Interactive exhibit combines art, science to inspire community support for Yampa River
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa River shares parts of itself in plenty of different ways with plenty of different people and communities. A new interactive exhibit at the Depot Art Center aims to share itself similarly.
“This exhibit will help people connect to these ideas because it’s interactive, and because it portrays scientific aspects through stories and different personal perspectives,” exhibition volunteer coordinator Emmanuelle Vital said.
The Yampa River Art & Science Exhibition features a wide variety of pieces and activities and opens Friday in conjunction with First Friday Art Walk.
At the exhibit’s center will be “The Yampa Is Wild” mural by Jill Bergman, to which about 120 volunteers contributed prepping, tracing and painting. Friday’s opening will be the last time the mural will be open for the public to view at eye-level before its mounted on the Ambulance Barn along the Yampa River Core Trail on June 18.
Various areas of the exhibit delve into the science of the Yampa River. There’s information about river regulations at the state level; a piece explaining how planting trees is one of the best ways to sustain lower river temperatures and less evaporation; and several pieces from a Steamboat Springs Middle School science lesson that took place on the banks of the Yampa.
Other pieces originate from a place closer to art. There are poems about the experience of spending time on the Yampa — some by second-graders and some that attendees will write during the Friday event. There are paintings and sketches of the river and its wildlife, including the humpback chub, and there’s a 6-foot welded sculpture of a water droplet.
But even the exhibit’s pieces that seem to lean more toward science or art still incorporate elements of the other; the exhibit’s sum of its parts is a duet of science and art together, neither one able to tell the full story of the Yampa alone. One goal of the exhibit, Vital said, is to help demystify the science around the river toward a better community understanding of it.
What: Yampa River Art & Science Exhibition opening
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7
Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.
That includes expanding an understanding of the river past only the river itself.
“You can’t manage a river on its own; you have to also manage the tributaries and the whole watershed,” Vital said. “From the source in the Flat Tops to Dinosaur.”
“It’s a collaborative process all around,” said exhibition volunteer coordinator Madison Muxworthy. “The community has to be involved because we all use the water (of the Yampa River).”
There are films; there is music; there’s a film featuring original music. There are pieces of macrophotography and pieces showing the landscape going on for miles. Artists and scientists sharing their perspectives range from emerging to established.
“There are $6,000 pieces next to drawings by a middle school student,” Vital said. “Everyone was really open to having their piece in a community gallery.”
There’s a collaborative piece, by one artist with a Master’s of Fine Arts and a Colorado Mountain College adjunct professor of geographic information system, which, when sold, will support Friends of the Yampa with its proceeds. There’s an activity in which participants match up fly larvae specimens to fishing flies.
“My goal is to spark more conversation and to engage people and to find more common ground,” Vital said. “We talk about pollution and negative impacts, but also highlight how this community has already come together — both professionals and the community — to protect the river.”
The exhibit is coordinated by Steamboat Springs’ Friends of the Yampa and supported by the Nature, Environment, Science & Technology Studio for the Arts, or NEST, at Colorado University Boulder, and Steamboat Creates. NEST Co-Director Jorge Perez-Gallergo, who has a Ph.D. in astronomy and an MFA in design, will be in attendance at the gallery opening Friday.
The exhibit held a soft opening Tuesday, June 4, for attendees of the Yampa Basin Rendezvous, a conference about climate projections and community resilience, based at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. The exhibit — except for the Yampa Is Wild mural — will stay on display at the Depot through the month of June.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Editor’s note: the writer of this article contributed a drawing to this exhibit.
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