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LEAP’s NeoRio Bake Sale – Success!

September 2, 2018

Thank you to all the bakers, contributors, and customers who made the August 31 bake sale at Cid’s a successful in raising funds for NeoRio 2018! Special thank yous to:

  • Diane De Fremery, who volunteered all day to help at the table
  • Long and Coté families who provided delicious goodies and logistical support
  • Brett House Catering who donated a delicious carrot cake!

We had a great time and sold out of all our goodies!

NeoRio 2018 – Sat. September 15, 4 – 9 pm

August 6, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 4 – 9 pm

Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Join us for the 10th annual NeoRio outdoor contemporary art and community event! This year, artists and collaborators delve into Roots ~ Raices, exploring the theme from various angles – botanical, cultural, metaphorical and beyond. Featured artists are Scott Sutton (Portland), Kacie Smith (Albuqerque) and UNM students of the immersive Land Arts of the American West program (Albuquerque). Contributing artists are Martha Shepp (Questa) and Nicholette Codding (Portland).  ~ Meet the artists HERE!~

Discover their unique art installations along the rim of the Rio Grande gorge; explore hands-on, family-friendly activities; take in the afternoon music and poetry salon; and enjoy a delicious, locally-sourced, northern NM fall feast, music, artist talks, evening campfire and more. The combination of contemporary art, wild places and community celebration at NeoRio is a recipe for a fun and exciting event!

This year NeoRio also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and Trails Acts. Partnering with the Questa Creative Council, NeoRio is organized by us – LEAP and hosted by the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office as a Public Lands Day event.

NeoRio this year is made possible by many wonderful volunteers and generous donations and sponsors! 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.

Get all the event details HERE!

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)

2017 – A Look Back & 2018 – Updates

August 5, 2018

2017 was a great year for LEAP!

We slowed down a bit, as we had hoped, and put more intentional focus on some of the less visible, but very important nuts and bolts that are helping to make LEAP stronger and more sustainable in the long run.

As you may remember, LEAP’s 2017 programming explored “Seeds ~ Semillas.” The theme permeated LEAP’s activities and programming throughout the year, from our science and art enrichment programs for Questa and Costilla elementary students in the spring, to NeoRio at Wild Rivers in the Fall. We also organized our annual Questa Earth Day event which included planting 18 trees and shrubs around the Questa Library, Youth Center and Park! As part of the Earth Day celebration, we also launched the ongoing Questa Seed Exchange at the Questa Library. Stop by to donate seeds or pick some up to plant!

One of our goals for LEAP in 2017 was to increase our involvement in positive events and efforts in our community that align with our mission and goals. We found several nice ways to collaborate and build new relationships with other groups and folks in the community.

Check them out HERE.


NeoRio 2017
was a wonderful event!
Over 200 of you came to join us: to experience Kaitlin Bryson’s “Radicle” seed installation, Hollis Moore’s “Pulse Flow” paper mache canoe and Geraint Smith’s beautiful milkweed flags fluttering, for the SEED Sensorium; to listen to moving poetry and wonderful music at the Seed Poetry and Music Salon and to tunes by High Desert Acoustic Duo; and to share in a delicious fall feast made by Gaea McGahee, Wendy Medina and many other local cooks and bakers. Through it all we shared the majesty of the place, the sublime gorge and changing light. Find more details and lots of photos HERE.

LEAP’s 2017 events concluded with our third annual
Dia de los Muertos Community Celebration, another meaningful community gathering. Find details HERE.


Unsung Hero Award: An unexpected and wonderful thing that happened in 2017 was that LEAP director, Claire Coté received the Taos News’ Unsung Hero Award for her education and community work through LEAP.  The article published as part of the award can be found HERE.

LEAP Partnering with Questa Creative Council (QCC)LEAP is pleased to be partnering with the Questa Creative Council, which was founded in the fall of 2017. QCC is like an arts council, but with a broader vision and reach. We will be partnering with QCC to bring you NeoRio this year!More info at

HUGE thank yous to all who contributed time, energy and resources to LEAP’s endeavors in 2017. Gratitude to our volunteers, collaborators, artists, participants, donors, sponsors and grant supporters!

You all made it possible.

Special thanks to Questa Economic Development Fund, Chevron Questa Mine Community Fund, Taos County, BLM Taos Field Office, PPC Solar, Common Fire, North Star Toys, KRZA Radio, Taos News, Cid’s Market, Cerro Vista Farm, and especially our parent organization Localogy, and others. It takes “a village” to make these events and projects happen!

2018  – Updates

New LEAP Team Members
This year we welcome two new LEAP Team Members: artist, designer and multi-talented, Martha Shepp and event planner, sustainable business owner and administrator, Sarah Dzieweczynski. They each bring valuable experience and perspectives to LEAP and the NeoRio coordination committee.Their vision, wisdom and wonderful skills sets are helping to make this year’s NeoRio better than ever! While their focus is on NeoRio, they are also helping to develop administrative systems to help LEAP run more smoothly and become more sustainable. Meet them HERE.

Sisters, Joan and Claire with their little ones

Congratulations are in order! Two new babies were welcomed into families of the LEAP team this winter/spring. LEAP director, Claire Coté and her husband, Chris, welcomed their second daughter, Olivia, into the world in February. LEAP Collaborator Joan Long and her partner Johnny, welcomed their first son, Simon, into the world in April. With LEAP’s spring education team busy as new Mamas, we took a break from spring programming this year. We hope to resume again in 2019.

This year we’re exploring “Roots ~ Raices”
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. We are looking forward to seeing NeoRio artists explore this theme!

Questa Stories ~ Community Memory Project
 is underway!
It’s been a while in coming, but the Questa Stories ~ Community Memory Project has truly begun and we’re excited about it! It’s a collection point and archive for oral histories, stories, conversations, images 
and artifacts of, by and about the communities, peoples and places of North Central New Mexico. Slowly but surely, we’ve been gathering community support for this project and better educating ourselves in “best practices” for gathering, processing and sharing oral histories from people in Questa and the surrounding communities. The project received support from and came more into the public eye through the collaboration with the Questa History and Community trail which kicked off phase 1 of it’s development this summer and sponsored the popular “Gathering Memory: Object, Photo and Story Workshop” in Questa on July 8th. Read about the Questa Stories project HERE

Other Projects in the Works

Irrigation Installation
We are leading the installation of a new irrigation system at the Questa Municipal Park/Library/Youth center to water the trees that we planted there for Earth Day last year. The effort is being paid for by a reimbursement grant from Taos Los Jardineros and support from the Questa Library and Village of Questa.

Junior Ranger Program Field Trips for Alta Vista Students
In October, we are looking forward to working with BLM personnel to offer the opportunity for all Alta Vista students to participate in the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Junior Ranger program in tandem with a field trip to Wild Rivers. The new junior ranger program is being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and Trails act on Oct. 2. The Golden Apple Wells Fargo grant awarded to Alta Vista, will help support the field trips.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration ~ Reflections and Thanks!

June 27, 2018

Thanks to all who made our Dia de los Muertos celebration on November 2, 2017, so full of good spirits. The space was filled with beauty, the altar lovingly prepared. Your presence, and all you brought – food, stories, talent, willingness to share, your warmth – made the evening positive and poignant. 

This enduring tradition originated in Mexico – a blend of Spanish, Aztec, and earlier traditions – and is celebrated worldwide. It is heartening to share the celebration in Questa.

Thank you to Annie Mattingley for leading her “letters to the dead” workshop, and special thanks Rachel Leon, Questa schools’ music and Mariachi teacher, and the musicians who joined her, and to all the cooks. Special thanks to Wendy Medina for the amazing pan de muerto and massive prune pies! Thank you to our community members and friends who volunteered their time to prepare art materials, bake bread and pies, paint sugar skulls on our faces, make sugar skulls and royal icing (now enduring decorations), and to all who cleaned up, and careful packed away after the festivities and to OCHO for the host location!
To volunteer or contribute next year, contact:
Gaea at or call (575) 224-2102.

NeoRio 2017: Seeds, Community + Gratitude!

November 9, 2017

What a wonderful afternoon and evening at Wild Rivers on the rim of the gorge, celebrating seeds!

Over 200 of you came to join us for NeoRio this year:
To experience Kaitlin Bryson’s “Radicle” seed installation, Hollis Moore’s “Pulse Flow” paper mache canoe and Geraint Smith’s beautiful milkweed flags fluttering (click on images for larger view);

To touch, smell and shake seeds in the SEED Sensorium;

To listen to Deborah Hutchison and Gabrielle Herbertson read moving poetry and hear Jonathan Hutchison play wonderful music at the Seed Poetry and Music Salon;

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To jam out to tunes by High Desert Acoustic Duo (Mark Dudrow & Justin Dean) and guest musician Dean Gitter;

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And to share in a delicious fall feast made by Gaea McGahee, Wendy Medina and many other local cooks and bakers from the Questa Farmers Market and beyond;

To delve deeply into the arts practices and works presented on site by featured artists Kaitlin Bryson and Hollis Moore with their after dinner artist talks;

And of course, we all shared the majesty of the place together, through the changing light of the afternoon and evening, closing with hot chocolate and biscochitos by fire and star light. (Reminder: click on square images for larger view.)

Our extensive collection of images from the event can be seen on Flickr HERE.

(Photos used in this post and on Flickr are courtesy of Kelly Butwinski, Carrie Leven, Dorje Gyalsten, Charlie McGarity and Claire Coté)

Thank you to all who helped make NeoRio possible this year – volunteers, donors and sponsors.

 A deep thank you to the many dedicated individuals for their time and labor given to make the event a success!
Huge thanks go specifically to: Featured artists Kaitlin Bryson and Hollis Moore for sharing their work at the event and for offering their artist talks. Although we offer NeoRio artists a small stipend to help cover supplies and travel, their time and expertise are donated. Also to contributing artist Geraint Smith, who donated to LEAP the beautiful “Milkweed Pods” that were on display, three of which were raffled to three lucky winners. Without this kind of generosity the past nine NeoRio events would not have been possible.

  • Chris Coté for endless moral and logistical support, set-up and take down and providing fire wood for the campfire and shlepping equipment to and from Wild Rivers.
  • Martha Shepp for much event logistics, volunteer coordination and graphic design support!
  • Timothy and Connie Long for providing the tents for the event, childcare and helping with set-up and clean-up, down to the last details and beyond!
  • Gaea McGahee, NeoRio Food Maven, for graceful and delicious food coordination and preparation.
  • Sarah Dzieweczynski for event logistics expertise
  • Dawn Provencher, Katie Woodall, Olga Gressot and Lily for their invaluable help with set-up and decor.
  • Questa Farmers Market Cooks Wendy and Alex Medina and Lacey Chrisco as well as food volunteers, Ethan Jackson, Jeannie Masters, Kate Cisneros, Flavio Cisneros, Krissy Briedenbach, and Alita Randolph for their delicious food!
  • Joan Long for cooking delicious lunches for our NeoRio volunteers as well as logistical support.
  • Juan Sisneros, Dorota Orozasz, Ed and Lynn Galusky for great help at the event.
  • Steve Bishop and Njal Schold for super support with tents and all things set-up and take-down.
  • Peggy Trigg and Jean Frey for being warm welcomers and general event help.
  • Alberta Bouyer for help with PR.
  • Sherri and Daniel at Cerro Vista Farm and the Kostecki-Shaw Family for providing beautiful flowers and foliage to decorate the event!
  • All BLM staff and volunteers – most especially to Wild Rivers Manager, Teddy Lucero, and Ranger, Tim Long for many onsite details; John Bailey for coordination, administration and generous support.
  • PPC Solar for generously providing solar electricity to power the event.
  • Kelly Butwinski for photographing the event.
  • Musicians, Justin Dean, Mark Dudrow and Jonathan Hutchison for providing wonderful tunes for the evening.
  • Many thanks to the Sunday Morning clean-up crew including Joan Eilers, Chris Cote, Tim and Connie Long, Nyal Schold and generous visitors from Santa Fe and eager pint-sized helpers.

Special thanks to Questa Economic Development Fund, Chevron Questa Mine Community Fund, Taos County, BLm Taos Field Office, PPC Solar, Common Fire, North Star Toys, KRZA Radio, Taos News, Cid’s Market, Cerro Vista Farm, OCHO and especially our parent organization Localogy, and others. It takes “a village” to make this annual event happen!

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!

We would love to hear what you thought of the event and we are always interested in suggestions, photos and feedback: or call Claire 575-224-9066.

Every NeoRio event is a unique collaboration of artists, other area nonprofits, organizations, businesses and our host, the Bureau of Land Management Taos Field Office. This growing circle of collaboration, connections and relationships are 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! Thank you to all who came to the event or contributed in some way!

Dia de los Muertos in Questa Nov. 2, 3 – 7 pm!

November 2, 2017

Third year celebrating Dia de los Muertos in Questa!

Event Details:
Time: Thursday November 2, 3 – 7 pm (Drop in or stay for the whole event).
Cost: Free. Donations welcome.
Location: OCHO Art + Event Space, #8 Hwy. 38, Questa, NM (parking across the street)
More Info:, Gaea McGahee,, (575­) 224­-2102

Dia de los Muertos in Questa Schedule, 3-7 pm:
3 – 4:30 pm Letters to the Dead with author, Annie Mattingley
4 – 5:30 pm Activities and Community Altar Adorning
5:30 pm Feasting
6:30-7 pm Music by Questa Mariachi

All are welcome to the third annual Dia de los Muertos celebration hosted in Questa at OCHO Art + Event Space. This year’s celebration offers art and festival activities, and features the “Dead Letter Office” with author Annie Mattingley, and riveting tunes with Questa Mariachi, Questa’s Junior and Senior High School students. The event takes place from 3-7 pm at OCHO Art + Event Space, #8, Hwy. 38 in the village center.

Author Annie Mattingley will lead participants in writing letters to the dead in “The Dead Letter Office.” She recently published The After-Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil  (Hampton Roads Publishing 2017).

At the event, participants can make sugar skulls, paper marigolds, and other (traditional Dia)  art. “And if you choose, you can be made into a sugar skull (a calavera) by skillful facepainters,” say organizers.

Please bring photos of loved ones or objects to add to a community altar. Participants may bring a small altar to display, or other Day of the Dead art, but items need to be no larger than a shoebox. If inspired, bring a favorite dish to share, perhaps a favorite of someone to remember and celebrate at this event. Event organizers will contribute posole, prune pies, hot chocolate, pan de muerto, and more. There will be much to feast upon at 5:30 and then enjoy mariachi music to close this ritual of remembering.

Dia de los Muertos is now celebrated all over the world, although it’s  origins combine Spanish, Aztec, and even earlier traditions. The celebration in Questa is inspired by this now world-wide memory tradition in the spirit of bringing bright colors, music, art, and food with strong flavors in to lift the gloom.

Coordinated by Gaea McGahee, the collaborative event is the collective effort of LEAP ( and OCHO ( and many from Questa and surrounding communities.

“Dia de los Muertos encourages us to revive memories and celebrate our beloveds, as well as acknowledge our own sorrow over their absence. Bereavement and missing are part of our human experience, just as death is, but this ritual gives us a space to honor loved ones with festivity and joy. We’re all on the same path, but some have made it to the other side of ‘the veil,’  whatever that veil means (to you),” says McGahee.

The event is made possible by funding from Chevron Questa Mine Community Fund, and Questa Economic Development Fund, as well as individual donations and many in-kind contributions and volunteers. Thank you!


NeoRio is Today + Sneak Preview!

September 16, 2017

Join us for NeoRio TODAY at Wild Rivers!

Don’t miss your chance in 2017:
To Experience innovative, seed-inspired art installed, performed and located in this beautiful place…
To share
a locally-sourced Northern NM Fall Feast…
To Enjoy music, poetry and each other’s company…

All amidst the beauty of a fall evening, on the rim of the gorge!

Here’s a sneak preview of what Kaitlin Bryson, one of our featured artists has been cooking up for the event:

See you there!

Find all the info about NeoRio 2017 HERE.

NeoRio 2017 is Sat. September 16, 4 – 9 pm!

September 4, 2017

This year at NeoRio we will explore glorious & fascinating seeds; they will inspire the art installations on the rim of the gorge, by featured artists Kaitlin Bryson, Hollis Moore and contributing artist-photographer, Geraint Smith. In the afternoon, enjoy the family-oriented “SEED Sensorium” and a curated poetry and music salon. In the evening, savor a locally-sourced, northern NM fall feast,  live music, artist talks, and campfire, all celebrating this year’s generative, life-giving theme. See google map of Hwy 378 to Montoso Campground HERE. Find out more about the artists and event details HERE.


LEAP Community Collaborations

September 4, 2017

This year, one of LEAP’s goals was to increase our community collaboration and involvement in events that we support:

April 29: Invent Event

Invent Event Attendees Exploring Seed Play

LEAP, SEED Taos and AIRE hosted a Seed Play Station (manned by Claire Coté & Siena Sanderson and Miguel Santistevan) We had hands-on experiments and make-it activities exploring dispersal as well as a traditional seeds of Northern NM display and guessing game. It was snowy outside, but warm and wild inside with over 800 folks in attendance with lots of playing and exploring!  See more about the event at Twirl’s website.

July 1: Questa Library Community Day

Making packing peanut sculptures outside Questa Library

The Library is a great community resource in Questa. To finish out its participation in the nation-wide, month-long Summer Reading Program, the Library hosted a Community Day with the theme “Make a Better World,” and celebrating the kids’ summer reading, free lunch and more. LEAP was invited to offer some recycled craft activities. We made corn starch packing peanut scultpures and recycled tetrapak wallets. Fun!

July 29: Successful County-Wide Clean-up Day

One of the Questa crews with the trash collected from the day

This year LEAP helped organize the 11th Annual Taos County-Wide Annual Rivers and Lands Clean-up Day, spearheaded by Amigos Bravos. In collaboration with the Forest Service Questa Ranger District, BLM Rangers at Wild Rivers and three Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews, we focused on cleaning up illegal dump sites and litter in Northern Taos County, near Questa and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

The Questa crews nearly filled a roll-away dumpster with large trash illegally dumped in nearby forests and arroyos (including couches, chairs, TVs, fridges, stoves, toilets, sinks, transmission casings etc.), 50 bags of smaller trash, and 15 bags of recyclable materials.

What a day it was, all over Taos County! Thank you to everyone who came out to to make this year’s Taos Countywide River and Lands Cleanup Day a great success! Huge progress was made across the county to remove trash from our rivers and landscapes. The effort wouldn’t have happened without: Amigos Bravos, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico, Carson National Forest, BLM Taos Field Office, Town of Taos, LEAP, Taos County Solid Waste, Taos Land Trust, and the community members, and many organizations and businesses who donated time, money, food, and supplies!

2017 Earth Day Celebration: Fun Exploring Seeds & Planting Trees!

September 4, 2017

What a great day! 18 trees and shrubs planted by participants of all ages around the Questa library, Youth Center and Municipal Park, seeds given away, yummy burritos eaten. Thank you to everyone who volunteered to make the event happen, came to plant trees and contributed to the success of the event. Special thanks to Sharon Nicholson, librarian at the Questa Public Library for event partnership, and other event partners and Rio Grande Ace Hardware and Cid’s for generously supporting the event for Celebrating the Earth and beautifying our community – success!