, review applications, conduct interviews, and select artists. Three artists will be chosen for two-month long residencies to take place in July and August of 2018—one literary artist, one visual artist and one performing artist. In addition, two local artists will be chosen to participate. All artists will be given background information about the community and information about the partnering organizations. They will submit bios, artist statements, CVs, examples of past work, and proposals identifying how they might use the resources of the partnering organizations, propose to engage the community in their work, and envision a potential outcome of their projects. The Call for Proposals will be promoted through Alliance of Artists Communities, Res Artis, postings at universities, Elsewhere’s website and social media, other residency programs, and by our partner organizations.

Timeline for artist selection process:

June 2017 – Artist Selection Team formed

July-October – Marketing and Call for Proposals

November – Application deadline, proposals reviewed

January, 2018 – Selected artists notified

Artist Bios have been submitted as an example of past Elsewhere artist residents who have done socially engaged projects in our community.

Please list the names of partnering organizations or individuals. Why did you choose them? What is their role in the project?

If a partner has not yet confirmed participation, please note this and describe how the project will be successful if that partnership is unsuccessful.

The partnering organizations were chosen because they are actively involved in promoting and sustaining a healthy and vibrant future for our valley. They have all committed to participating in the project:

Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC)

Western Colorado Conservation Center

Farm and Food Alliance

Solar Energy International

North Fork Valley Creative Coalition

Most of the organizations have agreed to assign a representative to the Project Team to

help finalize the project, create a timeline, plan community involvement, select the specialists, and help plan the ending symposium. All organizations will be resources to the artists and specialists, opening their facilities, sharing information, providing access to their data, and helping to connect artists to individuals who can assist them. In addition, each organization will promote the residencies and will help with networking and marketing the project. They will encourage involvement of their members/ constituents and the larger community. Some of the organizations have also agreed to participate on the Artist Selection Team.

The Specialists will be available as consultants to the artists and will conduct educational programs for the public in conjunction with the art projects. Pete Kolbenschlag, Executive Director of Farm and Food Alliance and a strategic consultant on public lands, oil and gas, has agreed to participate in the project. The other specialists will be chosen by the Project Team. Possibilities include:

Dr. Carol Kwiatkowski, Executive Director, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

David Inouye, Biologist

Dr. Michael Soule, Biologist

Ralph D’Alessandro, Delta Conservation District

Dr. David Noe, Geologist

Project purpose/intent.

- Who or what do you hope to influence through this project? What change do you want to see?

- How will this project deploy arts and culture to influence this challenge or opportunity?

- How will you know you have been successful?

- How will you document the process and final work?

Through this project we will:

The artworks are the catalysts for significant exchange of ideas, values, and future dreams. Working together to create a work of art is a community-building endeavor, like placing bricks side-by-side to create a walkway all can walk upon. In the artistic process of making or performing—barriers often disintegrate and friends are made while working together.

Successful outcomes will be measured by:

The project will be videotaped from beginning to ending symposium. A website and Facebook page for the project will document the works in progress. Press will receive releases throughout the process, invitations to all events, and conduct interviews with participants. PSA’s and interviews will be aired through our local radio station, KVNF, broadcasted throughout Western Colorado.