Monthly Mentor

Michelle Ridlen (December)Ridlen
I am Michelle Ridlen, a proud artist educator, and I am very excited to be writing for the NAEA Monthly Mentor blog as the 2016 Western Region Supervision/Administration Art Educator of the Year. This is my first time officially blogging to the world at large and I am looking forward to interacting with others in our creative field. I live in Missouri where I serve as the K-12 Fine Arts Curriculum Content Leader for the Francis Howell School District. Before stumbling into the supervision/administration side of education, I was both a middle school and high school art teacher for a total of twelve years, where I loved creating with my students. Each age group brought about unique challenges and celebrations. For the past eight years, I have been our district Fine Arts Content Leader, where I work with incredible teachers, in the areas of visual arts, music and theatre, to write curriculum, support their work in the classroom, and research best practices. I promote the work we do in our creative fields and the importance of an arts education for all students. Click "Go" to read full bio.



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Thursday 12. 1.16

Art & Fear

From: Michelle Ridlen

Putting yourself out there is scary. When I was first presented with this opportunity to blog, it was exciting. I have presented at conferences multiple times with plenty to share and thought, “Sure! This will be something new and fun.” Now that I sit down to write, it is downright terrifying.

But this is a good thing, right? I was reminded of the quote by Seth Godin, “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” But what is so good about doing something scary? Well, if it is scary it might be a new experience (it is) and it might open you up to new perspectives (hoping so). New perspectives and new experiences help us to grow, to develop things about ourselves that weren’t there before.

1aSeth-Godin-if-it-scares-you-quoteSeth Godin

Writing this first post is a lot like what it feels like to make art after a long dry spell. You have to get over that hump of creative block. Your stomach might clench up in a tight knot and all those nagging voices of doubt start to bubble up in your head. You try to ignore them and dive in, frustrated at first as you shake off the cobwebs, but then you get over yourself, your doubts, and find your flow, enjoying the process for what it is - a release, a way to tap into something that fulfills you, and ultimately a way to find meaning and purpose in the creation of something that wasn’t there before.  

Fred Rogers pushing himself to create (from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Episode 1481)

You owe it to yourself, and your students, to push yourself to try new things and to keep creating even when it is scary or feels uncomfortable. We need to give ourselves permission to try new things and to participate in small creative acts. Even small acts of creativity can snowball into greater creative acts that ultimately make it easier to think outside the box. If you are feeling stuck, look for the little ways that you can practice creative thinking. Try a new recipe, drive a different route to work, model experimenting with new media in front of your students. Feel the way your students feel when you present them with a new artistic challenge. Be ready to teach them to overcome their fears.

1cOfficePhoto_CREATE_A reminder to myself to create something a little each day

What are some of the ways that you push yourself to be creative?

How do you teach your students to overcome their fears?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below...

If you want to read more about the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and about the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way, check out the book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland. I love this book and recommend it to my graduating seniors.


Monday 11.28.16

STEAM Lesson Ideas that Engage Students

From: Jessica Soifer

Happy, happy Turkey week! I am thankful for this opportunity to write for NAEA, to share with the art community and build some connections around the world through this experience. 

This week I am sharing some STEAM ideas that I have done with my students. 

Knoles Elementary STEAM club offers opportunities for students to explore and discover while problem solving, critical thinking and working together. Creating, building and experimenting spark excitement for the students throughout the year.

Last year STEAM club was a 5th grade club after school that was once a week. We explored many topics and many activities that involved opportunities for experiential learning.

- The gardening project was an important activity to continue from the previous year. Knoles students worked with a non- profit called TerraBIRDS (Being Innovative, Responsible, Dedicated Stewards). “TerraBIRDS” mission is to educate and empower young people through gardening to help prepare them as the stewards of a sustainable future for humanity.” Some of the activities that the students did was move rocks to create an area to grow plants and retain water to have more water go to the plants. Water is very precious in the high desert of AZ. Native plants and grasses were planted to help beautify the space. Students learned responsibility in order to care and nurture for the plants and garden space. Videos were created by the students to present their new knowledge and proud, hard work of the gardening project at open house.

- I wanted students to give back and do a service project called “Chairs for Change.” The students repurposed chairs and donated them to a Flagstaff fundraiser. This event raises money to support girls’ education in developing countries through New Education and the Mala Fund.  Knoles STEAM club redesigned and donated 7 chairs to this organization.


- Students had to problem solve in order to discover and create a pendulum. I gave students different sized rulers, tape, scissors, cardboard, foam, styrofoam, yarn, string and fabric. The goal was to have students come up with a functional design and create a painting to see if the pendulum worked or figure out what changes needed to be made. Here  are a few examples.


- Students had another discovery project, designing catapults. Materials they could choose from where styrofoam bowls, large and small containers, plastic spoons, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, straws, rubber bands, small pieces of clay, marshmallows and paint. Students first had to launch clay balls and marshmallows. Once they did that the students had to measure the distance of the launch for each and what the difference was between the two materials. Then they could try a catapult painting.


- Building, blasting and measuring for the rocket project was a big hit with the students. They used transparencies, foam, washers, tape, rubber bands and paper to build the rockets.  The students measured several distances for the planets. Then problem solved with the materials and weights to achieve different distances.


- A parent brought in a 3D printer and the students created designs to experience the 3D printer.


This year the STEAM club is a 3rd through 5th grade club. The goals of the club are the same except the students will be focusing on different projects. The first semester the students are working on:

- The students created seed bombs with clay, stamps and AZ wildflower seeds. Take a chunk of clay and roll some seeds into the clay, roll the clay clump into a ball, stamp the top and either plant them or throw them into an area where you would like your seedlings to grow. Through this project the students learned about the practical use of the clay and how it helps protect the seeds from weather and critters. 

- To continue the gardening project the students used eggshells as planters. They learned that the eggshells are recycled and given back to the earth. When the shells are planted into the ground the shells will decompose and give the soil calcium.  The shells also help fend off slugs and other critters. 

- This coming week the students will become artist, scientists and paint onto petri dishes. They will use the scientific method to document their discoveries in this project. They will watch the growth process of the paint on their petri dish and then collect data on what they observed.  Then the students will create a watercolor painting inspired by the petri dish painting. This investigation was inspired by artist Klari Reis who created The Daily Dish 2013.

- The students will be exploring and creating our own personal compost. Here is the layering system that the students will be using. As they observe the compost process, they will document what they observe over the course of the of a couple weeks.


I hope I was able to offer some interesting lesson ideas to try in your classroom or clubs. I have done some of these lessons and others in my art class. It is easier to execute the lessons in STEAM club because I have 50 minutes versus 35 minutes for art class. All of the materials that were used in these projects were from the art room, donations or recycled from parents or Northern Arizona University. Try one of these out and let me know how it goes or how you changed it. I would love to hear. Until next time. Be happy, love, always smile, and create!


Friday 11.18.16

Adapted Art Curriculum

From: Jessica Soifer

Happy, Happy November! One of my personal greatest accomplishments that I have achieved has been designing a functional curriculum for the Beacon program at my school. There are 2 sections of this program. They both foster differentiated curriculums for students with autism. One program is an inclusion program where students are in their mainstream classes for a certain percentage of the day. The other is a self-contained program where the students spend the majority of their instruction time in the special education classroom. Both programs focus on achieving specific goals to demonstrate progress and success that is stated the IEP’s.

Flagstaff Unified School District has an adaptive PE program for the special education programs in the whole district, but there are not any art or music programs district-wide for special education. So I thought, why not create a program at my school and maybe one day the district will hire someone to teach an adaptive arts program district wide for all special education programs. Art is exercising your brain and is just as important as other subjects. We do teach cross curricularly whether it is intentional or unintentional.

All students have their unique differences. It takes a community to manage and educate all of our students. Ways that we can honor our students unique differences are building connections with them. Learn about what their favorite things are, what they enjoy most, what they do not like and what triggers positive and negative behaviors. In order to develop accommodations for students it is important to connect with your building specialists, go to or read IEP’s to learn more about the students and set goals for students in the art classroom.

For the adapted art curriculum, I worked with the special education teacher at my school to help make this curriculum successful. I asked lots of questions and wanted to provide tools that were appropriate for the students various skill levels to create success. All the students have a schedule and token board (to help reinforce positive behavior and the student works towards something they enjoy.)


Some students with Autism have various sensory sensitivities. Here are some tools that can be used in the classroom to help adapt or ease into a project for the students individual needs. Noise reducing headphones help students that have noise sensitivities. Textures can have a great effect on some students. Having gloves available or alternative materials can help tactile sensitivities. Smells in the art room may be too pungent, so nose plugs may come handy.


Some other tools that can help are visual icons for the students rather than verbal directions. Scissors that squeeze that take less effort than the manual open and close that most of us are accustomed to. A tennis ball or fabric for gripping for students who have a hard time gripping smaller tools or something with texture for sensory stimulation. To help with transitions you can also use visual timers.


A big part of the success of students with Autism in the Beacon program are their paraprofessionals who work with the students on a daily basis. To help create student success and independence, it is very important as the teacher to one establish a relationship with the paraprofessionals, but also making sure they know their role and modeling positive behavior in the classroom. As the teacher, I relay clear expectations for what and how the paras are to work with the students in my art class. Each student is different and there are different approaches for each student. Communication, teamwork, goal setting and developing strategies are key to success when working with all students but especially for making accommodations for special needs students.

This entry is dedicated to my sister who is developmentally delayed. I am thankful for the life lessons that she has taught me growing up. She has inspired me to be a teacher and change students lives on a daily basis. I love her dearly, cherish our relationship, enjoy her uniqueness and share her passion for caring for others!

I would like to share this template that I have created for students and paras.


Monday 11. 7.16

Celebrating Veteran's Day

From: Jessica Soifer

Happy, happy November! On November 4, my school had our annual Veteran's assembly. The music teacher, Mr. R conducted a beautiful ceremony honoring the Veterans who attended the assembly, and the Veterans around the United States. Every year the 5th graders interview Veterans, write essays and share the stories of the brave men and women at the assembly. Mr. R also has the students sing an array of songs honoring and thanking the Veterans for their service.


One way the Knoles artists showed their appreciation for the Veteran’s was created art and I displayed their work for the assembly. This year kindergarten designed and painted their own interpretation of an American flag on textured wall paper. We discussed texture and practiced painting techniques by making their brush dance in the paint and on their paper, not scrubbing to give the paint or their paper a bath.

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The kinders also made poppies by drawing wavy or rounded lines, cutting and gluing. The students chose between red, white and blue wallpaper to create their flowers. 


First grade made poppies as well. They practiced following directions, drawing big wavy lines close to the edge of the paper, cutting and painting appropriately. They painted with sparkly, warm colors.   

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Here the works of art combined.

Fourth grade made Pinwheels at the beginning of the year to celebrate Pinwheels for Peace. We are creating peace, one pinwheel at a time. So I displayed them on the bulletin for Veterans Day. They created designs on ripped jeans with oil pastels as well..


This has been a busy week with setting up 2 art shows, 2 professional developments and creating jewelry to sell at the Flagstaff Arboretum. The artwork that i displayed was obviously for the Veteran’s assembly and the other at the district office. It all got done. The Vets appreciated the artwork and the folks at the district office have been giving many compliments to the Knoles artists. Well until next time. Be happy, love, always smile, and create!


Tuesday 11. 1.16

Greetings from your November Mentor!

Happy, Happy November! I have the great honor of serving art educators around the state of Arizona as President-Elect for the Arizona Art Education Association. This has created many opportunities and experiences for collaboration, building connections, honoring different working styles, advocacy, and becoming a stronger leader. I have met many interesting people that have supported and inspired me along the presidency journey thus far.

With that said, I am 35 weeks pregnant with my first baby and some people think I am super woman for taking on the AAEA President-Elect position, teaching full-time, having extra curricular activities, sitting on other boards in Flagstaff, and spending time with my husband.


People have said to me, “how do you do it all?” (When I put my mind to something, it gets done.); “I think you need help with your presidency so I/we can split the time” (Well I appreciate your consideration, but I can do this. I am pregnant, not sick); or “I don’t want you to have too much on your to do list” (I am done with my other tasks and want to alleviate some stress of others, so please let me help). Yes, there are times that life gets overwhelming, but doesn’t that happen to every human being when you are happy, sad, normal, in a funk, sick, pregnant, or however you are feeling. The busier I am, the more productive I am. That is how I have been since I was a kid. Yes, there are days where I am exhausted, but as my mom always says, “There is a bedtime at some point.”

A wonderful experience that I was fortunate to attend was the leadership conference Washington D.C. Tracy, the AAEA President, and I were able to get to know each other better and connect on a deeper level. This will help our future relationship working together on making AAEA more successful every year. On this trip I learned many things about myself. One thing I learned about and started to get was heartburn on this trip (I am sorry to those that suffer from this). Learning to deal with it was, and has been, interesting. More importantly, I learned what it means to be a leader and how to tap into those qualities of being a productive leader for AAEA members, within my school, and community. Another amazing experience has been helping to plan for the AAEA 2016 Conference, which is happening in 2 weeks. I have discovered what people call pregnant brain. I can be forgetful when it comes to remembering things. Thank goodness AAEA helps me out, my students are on top of things happening in the art room, and everyone is patient. For the most part I am on top of things because of my passion planner, but also because I work with a committee who are committed, who plan, delegate jobs, and problem solve to execute the President's vision for the 2016 Conference in Tucson, Arizona. Unfortunately, I will miss out this year do to the timing of my pregnancy. I will not be able to travel and be away from my doc. There is always next year (which I am planning).

Being apart of NAEA, AAEA, teaching, and surrounded by the art world allows me to stimulate my brain and passions in many different ways. This makes me feel good and healthy to work hard, help others, and inspire my students. There are ups and downs of being pregnant, but it has not stopped me in any way. Having a support system is important. Thank you to the love of my life and my family. If I can do it, you can do it no matter your circumstance. Until next time. Be happy, love, always smile and create!


Friday 10.28.16

What inspires you in your own art practice?

Imagine what it must have been like for artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson to see the landscapes that would eventually hold their artworks for the first time. What did they think and dreamed about?

What inspires you in your own art practice?

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Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson were among an early group of artists who began creating artwork in the land in the late 1960s. They were interested in creating art outside of gallery and museum systems that are not easily categorized or defined, envisioning new ways of thinking about and experiencing art. It is important to note, that these artists were not working in isolation. They knew each other, traveled and worked together. Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson were married and were important collaborators and contributors to each other’s work. The essence of Holt and Smithson’s work at this time was exploring and illuminating the periphery, spaces that are far away, often unwanted, difficult to get to and find.

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Nancy Holt (1938- 2014)

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Nancy Holt’s large body of work is extremely diverse and she is known for photography, video, sculpture, and installation work. As demonstrated in Sun Tunnels, Holt was interested in light, perspective, time, and space. Her obsession with sightlines and viewpoints is seen over and over again throughout her work, playing with ideas of framing, a camera, and lens.

Image 5 - Nancy Holt, Views Through a Sand Dune, 1972

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Robert Smithson (1938 – 1973)

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Robert Smithson was interested in earth and animal forms, mineralogy, science fiction, geology and time. His large body of artwork throughout his short life includes writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, film and photography. Smithson was interested in the second law of thermodynamics that discusses entropy - the concept that nature moves from order to disorder. Imagine if left alone, what would Spiral Jetty look like in a hundred years, a thousand, a million? Do you think it would look the same or different than it did when it was built in 1970 or even today? Might entropy have anything to do with this?

Image 8 - Robert Smithson, Buried Angel, 1962
One of my favorite things I do each year is explore Land art in Utah with students; this is also some of my most challenging work. Transportation, administrative support, class schedules, and testing all are formidable opponents to field trips, especially all-day trips to sites that are hours away on dirt roads. Currently, we are only able to provide student trips to Spiral Jetty because it is a little easier to access than Sun Tunnels, but I hope to do trips with students to each site in the coming years. We have found that working with administrators and teachers to create partnerships and collaborations provide more buy-in on these experiences. We also pay for transportation, provide curricula for on-site lessons and activities, and cover all costs for supplies and snacks. On site, we have discussions about Smithson’s work, Spiral Jetty, and Land arts’ place in the history of visual culture. Students explore the site through different lessons including, Portrait of Place (I’ve included it below), where they gather different materials they find on-site into vials. They curate their vials and display them in a sculpture to create a portrait of Spiral Jetty and its landscape. This curricula is standard-aligned and promotes a focused exploration of the artwork and site.

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>> Portrait of Place Lesson Plan by Annie Burbidge Ream

As we have explored this month, the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s primary goal as a steward of Land art in Utah is to provide education and access to these incredible works of art. Through community meet-ups, family programming, and K-12 resources, our hope is to give people the information and incentive they need to get out and explore Utah’s wild places. I hope the posts this month has been informative and have inspired a deeper look at Land art for you and your classroom or institution. If you have been to these sites before, visit them again, and if you haven’t – start planning your adventure now! Feel free to contact the UMFA with questions or to learn more about Land art and using it in your teaching. It’s been great writing about Land art this month, but now I have an itch to get out and explore these amazing places again! See you in the desert!


Friday 10.21.16

Planning Your Meet-Up: The Power of Climate and its Effects on a Landscape

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How might experiencing Land art be different depending on the season?
If you could pick a time of year to visit these sites when would it be?

Works of art like Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the dynamism and rapid changes of Utah’s landscape. Clear skies quickly turn dark; water levels engulf a lakebed and then disappear. To me, one of the most exciting things about Land art is no matter how many times you visit these places each experience is completely different and new.

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Sun Tunnels can be severely hot in the summer or a muddy mess during spring showers. During this past April’s meet-up most of the cars were stuck in the mud after a series of heavy rainstorms, and as we were pushing cars, I looked up to notice my friend and colleague’s hair standing straight up in the air. After commenting how cool it looked, we both yelled, “LIGHTNING!!!” and ran and tripped through the mud as fast as we could to the safety of the car. Exploring Land art means embracing the idea that you never know exactly what nature is going to hand you.

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Robert Smithson completed Spiral Jetty in 1970 and shortly after it was submerged by flooding waters only to re-emerge in the early 2000s. Today, due to drought, the water is a fifteen-minute walk down the lakebed from the artwork, the rocks of Spiral Jetty covered not by water but salt and sand. In the spring and summer, thousands of pelicans fly over your head as you stand on the artwork; fall brings crystalized bugs stuck in the lakebed; and winter is silent as six-foot-tall mountains of foam roll, flop, and dance over the landscape.

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Both Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the power of our climate and its effects on a landscape. By experiencing these works we are able to witness nature at its most extreme. We like to remind visitors to these sites to always be prepared. Check the weather; bring lots of water, food, proper clothing and footwear. We also ask that you “leave no trace” when visiting by carrying out anything you bring and leave the natural environment exactly how you found it. Visit our website for more details. 

An important aspect of programming for Land art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is creating teacher resources and providing professional development for K-12 educators across the state. We know that when we work with teachers to develop classroom content that connects Core Standards with artworks our impact grows exponentially and our resources serve even more students across the state.

An educator professional development workshop model we have been testing recently brings teachers and their families together for a Land art workshop. Teachers and their families start in the morning together learning about Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty and creating art in response. Then the teachers and families split into breakout sessions. The teachers explore how to incorporate Land art and STEAM curricula into their classroom, while the families do a number of hands-on experiential workshops to learn and experience concepts connected to these important works.

Here are some examples of lesson plans presented at educator professional developments on Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty written by my colleague, Laura Decker. These lesson plans highlight arts integration of some of the content mentioned above –nature, climate-change, and site.  

Earthworks Ecosystems Lesson Plan

Tunnel Vision Diorama Lesson Plan

Last week is our final Land art post folks! We will end by talking a bit about artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, and highlight the challenges and successes of getting students out to visit these sites in person!


Friday 10.14.16

Experiencing the Landscape in Landscape Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How do both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels help you experience the landscape around it?
Why do you think the artists picked these sites for their artwork?


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Land art is often site-specific. Robert Smithson used basalt rocks from Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake to create his spiral, while Nancy Holt placed human-made concrete tubes on the desert floor that line up with the sunrise and sunset of summer and winter solstice. Both artworks tell ever-changing stories about the landscapes they exist in.

What strikes me about the desolate places of the American West is its sublime vastness. Without human elements, the vistas are so large that it is hard to comprehend how close or far away landforms are. The scale of the desert shifts, salt mounds look like mountains, the sky never ends.

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Think about Sun Tunnels as a camera lens.
How does it focus the foreground, middleground, and background?

The circular tubes limit your view and draw attention to details in the landscape. Sun Tunnels not only allows you to look closely at the land, but also tracks time of day as the light changes and dances in and out of the concrete tubes.

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Notice the water levels in these two photographs.
What is different about them?

These photos were taken two-weeks apart in March of 2013.
What do you think is contributing to the difference in water levels?

Spiral Jetty frames our view and understanding of Great Salt Lake. We are able to use the artwork to see how the lake is affected by climate, weather, and season. (I will talk about this in more detail in next week’s post.)

Spiral Jetty
and Sun Tunnels frame and focus the landscape and bring big spaces to a human scale. At the UMFA we hope to frame and focus these sites for multi-generation and family learners through our educational programs.

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One of our most popular programs is the Spiral Jetty Backpack. This backpack can be checked out a week at a time to take out to Spiral Jetty and explore the art and science of the site. The backpack has participants consider the artwork through multiple lenses focusing on maps, drawing, materials, shape, science, and nature through hands-on activities and experiments. The backpack also includes looking prompts, discussion topics, and questions for families of all ages to talk about the artwork together. Backpack participants receive a take-home packet with the backpack including worksheets and activities that they can keep. After the adventure, the backpack is returned to the UMFA. This program was developed by my colleague, Virginia Catherall, and is so popular that it has a continuous waiting list of families wanting to participate!

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Please download a featured activity from the Spiral Jetty backpack about maps. If you would like more information about UMFA’s backpack program or to see the entirety of its curricula, please leave a comment below.

Soon we will begin developing the Sun Tunnels backpack. As a preview of that curricula and next week’s topic on educator programming, please download “Framing the Landscape.”

Download Lesson Plans:
- Spiral Jetty Map Activity by Virginia Catherall
- Framing the Landscape by Virginia Catherall


Tuesday 10.11.16

Goals of Community Meet-ups

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

As promised, this week we will post three examples of some of the activities we use to guide visitors through experiencing Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels at UMFA Community Meet-ups. These workshops, focusing on sketching and writing, are guided tours of the sites and begin with a discussion of the artwork and surrounding landscape followed by a demonstration of the project. Participants then are able to go off on their own to do the lesson and engage with the work of art.


Remember, as discussed in the last post, the goals of our community meet-ups are to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah! Sketching and writing are just two of many workshop models we do on-site, but work with many ages from young to the young at heart! These three activities focus on Spiral Jetty, but the concepts can be directly applied to any artwork, landscape, environment, or even the classroom! Do you have other ideas or extensions on how to use these projects? Please share in the comments section below!

Spiral Jetty

Download Lesson Plans:
Blind Contouring: Sketching Spiral Jetty
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Exploring Color: Documenting Color through Place
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Stream-of-Consciousness: Writing Spiral Jetty by Iris Moulton

Stay tuned for more! The next post will focus on experiencing Land art through family and multi-generational learning!


Friday 10. 7.16

Exploring Land Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

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Imagine standing in these landscapes. What smells would be in the air? What noises would float around you? How would the air feel on your cheek?

As you look at both Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson, 1970) and Sun Tunnels (Nancy Holt 1973-1976) what is the same and what is different about these works of art? How would you interact with them if you were at these sites?

As discussed in the previous post, Land art explores the landscape in a variety of ways and can be made on or into the land. Did you know that you are supposed to walk-on and interact with Land art?

Spiral Jetty is built out of basalt rocks gathered from its site, Rozel Point, in the north arm of Great Salt Lake. The 15-foot-wide jetty spirals 1500 feet into the lakebed. Sun Tunnels consists of four large concrete cylinders arranged in an X pattern on Utah’s west desert floor that aligns with the sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders is pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations: Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn.

People travel from around the world to experience Utah’s Land art. Once in Utah, the journey consists of long highways, twisting dirt roads, industrial spaces, historical sites, and the vast unknown. Both sites are hours away from Salt Lake City and the journey is crucial to experiencing them. It’s not just about clambering on top of Spiral Jetty, or peaking through Sun Tunnels. The real magic of experiencing this art form begins when you step into your car to embark on an adventure into the wilds of the West.

Each year the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) host Community Meet-ups at both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels with the goals to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah!

On April 30, 2016 we launched our first meet-up at Sun Tunnels. Although it was a stormy day, over 75 people had fun in the rain experiencing this amazing place through discussions, art-making, and performances.

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Last weekend on October 1 2016, the UMFA hosted over 250 people at Spiral Jetty. This is the third annual community meet-up at this site and the day included short lectures about the art and science of the site, art-making workshops (spirographs and salt-water landscape painting), writing and sketching tours of the landscape, science stations (exploring salt, minerals, and microbes of the lake), and musical performances.

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Over the past three years that we have been planning community meet-ups at these sites, we have seen the interest and attendance of Utah’s community continue to grow. There is nothing more thrilling to a museum educator like myself than to see people having conversations, making art, going on an adventure, and creating memories around such amazing works of art! Check back later this week when I will post some of the activities we developed for UMFA’s community meet-ups. Until then, happy adventuring!