September 29, 2019

The Big River Continuum

The Itasca Biological Station. Image: Jonathan Schilling


The Weisman Art Museum announces the creation of The Big River Continuum.

It is one thing to know about a river, and yet another altogether to consider the river itself as a way of knowing. The University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biological Station at the Mississippi headwaters, the Weisman Art Museum in the Twin Cities, and Tulane University’s A Studio in the Woods in the Mississippi Delta are establishing a creative exchange program that does just that. By linking communities at the headwaters and delta of the Mississippi river, the Big River Continuum cultivates dynamic exchanges between these communities as artists from both regions participate in collaborative residency programs that ignite inquiry into the interconnectedness of cultures, research and river/land environments.

Taking inspiration from the Ojibwe name Misiziibi, or gichi-ziibi meaning “Huge River,” this initiative turns the Mississippi River in its entirety into a platform for creative collaboration. The Big River Continuum strives to collaborate across topographies of power, time, and access in order to synergize artists and scholars from diverse river cultures in a shared and equitable process of inquiry.

Over the course of the next year, artists Monique Verdin and Karen Goulet will produce work through collaborations with one another, and with environmental scientists at the Itasca Biological Station. Monique will be at the station for three weeks this fall, while Karen will visit A Studio the Woods in the spring. The project is curated by Rebeca Dallinger, Curator-in-Residence at the Itasca Biological Station and Target Studio for Creative Collaboration.

The Big River Continuum was  initiated by the Itasca Biological Station and the College of Biological Sciences in order to establish the sustained production of work that integrates artistic activity with scientific scholarship. The program is facilitated by the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at WAM, a unique museum space dedicated to collaborations across sectors, cultures, disciplines and practices, supporting and promoting work that radically diversifies ways of knowing and meaning-making.


Artists Karen Goulet and Monique Verdin. Image: Stephanie Xenos



Monique Verdin

Monique Verdin is a multidisciplinary artist working with the complex interconnectedness of environment, economics, culture, climate, and change along the Gulf South for decades. Her indigenous Houma relatives and their life-ways have been the primary focus of her storytelling practice. Monique is the director of The Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange, a part of the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative core leadership circle. Monique’s will spend her time at the field station investigating ways in which the headwaters and the delta have been in conversation with each other for thousands of years.


Karen Goulet

Karen Goulet is an artist, poet, educator and community organizer who is fiercely committed to bringing visibility and voice to marginalized realities. An enrolled member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, Karen is also from Métis, Saami, and Finnish people. Raised to honor the beauty of the natural world while standing up for the truth, Karen believes that art can change the world and supports and honors the efforts of those who are working to make a difference through creative means. She remembers the struggles of those who came before her, and does what she can to make opportunity for those who will come next.


Rebecca Dallinger

Rebecca Dallinger is Curator-in-Residence for The Big River Continuum at the Itasca Biological Station and the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at WAM. Rebecca has extensive experience in community organizing and rural arts development, having generated multiple venues for access to the arts—through workshops, events, and open studios—while at the White Earth Tribal and Community College Extension Service in Mahnomen, MN. These creative gatherings brought together artists and communities in celebration of traditional arts and food through experiential learning.


Jonathan Schilling

Jonathan Schilling is a Professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology in the College of Biological Sciences. His research is focused on the biology of plant decomposer fungi, a group of organisms responsible for recycling the bulk of Earth’s biotic carbon. Jonathan was named the Director of the Itasca Biological Station in 2017, a shift intended to strengthen general research conducted at Itasca, provide important field data for his work on model system fungi, and to broaden this work to include the human dimensions of conservation science.


Alya Ansari, Target Studio Assistant

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