In a world where scientific versus socially minded people are often divided, the State of the Rockies Project is attempting to bridge that gap with art. The Project, which is a student-faculty collaborative research project devoted to conserving the natural resources of the West, recently held a photography exhibit in the 802 gallery on campus. The exhibit was inspired in part by the long-standing involvement with the Project by photographer and Colorado College Geology Professor, Steve Weaver. Over the past decade, the Project has adopted a more artistic approach to involve students in conservation, such as the development of several creative posters and three student- produced films. The Project’s move towards artistic expression, rather than purely scientific discourse, is related in part to a rich history of art playing a role in the conservation of the West, dating back to Ansel Adams and Terry Tempest Williams.
According to Brendan P. Boepple, Assistant Director of the Project and former student researcher, art has the ability to unite opposing views and demographics towards the common goal of conservation, because an appreciation for the natural beauty of the West is universal. He describes how the art exhibit hopefully “inspires people to look at values they share in the lands and waters of the American West, often across deep social and political divides… Without this public engagement, issues in the West can fall on deaf ears.” The exhibit, which was open from Oct. 1 through the end of Block 2, was curated with the help of Eric Ravin, from CC’s art department, and contributed to entirely by artists from the CC community.
Eric Perramond, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Southwest Studies at CC, also believes that the power of art can draw people towards conservation in ways that science cannot. He describes the intention behind their artistic endeavors beautifully: “Expanding our work in the Rockies to include art/music/multi-media is necessary because if we want to effect change on conservation issues (or climate, or water, etc…) we have to speak to the heart, to the eyes, not just the brain. Art does this. Music does this. Science doesn’t always do so.” The State of the Rockies is constantly trying to expand their reach to the rest of the Colorado College community, offering several opportunities for students to get involved, whether they want to work for them as a researcher or simply participate in their annual photo contest. Either way, look out for the information that the Project has displayed around campus, and recognize the unique and deep connection to the natural resources of the West that is an inherent part of being a student and resident at CC.