Corcoran Students Explore the Intersection of Art and the Rural Environment

Photo of a site-interpretation artwork
Photo by Daniel Martinez Gonzalez
May 20, 2016

For Daniel Martinez Gonzalez (Photojournalism) and Patrick Quinn (BFA), the summer break began with an intensive immersion in the rural landscape of the American West.

Both students received scholarships to participate in the Art & Rural Environments Field School, a partnership between the University of Colorado and the nonprofit design group M-12 Studio. The off-campus course allows students to live and work together in rural environments and on the road while creating site-interpretation artworks that encompass various mediums, including writing, photography, sculpture and drawing. Students also participate in collaborative experiments, dialogical projects and social actions.

Since arriving in Colorado, where the course began in early May, Gonzalez, a photojournalism major, has been documenting his experience with his camera and audio recorders and through his work has developed a greater appreciation for the differences among distinct environments—a common theme running throughout the course.

“We talk a lot about the experience of being in a place like this and the importance of the vernacular of different environments, like specific characteristics define one place in particular,” Gonzalez said of the discussions and informal lectures that are a part of the course.

A Collaborative Experience

In addition to exposing him to a new landscape, Gonzalez said the course has enabled him to put the full weight of his attention and focus on his artworka welcome change. “It feels good to wake up, have breakfast, and then immediately start to work,” he said. “We’re living in a communal place, and we’re always working. We’re always thinking about our projects.”

One project the group of 12 students is collaborating on is a set of handcrafted tables. Divided into teams of two or three, the students were asked to design and hand-build the tables that they will eventually be used during a communal potluck and then auctioned off, with the proceeds going toward scholarships for future course participants.

“You get to work and collaborate with other artists, so it’s a very interesting and a very fulfilling and enriching experience,” Gonzalez said of the collaborative projects.

Students have also been treated to artist talks, including a talk by Yumi Janairo Roth, a Boulder-based artist and professor of sculpture at the University of Colorado, and have engaged with groups such as the M12 Collective and Black Cube to examine how practicising artists are trying to engage with and develop the field of art and design that's centered in rural landscapes.

"I've really been able to explore how small communities and large spaces can work together to create an intimate experience for someone," Quinn said.

This weekend, the group is set to further its exploration of rural environments and embark on a 10-day roadtrip throughout the American High Plains, the Rocky Mountain Range and sites in northern Arizona.

To read more about Gonzalez's and Quinn's experiences this summer, follow them on the Art & Rural Environments Field School's blog.