Exhibit on wolf reintroduction seeks to spark conversation

“Wolf Reintroduction — A Conversation through Creativity,” features a variety of mixed-media wolf-themed pieces, including the "Guard Wolf Yard Art Piece" by Leslie Lovejoy pictured above. The exhibit is up for all of July 2022.
Katy Pickens/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Wolf reintroduction has been a hot-button issue in Colorado for quite some time. Dagny McKinley decided she wanted to prompt discussion of how wolves and people relate in Northern Colorado and what policy is to come by curating a mixed-media exhibit on the subject.

The exhibit, called “Wolf Reintroduction — A Conversation through Creativity” is showing at the Depot Art Center for the month of July.

It will be complemented by a concert and workshop from Lost Walks, a band which creates arts around the theme of wolves and packs, at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at West Lincoln Park during Art in the Park.

“It started with my interest in the polarization of wolf reintroduction in Colorado, especially in rural Colorado, the pro-wolf and anti-wolf perspective,” McKinley said. “It really inspires me to try to find solutions to help us have a conversation about wolf reintroduction without people immediately getting defensive or trying to support their side.”

She explained that art can create a common meeting place for these conversations that don’t evoke argument, but rather draw people to consider their feelings about a particular subject.

“I became curious about is there a way to start a conversation if we base it on our basic emotions,” McKinley said.

Brett Matarazzo, a Colorado-based mixed-media artist who works in reusing and transforming old materials to create art, created two pieces that are featured in the exhibit.

If you go:

What: Lost Walks Concert in conjunction with Art in the Park

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, July 9

Where: West Lincoln Park

One piece, entitled “218 for your pleasure (2021 Wisconsin harvest kill map)” is representative of wolves killed during a required Wisconsin harvest hunt. Officially, 218 wolves were killed, with the unofficial count being as high as 313.

His other piece “Natural Altruism: Fear & Hypocrisy” touches “more on my political response to it,” Matarazzo explained.

“That piece is the same wolf with a bunch of different kind of headlines and getting at essentially emotional connectedness in my opinion, to ‘boy, how do you get here?’” Matarazzo added.

The work raises topics like eating meat, violence and profit.

Jay Fetcher, longtime Steamboat local, also has written work featured in the exhibit in which he describes his preference for wolves to migrate naturally to Colorado rather than reintroduction.

Fetcher explained that as a rancher, reintroducing wolves would have large financial impacts on his operations.  

“Right now, we have one young woman who’s doing all the cow work by herself,” Fetcher said. “She takes care of everything, just because the cows are so comfortable in their environment.”

“With wolves, that would 100% change,” Fetcher said, adding that he would need to hire more workers and use different strategies to monitor the cows, creating a fiscal ripple effect on his ranch.

A plan for wolf reintroduction will be put forth by 2023. Fetcher said it is important to have a balanced and scientific dialogue about the issue before any proposals are enacted. He added that this exhibit can be a way to start the conversation. 

“I think it’s really important we talk about it,” Fetcher said. “I think it’s important to understand both sides.”

The band Lost Walks is also participating in this exhibit with a concert on Saturday. Its mission and themes are centered around wolves and animals in general.

Jen GaNun, one of the founders of the band, as well as a vocalist, choreographer, dancer and harmonium player, explained that the group centers movement and narrative in its work.

“To get some more inspiration for lyrics, we just wanted to learn a little bit more about the animal, and that was where we learned a lot more about Colorado’s history with the wolf, and what was happening in the scene to bring wolves home at that time,” GaNun said. “So, that was really the precipice to where we got involved in the movement, not just doing an art project for the sake of it.”

So far, the band has released two out of three parts of this wolf-themed rock opera, and they will be performing “Blood Lantern,” the second of the two albums, in its entirety on Saturday. 

They will additionally run a workshop for kids focused on movement and performance.

“That is a space to explore movements and music through the lens of the wolf,” GaNun explained. 

Jill Bergman is another artist participating in the exhibit. She is a print maker and has been fascinated and passionate about wildlife for a long time. She has two pieces featured.

“The second piece that I did, I created because I was doing a a self-generated project about wildlife, and speaking to different people that work around wildlife, interviewing them, and then creating some artwork,” she said.

Bergman added that she is glad this will be a space to constructively consider and discuss wolf reintroduction.

“I think it’s good to have this conversation around well, so that that not just the loudest voices get heard, but other people’s voices get heard too around sensitive or controversial subjects,” she added.

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