Guest Post from our friend and partner, the artist Agnes Chavez.
Taos Land Trust
In 2019 we partnered with The Taos Land Trust, a thirty-year old non-profit that empowers people to protect the land and traditions they love through education, advocacy, and conservation. The TLT is currently revitalizing a 20-acre wetland and agricultural land next to Fred Baca Park. This project will revitalize a section of the Rio Fernando, bring an acequia back to life, create a public park and restore the once-productive agricultural lands of this property. Once finished, the site will provide our community and its visitors with downtown access to the river and green space through a network of trails. The ongoing rehabilitation work will also be used for educational demonstrations of best practices for conservation of soil, water and habitat.
The STEMarts Lab is designing a new program called the BIO STEAM LAB @Taos Land Trust, a STEAM-focused environmental education youth program that raises awareness to local and global environmental issues which are part of the Rio Fernando Park mission. Our mission is to beautify and promote the park with permanent and semi-permanent site-specific installations that educate our youth and community on the preservation work happening at the park, instill value for protecting our environment, and increase visitation to the park as a place to feel wonder, respect and inspiration for nature.
Through the BIO STEAM Lab @Taos Land Trust we design a STEAM + environmental education program for Taos County students to further the mission of Taos Land Trust /Rio Fernando Park. Applying the field tested STEMarts methodology, we coordinate artist-led interdisciplinary projects that apply the latest science research and technological innovations through art and education. Our primary goals are:
- Engage our youth and community with immersive learning opportunities to understand and value the importance of the wetland and agricultural revitalization process,
- raise awareness to environmental issues and health of the planet through intercultural and interdisciplinary collaborations.
- Beautify and improve the park grounds through site-specific, semi-permanent installations that emerge from interdisciplinary and intercultural collaborations with artists, educators, and scientists.
How we do it
We bring in one professional artist every year whose work explores an environmental topic that relates to the mission at Taos Land Trust. The artist designs a site-specific installation and we engage local classrooms to be a part of the research, design and build of the installation in collaboration with members of the community who share common goals and/or processes. We build an online curriculum tool from this artist lab which provides year round hands-on activities that encourage all schools in Taos County to explore Rio Fernando Park through a meaningful and engaging BIO STEAM LAB project.
The Pollinator Concentrator Installation
Our 2019 Taos Land Trust BIO STEAM LAB artist-in-residence is Ana MacArthur. MacArthur’s trans-disciplinary practice functions as a creative catalyst by excavating nature’s processes and connected metaphors through the specific lens’s of life’s relationship to light, environmental intelligence, and appropriate technology. MacArthur’s history in working with light based technologies, has evolved to increasing work immersed in the natural world. Ana MacArthur is working with the Taos Land Trust staff, Mark Goldman and his class at UNM to build a permanent large scale installation at Rio Fernando Park entitled, Pollinator Concentrator. The pattern of tiles will mimic the optics of a butterfly’s eye. There may be a sundial component added in. This will incorporate solar energy teachings. Pollinator plants, water with stones for butterflies and bees to nourish on, will be integrated with a nearby garden in a shape that mimics the arch of the parabolic. The piece will be installed in August. The artist’s installation will provide a year round STEAM learning experience for all students in Taos County.
Taos Integrated School of the Arts (TISA) Workshop
TISA’s 6th grade class with teacher, Erika Tafoya, participated in a 3-Day immersive Pollinator workshop with our guest artist Ana MacArthur. The workshop focused on the them of pollinators and took place in the classroom and on the field at Rio Fernando Park. Through the artist’s unique research and practice with biomimicry, holography and optics, students learned about the importance of pollinators to the health of our ecosystem, how pollinators species are in peril and what we can do to help. They learned how to make and paint alginated mold tiles which is part of the artist’s work. These students will be participating in the last day of the workshop when the artist installation goes in the ground in August.
The Pollinator Design Challenge
Ana created an activity for making Pollinator Houses: The Appearance of Hexagon in Pollinators and Nature. TISA Arts Coordinator, Megan Avina Bowers, implemented the BIO STEAM Lab Activity with the younger grades for school wide integration. Students made pollinator solitary bee housing and through this process learned about the geometry of hexagons as they appear in pollinator designs and throughout nature. Megan and the kids invented a technique to use recycled magazines and glue to create the tubes instead of using straws. The activity was so successful that it was also shared at the Invent Event Taos Land Trust booth led by TISA kids. To expand our reach to all of Taos County, this activity will become a Pollinator Design Challenge inspiring classrooms to create a unique sci-art pollinator house. Winning entries will be installed at Rio Fernando park.
Field Trips to Fernando Park: Science + Art + Nature
Taos Land Trust has started their school visits to the park. Taos Day School students experienced interactive activities on the land led by Liana Sonne of Field Institute of Taos who will be leading BIO STEAM activities with visiting schools.
We are now developing the online Curriculum Tool for the BIO STEAM LAB@Taos Land Trust which will have a unit for each STEAM visiting artist. Ana MacArthur will be our first featured artist. She is now working on the Pollinator Concentrator installation and it will be ready in August 2019 along with this curriculum tool. Schools from all of Taos County and beyond can schedule a visit to Fernando Park to engage with this unique sci-art installation coupled with the online curriculum tool of STEAM activities for an immersion into nature through the lens of art and science.
We collaborated for the first time with the Taos Land Trust in a bio-art project in 2018 as part of the STEMarts@PASEO Youth Program. The Paseo artist, Cristopher Cichocki, led a workshop at Rio Fernando Park and at the Taos Charter School which culminated as an immersive installation for The PASEO festival. As part of the artist’s contribution he designed an artist book called Microscapes that captured the impact of these interdisciplinary STEAM collaborations. We hope to do more of these books in the future!
The workshop using Dino-lite microscopes to create beautiful videomicrographic images made such an impact on the school that they created calendars, postcards and even pillows of the images for a successful fundraiser.
Special thank you to the Fasken Foundation, LANL Foundation and Janet Mockovciak for making all this great work possible!