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NeoRio 2018: Roots ~ Raices

Saturday, September 15, 4 – 9 pm
Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

The reason we’re here….the gorgeous Gorge!

Join us for the 10th annual NeoRio outdoor contemporary art and community event! This year, artists and collaborators delve into the theme of “Roots ~ Raices,” exploring various angles – botanical, cultural, metaphorical and beyond. Come discover art installations along the rim of the sublime Rio Grande gorge, related, family-friendly, hands-on activities, the afternoon music and poetry salon, a delicious, locally-sourced, northern NM fall feast, artist talks, music around an evening campfire and more.

Google map to Montoso Campground HERE.

Make reservations on the Taos-NeoRio-PASEO Shuttle HERE.

NeoRio press releases are available here: NeoRio 2018 PR-Short  and NeoRio 2018 PR-Long.

Learn more about NeoRio Sponsorship levels and benefits HERE!
Contact Claire to make a donation or volunteer at the event: (575)224-9066 or emailforleap(at)

NeoRio 2018 Schedule, Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers:
4 pm: Roots-Inspired Art Installations and Activities
5 pm: Poetry and Music Salon
6 pm: Farm-to-Table Feast and Music by Kate Mann and Mark Dudrow
7 pm: Artist Talks by NeoRio Featured Artists
8 pm: Campfire and Music (bring an instrument!)

Click on images below to see larger view

Each year at NeoRio participants at Wild Rivers experience the ‘confluence of art and environments’ through the lens of each year’s theme.

“Bringing the arts and the land together gives voice to the voiceless and ears to those who are ready to listen,” says Deborah Pender Hutchison, NeoRio attendee and poet in the NeoRio 2017 “Music and Poetry Salon.”

This year’s theme, Roots ~ Raices, “digs deeper” into the botanical strand of recent years – Pollination in 2016 and Seeds ~ Semillas in 2017. Roots are mysterious, complex, often unseen, but also innate and essential. This year’s theme is a little different because it intentionally encourages deep, metaphorical exploration and interpretation, invoking concepts of cultural heritage and place as well as other manifestations to be discovered throughout the afternoon and evening at NeoRio.

The branching form of roots is a natural growth pattern as well as a form of distribution and collection, following paths of least resistance. These root-like forms show up underground, but also as watersheds, circulatory systems and family heritage diagrams. Part of this theme is a call to “dig-in”; to discover and explore our own roots, and plant new ones; to learn, understand, and celebrate our own heritage, local cultural and agricultural practices as well as the native plants and ecosystems in Northern NM and beyond. Art installations and activities at NeoRio 2018 will begin to “unpack” this very full, poignant and broad-reaching theme in both literal and metaphorical ways.

“NeoRio gives us an opportunity to see the natural world through the eyes of gifted, creative artists, and their visions take turns surprising, amazing, or entertaining me,” muses Monument Manager, John Bailey, reflecting on the annual event.

This year event will host featured artists, Scott Sutton, Kacie Smith and UNM students of the immersive Land Arts of the American West program. NeoRio contributing artists are Martha Shepp and Nicholette Jean Codding. (Artist and project details below.)

NeoRio is organized by LEAP (Land, Experience and Art of Place) in partnership with the new Questa Creative Council, the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office and others.  

Claire Coté, LEAP director, says, “At NeoRio we hope people experience a kind of alchemy in the ‘confluence of art and environments.’ NeoRio is a recipe of sorts combining the ingredients of art, music, poetry, lands, rivers, cultures, community, food and an interesting annual theme to create a special experience for our guests and all involved.”

LEAP (a program of Local nonprofit Localogy), brings innovative artists to the monument each autumn through it’s cornerstone event, NeoRio, transforming the Montoso Campground with surprising, site-specific art amid the piñon and cliffs. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and Trails Acts, and will be celebrated at NeoRio along with National Public Lands Day.

Please carpool if you can; parking is limited and it’s better for the planet!

Get directions and google map here.
Camping is $7/night. Day-use fee is waved during NeoRio.
Additional information about camping at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area here

This is a free, public lands day event (camping fees of $7/night per vehicle still apply). Donations to defray event costs are much appreciated. NeoRio is made possible by individual donations, local business and media sponsorships as well as generous grant support. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks also to grants from Taos County, Questa Economic Development Fund, Chevron Questa Mine Grants for Good, and sponsorships from PPC Solar and others.

For even more info about the event, artists and activities, or if you would like to volunteer or contribute to the event, call Claire at 575-224-9066.

NeoRio 2018 Artists

Scott Sutton – Featured Artist

Artist, Scott Sutton is originally from Oregon, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Art at Oregon State University in 1998 and a Master of Landscape Architecture at University of New Mexico in 2012. Living in both the Northwest and the Southwest has greatly influenced both Scott’s work as an artist and educator where he teaches artists how to forage for mineral pigments for use in making natural paints. Scott’s passion for creating art has extended beyond the walls of his art studio through a combination of interests such as land art, public art, and ecological design.

Over the years Scott has worked on a diversity of projects that include the integration of public art in a school playground, the design and installation of a community orchard, the planting of pollinator habitat in urban landscapes, and the restoration of native plants within an industrial brownfield to heal the watershed.

“The work I create has been deeply influenced by the places where I have lived and through an intimate engagement with both the natural and cultural environment. The inspiration for my creative explorations combines the use of materials collected from the natural landscapes I live within and cultural waste streams from the urban environments I call home.

As an artist and ecological designer my passion over the years has been to create works of art and environments that exist outside of a building and become active participants in the landscape. These creative explorations combine art and ecological design with the hope to bridge the realms of nature and culture. My hope is to create sustainable works of art and environments that facilitate interaction with the world around us through educational gardens, natural playgrounds, ecological restoration, and urban design.”

Weight of Water – Project Description

NeoRio’s theme of Roots has inspired a project that will combine elements of art and landscape architecture as a mean of highlighting the physical materials of earth, water, air, and light that have given form to the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. The vision for the design will integrate a combination of geographical information such as topographical maps, geological formations, ecological regions, hydrological systems, and the watershed boundaries that inspired the local community to establish its roots within the Upper Rio Grande Watershed.

The project will become an active component that helps to restore the health of the ecosystem through personal interaction and educational exploration of the subwatersheds of the Upper Rio Grande Watershed. The project will also act as ecological demonstration to inspire others to become stewards of the watersheds they live within and educate future generations about the importance of reclaiming the health of the river and the places we call home.

Through the use of lidar technology, existing contours of the area, and historical maps the work will hope to reveal the influence of the topographical changes that occurred over time. These physical changes to the land are the result of the underlying geological history and tell the story of how the Upper Rio Grande Watershed was formed.

The use of contours and lidar technologies will be used to create a work of art suspended from a shade structure at Montoso Campground revealing the negative space of the Rio Grande Gorge as it passes through the Upper Rio Grande Watershed. The installation will help to visualize the past geological formations through the use of the negative space of the Rio Grande Gorge. The design will allow the viewer to look at the underside of the gorge where the water trickles through the cracks in the basalt and filters through the sediment deposits where the roots find their home reaching for water and nutrients.

As a way of educating visitors about the health of the watershed, locally made biscochitos will be made by 3d printing cookie cutters inspired by the topography of the Upper Rio Grande Watershed. The cookies will also function as an edible puzzle in the form of the subwatershed boundaries and baked within a solar oven for visitors to eat.

The project will also include the rooting out of willow cuttings from along the Rio Grande and Red River. The willow cuttings will be placed in glass vessels to take root revealing its underlying structures that are normally hidden beneath the surface of the soil. Water and sediment collected from the Red River will be used to root out the willow and bring to light the importance of plants in the filtration and uptake of pollution caused by human activities. The rooted willow cuttings will be planted after the event in collaboration with local habitat restoration projects as a way of helping the community become active participants in the remediation process and to restore the health of the Upper Rio Grande watershed.

Kacie Smith – Featured Artist

Bio / Statement
Kacie Erin Smith is an artist and educator. Originally from California, she lives in Albuquerque. With an affinity for textiles, she engages with a wide variety of mediums to create sculptural installations and interactive projects. Thematically, she explores the personal, historical and natural elements of place and craft. She completed her BFA in Printmaking at Washington University in St. Louis, programs in Waldorf teacher training and biodynamic farming at Rudolf Steiner College, and her MFA in Art & Ecology at the University of New Mexico.  or onInstagram @kestrel_sundries

All That You Can Show Me – Project Description

For NeoRio, Smith will set up a temporary outfitters station, inviting viewers to borrow from her collection of handmade backpack kits to use on-site. Inspired by various outdoor adventures, each backpack is designed with a specific activity in mind, such as foraging, journaling, etc. With a background in outdoor education and early childhood education, Smith creates objects that engage with place, play, ritual and the body. I plan to set up some tent and table with two backpacks from previous projects and one made new for Wild Rivers. Participants will be able to explore and utilize the packs on site. The kits can be used solo or in groups at Wild Rivers.

LAAW – Featured Artists

Program Description
Land Arts of the American West (LAAW) is a semester long, full-time, studio art program at the University of New Mexico committed to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students into the field of Art & Ecology as professional creative practitioners. The program’s pedagogy is unique, employing a combination of the following: student centered research and practice, intensely experiential and embodied bioregional field-based explorations, collective daily living/workshopping/projects, and opportunities to publicly present creative works exploring the ecology of place across the American Southwest. In the fall 2018, LAAW students and faculty will engage with NeoRio Roots ~ Raices as an interdisciplinary cohort of environmentally embedded artists. These artists include: Sarah Canelas, Brionna Garcia, Kristen Geary, Erin Gould, Xena Gurule, Jeanette Hart-Mann, Ryan Henel, Kyle Holub, Nicholas Jacobsen, Blaise Koller, Rowan Roberts, and Jessica Zeglin

Land Arts of the American West: to inspire and support environmentally and socially engaged art practices through field-based bioregional teaching, collective learning, interdisciplinary research, community collaboration, and creative forms of publication and exhibition.

Title(s) TBA onsite – Project Description

Jeanette Hart-Mann and Ryan Henel during 2017 LAAW, Sunrise Sunset Rio Grande Wild Rivers, Video Projection, 2017

Land Arts of the American West artists will bring their innovative field-based creative research process to Wild Rivers and the NeoRio annual outdoor contemporary art event to generate environmental installations for the public. Inspired by the theme, Roots ~ Raices, this group of artists will work both individually and collaboratively across creative disciplines of performance, time-based media, sculpture, and experimental art to explore a rooted sense of place. Artist will convene as a collective group a week before the event and camp on-site as they intimately explore the Rio Grande gorge. This embodied exploration will lead to a series of intuitive creative responses by these artists, presented as finished works of art to share with the public.

Martha Shepp – Contributing Artist

Artist Martha Shepp is a fairly new resident of New Mexico. Her training includes a Bachelor of Fine Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Tennessee/Knoxville. Her studies ranged from graphic design and dance to filmmaking and music. Career paths have included contributions in education and the public sector in both visual and performing arts. Her work across a wide range of media reveals her abiding interest in the intersection of community development, self-concept, and aesthetics.

Artist Statement
I strive to make known: the presence of the spiritual, the social, the aesthetic, and the fact of absolute mutability.

I create work in which
– expectations are foiled, and some kind of shock
– hierarchy is evident
– the metaphors hit in the solar plexus
– brazen humanness shines out truth

I love humanness in all its frailty
and its get-up-off-the-floor-and-try-again-ness

art at its best can:
interrupt (conditioned responses)
disrupt (habitual cycles)
wake us up (to possibility)

just long enough (slow down! slow down!) to
reflect, immerse, realize, discover
(have a simultaneous private experience and a “greater good” vision)

and participate in something outside of our shell-skins

we then can create boldly, commit to action! nurture each other with our good works!

…never forgetting to feed our souls with the balm of truth:
freed from fear
we love our brothers and sisters like-there’s-no-tomorrow.

The DNA of Root Words – Project description
Roots, root words, and human-created sounds that have persisted across culture and time fascinate me. The 15 most archaic and stable words across world languages have been distilled, according to one Soviet researcher, to these word-concepts: I/me; two/pair; thou/thee/you; who/what; tongue; name; eye; heart; tooth; no/ not; fingernail/toenail; louse; tear (as in weeping); water, and dead. My project is an interactive expressive typography installation, using natural materials, printed materials, and sound.

Nicholette Jean Codding – Contributing Artist

Nicholette Jean is a multidisciplinary artist based in Portland, Oregon. She received her BA in photography from the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition to fine art photography, Nicholette practices and teaches sustainable agriculture and living. Recognizing the importance of land stewardship, she uses art as a means to present our responsibility as caretakers of the earth. Her work with the natural world has influenced and inspired her to photograph clear cuts, reservoirs and abandoned places. She exposes humanity’s impact on the planet, raising complex issues contributing to climate change.Nicholette has published and exhibited her photography nationally and internationally.

Artist Statement
Nicholette Jean’s work is rooted in environmental issues and the human experience. What we choose to see and what is seen are two opposing views of reality.She uses photography as a medium to explore and document the process by which her art communicates shape and meaning. She creates beautifully haunting images that convey personal reflections of the self as a mirror of our outer experience. Using a variety of materials as a metaphor for our inner-connectedness, such as plant fiber from root to crown, Nicholette creates small-scale, ephemeral land art installations. By weaving all types of natural materials into being, her art is a practice of mindfulness and recognizing the transience of life’s process.

Shifting Paradigm – Project Description
In this installation, I offer an illumination of that which is seen and unseen. Through utilizing reflective surfaces, I expose what is above and below the surface, revealing the natural cycles of humanity and nature: past/present, time/memory, life/death.

A plant’s root structure is nearly a mirror image of it’s above ground form. When we interact with plants, everything we see is above the surface. Yet, below the surface roots uptake the life-giving nutrients a plant requires to thrive. From the active decomposition of the soil emerges life. The beauty of all things is both seen and unseen.

Full Event Description

Tulsi Kostecki-Shaw reciting a poem, NeoRio 2017

During the afternoon, guests are invited to tour and interact with the art installations and projects and explore family-friendly, hands-on activities offered by collaborators.

The roots-inspired late afternoon poetry and music salon will begin at 5 pm. The program will feature young musicians and writers from a variety of musical backgrounds.

Mark Dudrow & Justin Dean

High Desert Acoustic Duo – Justin Dean and Mark Dudrow
Kate Mann with be sitting in for Justin Dean this year at NeoRio
Acoustic, alternative folk and Celtic fusion styles blend in original songs and up-beat interpretations of traditional Celtic and Americana tunes. Magical music on the rim of the gorge (or anywhere!). They are an event favorite, and have played at NeoRio for many of the past eight years it’s been going. Thank you, Kate for sitting in on behalf of Justin and to Mark for coming back again!

Music from Kate and Mark will usher in the evening festivities.

Serving NeoRio Feast

NeoRio Farm-to-Table Feast & Artist Talks
Enjoy a locally-sourced, northern NM, fall Feast from the Questa Farmers Market growers, cooks and bakers. The Feast is coordinated by Gaea McGahee, manager of the Questa Farmers Market and contributors to the feast will be familiar to those who have visited the market.

At dusk, on the heels of dinner, portable solar power provided by PPC Solar will allow NeoRio featured artists to offer short, informative, illustrated talks, giving a behind-the-scenes look at their onsite artworks and a brief visual tours of past works. The evening will close with optional stargazing and a campfire – bring an instrument!