A Recent History of Arts on Tumamoc

Meredith Milstead pastel painting
Meredith Milstead working outdorrs on a pastel painting

In 2010, writer and ethnobiologist Gary P. Nabhan, suggested that Tumamoc develop an artist- and writer-in-residence program, inspired by the work done at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. 1In 2003 the The Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word was established at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. This initiative, which started a writers-in-residence program at Andrews Forest, is a collaboration between the Oregon State University Department of Philosophy, the US Forest Service, and the Andrews Forest Long-Term Ecological Research program, another LTER funded by the National Science Foundation to encourage long-term, place-based research in a network of sites in different ecosystems across North America.

Tumamoc Hill is now part of this network of 21 LTEReflections sites around North America. The idea was to provide periods of residence on-site to applicants, who would publish and present their work to the community, increasing understanding and the perceived cultural value to the specific place.

Then Tumamoc Director Mike Rosenzweig invited me to be the first artist-in-residence at Tumamoc Hill. I was given office space and a certain amount of creative freedom to develop arts activities that fit the mission of Tumamoc. I was given a volunteer Research Associate position through the US Southwest Center. With this title, CAT card, and room privileges card, I was able to receive a key to the Tumamoc gate and office buildings.

Tumamoc artists meet on the Desert Lab patio

Having access to the buildings and gate allowed me to invite other artists to do place-based art, and outdoor drawing and painting on the Hill. I designed a blog, TumamocSketchbook.com, to record and archive my own activities and that of others on Tumamoc.

There are many reasons that artists and writers are drawn to Tumamoc. Besides the rich and diverse subjects available and the natural beauty of the place, the long-term ecological research and history at the Desert Lab offers inspiration and a chance to interact with researchers. Advantages to artists working outdoors on site include access to a wild natural place, while still having a base with shelter, water, a small kitchen, restrooms.

The book, This Piece of Earth”: Images and Words from Tumamoc Hill, (TPOE) published in 2014 by Tumamoc: People and Habitats featured artwork created on-site by Tumamoc artists and a project by the POG Poetry Group in 2012. "THis Piece of Earth" book cover

In 2013, based on the TPOE book, Tumamoc artists and writers were invited to submit a proposal, which has been accepted, for a chapter in an upcoming special issue of the peer-reviewed publication, Journal of the Southwest, in collaboration with Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen). All of the artists and writers involved heard talks by Desert Lab researchers, went with them to visit field sites, and had access to these sites as needed. The work produced came directly out of this experience. Most of these people had gone through either the early Tumamoc docent program, or various educational presentations on Tumamoc, were highly educated, motivated, and trusted by the Tumamoc staff.

Arizona Commission on the Arts logoIn 2014, Tumamoc received additional recognition from the State of Arizona through an “Artists Research and Development Grant” to me for a proposal called “Tumamoc: A Community Icon.”

In that context, the small arts program clearly has a place in the Tumamoc mission to promote research and educational outreach that deepens our understanding of our place in the Sonoran Desert and that of the community.

Cover- journal of the Southwest

 

chair in desert
A place for long term ecological reflection

Paul Mirocha

paul-mirocha-portrait_tumamoc_by-eric-magrane
Paul Mirocha, photo by Eric Magrane

I have worked as a professional illustrator, graphic designer, and photographer in Tucson for about 30 years now. A lot of kids picture books on weird animals and plants have my name on them, as well as science text books, adult novels, nature writing, and interpretive museum exhibits. You can find out more about it at my web site: www.PaulMirocha.com. Illustration is my full time job. My personal work is mostly in secret sketch books. This one is going public.

 –Paul Mirocha

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. In 2003 the The Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word was established at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. This initiative, which started a writers-in-residence program at Andrews Forest, is a collaboration between the Oregon State University Department of Philosophy, the US Forest Service, and the Andrews Forest Long-Term Ecological Research program, another LTER funded by the National Science Foundation to encourage long-term, place-based research in a network of sites in different ecosystems across North America.

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