Imagining New Futures in Paonia, Colorado

Elsewhere Studios is pleased to announce progress in their new summer residency program, INSPIRED: Art at Work - a new program fostering socially-engaged art, collaboration and conversation, sponsored in part by an Arts in Society grant.

John Melvin - Curbing Entropy - a work based on residency with World Monuments Fund (Plastic Pollution), Siem Reap, Cambodia

10,000 Reclaimed Plastic Bottles, 4x4x4 m, 2017


"Artists will create socially-engaged works exploring issues such as: preservation of culture and environment, creation of a resilient economy in rural Colorado, and values under threat by fracking, development, and loss of jobs. These collaborations and a final symposium are designed to broadly engage community dialog on concerns vital to the future of this rural area.

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 energy development, Gunnison River health, air quality, changing energy resources, the loss of coal mining jobs and changing cultural norms." - project description,

A variety of work will be created over the summer this year in Paonia, Colorado during INSPIRED: Art at Work, including two locally-based art projects from the North Fork Valley, and two visiting artists-in-residence.



Learn more about the selected artists here, and meet them in person at the February artist video-conference event - details listed at the end of this post.

North Fork Valley Artists


Of Anthracite and Apples

Clara Pena will be working with Matt Jenkins and John Steele, all three educators and screenwriters finding themselves drawn into creating media and story for sparking community dialogue. Clara comes from a family of agriculturists and coal miners, and her short film will document the history of extractive industries in Colorado's North Fork Valley, with the intent of asking the audience what a new, resilient economy would look like.

Shades of Gray, 2011 - a short film about the shifting economy of the North Fork Valley of Colorado, produced by Clara Boland (Pena)


“I think our community’s story has the potential to resonate with people across Colorado and the globe because, as James Joyce put it, “in the particular is contained the universal.” Our valley’s struggle is the universal struggle for survival and prosperity. I hope the film allows people from many perspectives to celebrate the history of our valley while reimagining our economic future,” says Pena.

A second section of this project will be a mini-series documenting the artists and the creative process of the INSPIRED project, and will include interns from Montrose High School’s Advanced Multimedia classes.




Per(fumes) of Prayer

In response to the recent state approval of 146 fracking wells upstream from the Paonia reservoir, this duo will design an Eco-dance, built around ritual, with contemporary, ancient, and ethnic movement. The filmed dance will feature Delta County locations, in their beautiful abundance and potential vulnerabilities, and highlight juxtaposed relationships of industrial presence. The work will apply the methodology of creative collaboration, as inspired by renowned modern dancer, Anna Halprin’s, “RSVP Cycles”.

Bless the Valley - photo by Dea Million


Visiting Artists


Curbing Social Entropy

John K. Melvin is an artist intent on distilling a meaning of ecology relevant to society. He typically up-cycles materials that have passed their traditional use. A majority of his practice is intended or situated in the public realm. increasingly incorporates clean-ups, material collections, and pollution/consumption awareness workshops and exhibitions into his work. Because of the larger scale of his sculptural creations, Elsewhere seeks public and private land location prospects in considering siting a public art piece this Summer.

“Our world is grappling with economic and ecological realities, yet we don’t universally see the simplicity of their interdependence. I uncover inter-dependent relationships and present them in artworks to provoke and instigate dialog,” says John K. Melvin.

Exhibition, Backyard Retreat, China, 2017

Exhibition, Backyard Retreat, China, 2017



Riverine Collection / Portrait of the North Fork Gunnison River Basin

Macleod’s ongoing work, 'Water Conversations' has taken place in nine countries and examines the politics, traditions and practices surrounding water in a variety of global locations. The work is centered around locating commonalities, local problems and interlinked futures of our planet in the management and consumption of finite water resources. In the space of the workshops/think tanks, a process tool she has developed called ‘Troubling’, engages participants to anticipate and discuss known problems or barriers, and circumnavigate psychological and concrete obstacles to imagining different futures for water and land management.

“Living in rural northwest Ireland has given me a strong interest in communities undergoing rapid change through climate change and post industrialization. My work employs scientific methods, interdisciplinary collaboration, performance and socially engaged activism to build metaphoric spaces for re-imagining the future,” says Macleod.

Walking Cochiti Dam, 2017 - a performative work created in partnership with community members of the Cochiti Pueblo, articulating the complexities of dam building on reservation lands in the USA, as part of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and 1960’s Flood Control Act. The controversial Cochiti Dam was built in 1975 on the most sacred mountain and burial site in Cochiti Pueblo. The lake silt bed is now contaminated with waste plutonium washed down the Rio Grande from Los Alamos ‘Atomic City’, where the US government research programme, ‘The Manhattan Project’ produced the first atomic bombs between 1942 – 45.

In recognition of water as a living body, walking in this performance brings into focus the injured landscape of human interventions into sacred natural bodies.

You're invited to attend the related February ARTIST connection-cross-pollination event!

What: Quick Q & A rounds that introduce artists to each other, help project partners know the artists, identify pathways of interest, enhance engagement.

Who: All artists, project partners, and our science/advisory group, and any interested folks!

Why: Find particular ‘sparky’ liaisons between artists and others, share context about North Fork Valley overall. Brunch-nosh and good cheer provided.

Where: Paradise Theater, Paonia, CO

When: Saturday, February 17th, 10:30am-noon

Contact Elsewhere Studios at for more information or call 970.527.3249

About Elsewhere Studios:
As we dive into our first dedicated “socially engaged” art project, we face into the question, “What’s art have to do with that?” The ‘that’ in the fore of our minds, is our North Fork Valley home, a center-point for organic farms, ranches, orchards, and vineyards that feeds much of Colorado and beyond. It is also the loss of jobs with mine-closures, and growth and development pressures too. We are dedicated to helping show our community how food-focused endeavors, renewable energies and ‘creative industries’ may be a pathway to increasing livelihood and prosperity for families here. North Fork Valley towns are in a unique position to decide for themselves, and take action, in forming how our beloved places will look and feel in 5 years, 15 years, 30 years from now.

Elsewhere Studios is seeking additional organizations, locally, statewide, and nationally that may be interested in our project and willing to advance the publicity surrounding it-please be in touch with your ideas!

This community project is made possible through generous support from the Arts In Society Program, a collaboration between Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Colorado Creative Industries, Hemera Foundation and RedLine Contemporary Art Center. The Anschutz Foundation also contributed.