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NeoRio 2015: Success + Gratitude!

October 20, 2015


It’s sunset on Saturday, September 12th 2015 and a sizable group of curious and enthusiastic participants are gathered at Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers on the edge of the gorge for the seventh annual NeoRio: confluence of art and environments. This year’s event is curated as part of the “Luz es Vida – Light is Life” event series. The air is still; the clouds are magnificent and the light is delicate and warm.  It feels like we are sitting in the “living room” of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  NeoRio 2015 featured artist, Ethan Jackson is giving a talk about his work with light, optics, photography and place-related imagery. Two new works by Ethan are installed on site for the event.


The sun is powering these installations as well as the projector and small sound system for the artist talk via the PPC Solar Trailer, donated for the event.


Audience members have just finished a traditional Northern NM dinner cooked by Kathy Morsell with local ingredients grown just down the road at Cerro Vista Farms. With full bellies, audience members lean into the presentation.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, visitors have been frequenting Ethan Jackson’s walk-in Camera Obscrura, installed in a transformed picnic shelter, artfully wrapped in fabric to block out light. (The metal architecture isaltered using “tension and wedging” woodworking methods – no screws.) The only light coming into the structure is through special lenses installed in the East and West walls, which capture the image of the landscape outside, turn it upside down and project it onto the opposite wall inside.

As darkness falls Ethan concludes his artist talk, turns on his nighttime interactive video installation and the campfire begins to glow. People gather around the video piece, installed in another picnic structure on the opposite end of the campsite. Video is projected from the ceiling onto a cylindrical mirror which reflects the image onto the ground in a mesmerizing, round distortion. The video is aerial footage of the Rio Grande gorge shot just days before from a little yellow plane. People enter into the projection field, put objections into it, dance in it. Music played by Michael Rael, Tim Long and Jonathan Hutchison emanates from the crowd gathered around the campfire. Kids dance and adults sing along.

Every NeoRio event is a unique collaboration of artists, area nonprofits, organizations, businesses and our hosts, the Bureau of Land Management Taos Field Office. This growing circle of collaboration and support is an important part of NeoRio and LEAP’s work and we hope to continue to enrich and strengthen these relationships through each project and event.

On this note, I want to acknowledge and thank two important past collaborators: the late BLM Ranger extraordinaire, Aron Rael, with whom I cooked up this event seven years ago. And  John Wenger, for his creative vision, guidance and support in establishing NeoRio. Without their collaborative vision and dedication to this beautiful place, we would not be here today.

A deep thank you to the many dedicated individuals for their time and labor given to make the event a success!

Huge thanks go to:

  • Ethan Jackson, our featured artist, for sharing his new works at the event and for offering his engaging artist talk on light in his own arts practice. Although we offer NeoRio a small stipend to help cover supplies and travel, their time and expertise are donated. With out this generosity the past seven NeoRio events would not have been possible.
  • Chris Coté for assisting with Ethan’s installations, for providing fire wood for the campfire and shlepping equipment to and from Wild Rivers.
  • Timothy and Connie Long for providing the tents for the event as well as shlepping equipment and helping with set-up and clean-up down to the last details.
  • Joan Long for providing lunch for our NeoRio volunteers as well as sewing decorative flags for the event, as well as hours spent on set-up and take-down.
  • Kathy Morsell and her wonderful volunteers and Cerro Vista Farm Interns. With the help of Farmer Daniel Carmona’s beautiful veggies, we made the transition to a truly local feast this year. Thank you to all of them for the wonderful and symbolic meal!  Without light we don’t eat and without food we don’t live.
  • Gaea McGahee for set-up and take down of the art installations as well as helping with food coordination and preparation.
  • Jeff, one of Cerro Vista Farm’s interns, for great help with food and set-up.
  • Dillie Martinez and Flavio for the delicious biscochitos and Flavio’s sister for the homemade tortillas.
  • Big thanks to all BLM staff – most especially John Bailey, Joseph Leon and all the helpful BLM volunteers for hosting the event and on-the-ground support.
  • PPC Solar for generously providing solar electricity to power the event.
  • Alberta Bouyer, Questa Tourism director, for PR and event promotion support and many detail-related conversations.
  • Kevin Lehto, Forest Service Ranger for help with set-up.
  • Musicians, Jonathan Hutchison, Tim Long and Michael Rael for providing wonderful tunes for the evening.
  • Morning clean-up crew Johnny and Carolina and Joan Eilers and Charlie Deans.

Our sincere thanks also go to the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF), Questa Mine Community Fund, and the many individual donors as well as local businesses and “Luz es Vida” coalition partners (especially OCHO and our parent organization, Localogy) for supporting the event. With out the support of grants and donations this annual event would not be possible.

And last, but certainly not least, thank you to everyone who came to experience and participate in the the event! Your presence and participation provided the alchemy that made it a success. Let’s do it again next year! Come celebrate the confluence of art and environments next year at Montoso Campground on the evening of September 17th at Wild Rivers in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for NeoRio 2016.

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