Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Introducing The Yuma Project

Yuma, Colorado; from the Baseline Group flickr page

Today we're excited to present The Yuma Project, a collaboration between art students at The University of Colorado-Boulder and the community of Yuma, Colorado. This project is led by Richard Saxton, an artist and scholar interested in vernacular, place-based expression. Folks may remember our earlier discussions of his work as well his collaborations with the M12 group and The Rural Studio, where Mr. Saxton was previously an artist-in-residence.

Over the next few weeks we will have the privilege of presenting a number of the art projects Mr. Saxton's students and collaborators created in Yuma. Today I'd like to offer an introduction, beginning with this excerpt from the syllabus itself:
Community and Site-based Art Practice (AKA The Baseline Group, AKA The Yuma Project) is a special topics course that focuses on approaches to community and site-based art practices with a particular interest in the rural landscape and rural communities.  Through a collective class atmosphere, students in this course will discover and discuss approaches to a unique realm of the art-making profession. Focusing on themes that include site, community, and collective practice, students will learn about the history of these art avenues, be introduced to concepts of site proposals, learn about project development, and collaborate on the design and implementation of ambitious community and site-based art projects.

This course will take place primarily off campus and is designed as an experiential course, meaning that students learn through the experience of doing. Students will experience and participate, first hand, on tangible projects in the field.  In this course we will spend a substantial amount of time outside of the traditional studio environment.
In the weeks that follow, Mr. Saxton leads these emerging artists to Yuma for an immersive process of thinking through--as a group--how art-making can address the "aesthetic, social, and historical context" of their sites in Yuma; the answers come through repeated visits to the region and through close contact with the Yuma community. In the end, these travels into the rural places beyond the traditional art-studio world offer an "experimental and interdisciplinary approach to creativity." 

In corresponding with some of the Yuma Project / Baseline Group students, I can attest to the unique kind of work this vision can inspire. Below, I'll offer two teasers of the installations which will follow in The Art of the Rural in the coming weeks. 

Adrianna Santiago, Nourish

I want to incorporate new technologies with old practices, without losing ties between people and the land. During my time in Yuma, I spoke with patrons of the historic grocery store, Shop All, a common place where community members frequent. I asked people to nominate community members who they think may be interested in a work exchange. Lastly, I traded my time for a lesson in a historical Yuma tradition. The documentation of this learning exchange is presented and archived as the Yuma Historical Society Museum.

You Jin Seo, Untitled

As I move to different places, I start collecting objects in order to be aware of the different cultures and to get used to the new environments. I installed the shiny and beautiful objects that I have collected in Yuma so that people walking on the street can see the artwork in their daily life. I long to bring the beautiful moment when I observe the softly glittering lights into the vast and barren landscape near Yuma.