Land Experience and Art of Place (LEAP)

I first met Claire Coté at an introductory planning meeting for The Eighteenth International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness. Since then, I’ve been curious about Land Experience and Art of Place (LEAP), a project she directs with the related event, NeoRio. In the following profile, Claire sheds some light on the LEAP’s mission, goals and programming.

Land Experience and Art of Place (LEAP)

Address: HC 81 Box 685, Questa, NM 87556
Phone: 575-586-2362


How is the project operated? For-profit, nonprofit, artist-run, etc.
LEAP is a loosely-structured artist-run project to create place-based events and happenings. We are currently a project of Localogy.

How long has it been in existence?
LEAP was founded in Summer 2009.

What was your motivation?
Inspired by a sense of wonder and a commitment to creativity and sustainability, LEAP is an experimental, interdisciplinary, artist-driven, initiative creating fertile ground for collaboration. A passion for experiencing and protecting wild lands and waters is at its core. LEAP provides opportunities to deepen our appreciation and understanding of and relationship to our environments and our human and non-human neighbors; to increase our commitment to protecting these places and relationships and fostering creative responses and expressions of them in contemporary art and culture. LEAP is intended to function as an interdisciplinary networking hub, connecting artists with conservationists, land management organizations and practitioners in other fields.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
At this time there are two core organizers of the project. However, because collaboration is such an important element of LEAP’s mission, a larger group of core organizers is always formed through the creation of the events. The number of organizers expands and contracts as is required and inspired by different events and projects.

How are programs funded? (membership fees, public funding, sponsors, etc.)
Currently, programming is limited to two main annual events with associated educational programming and outreach to schools. LEAP collaborates with other organizations and individuals to make events and exhibitions happen, and these collaborators make financial contributions and in-kind donations. We have received small grants for our educational projects and although all of our events are free, we do request donations which help to defray costs. At this point we do not have any “overhead”. All expenses are event/program-based.

Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
Programming at LEAP is a collaborative act. However, curatorial and event decisions are made primarily by myself, LEAP director, Claire Coté and collaborator, John Wenger of Wild Earth Studio.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
At this time, our two main events are environmentally-based. Educational outreach and community participation occurs in connection with each event.

What kind of events are usually organized?
In the fall we host NeoRio, a themed and curated event showcasing outdoor, solar-powered artists’ video presentations and related community events. In preparation for NeoRio, we work with Wild Earth Studio, a month-long Artist Rendezvous in May, to create work particularly for NeoRio (especially themed, site-specific videos). Both events currently take place at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area and are organized in collaboration with the Wild Earth Studio Team, the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office, and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance among others.

How is your programming determined?
At this point our programming is limited to two main events per year, but expansion in the future is a possibility. Programming content, duration and theme is a collaborative decision with LEAP’s primary collaborators.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes. We are currently accepting submissions for NeoRio 2012, which will be a Taos Area event in connection with The Eighteenth International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness. Submission guidelines can be found online at:

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
LEAP regards art as a form of fieldwork, an investigative technique for research with expanded parameters and outcome possibilities. Artists, as cultural creatives, are encouraged to team-up with practitioners in other fields to explore, document, study and “express” different environments, areas and problems. LEAP investigates and actively examines the meaning and applications of the words “resource,”  “management ” and “conservation” among others. Place, environment, culture, celebration and the particularities of locality are central to this project.

What’s working? What’s not working?
An informal approach to the project has been okay for this first couple of year, but as we get more events “under our belt” the need to formalize certain aspects is becoming clear. What form this will take is yet to be determined. Despite initial resistance to planning ahead, we are finding that the more advanced planning we do, the better our events become. It may seem obvious but it’s taken us a couple of years to catch on. For example, this year we decided on NeoRio 2012 themes and concepts before the 2011 event. This enabled us to announce 2012 ideas to potential artists and collaborators to the captive audience of the 2011 event, allowing them plenty of time to get involved. Also this year we started to more actively work with our local schools. We did an interesting video project called “What’s in the Water” with Questa Junior High Students in collaboration with the Wild Earth Studio team. The video was the result of a week-long, arts-based “study” of local aquatic species during which the students made puppet-like props. The week culminated in a field trip to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, where the students brought their puppets to life in an experimental set on the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge to create the video, which premiered at NeoRio this fall.

What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
LEAP hopes to encourage artists, scientists, collaborators from other fields and the public alike, to go beyond observation – to interact, participate and engage with each other and places around them. The vision for LEAP is to connect people to place through arts-based, interdisciplinary collaborations, education and events.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are very much at the beginning of our journey as a project and I am excited to see what forms LEAP takes in the future. I am excited about the potential and powerful momentum these events are building in the community to address important and delicate environmental and cultural issues. It is also exciting to be moving from the single-featured, “artist only” model into the collaborative, artist-team approach, with increasing involvement of experts from other fields. I see this method playing a central role in future LEAP events and education outreach.

Images courtesy of Land Experience and Art of Place (LEAP).
All design and photos by Claire Coté unless stated otherwise.

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