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Big River Continuum: Cohort Conversations

It is one thing to know about a river, and yet another altogether to consider the river itself as a way of knowing. The Big River Continuum is a Mississippi-long artist residency exchange that amplifies the interconnectedness of cultures, research, water and land through collaboration between the multimedia artist Karen Goulet (White Earth Ojibwe) from the Mississippi headwaters region, and social practice artist Monique Verdin (Houma) from the Delta. Over the past three years, the artists have been exchanging visits and having conversations about ways in which the Big River’s headwaters and the delta have been in conversation with each other for thousands of years. Over the past year these conversations have been expanded to include the UMN researchers, students and folks from Louisiana through support from the Institute for Advanced Study collaborative. This event marks the culmination of the Big River Continuum collaborative’s work, and an outlook towards the artists’ exhibitions in the coming summer at the Watermark Art Center, Bemidji, MN and the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at WAM. Meet the artists and hear more about their projects during the Open House  in WAM’s Riverview Gallery from 4 – 5:30; then stay for the panel conversation beginning at 6 p.m. in the Shepherd Room. 

Image credit: Design at top by Monique Verdin

Open House

May 4, 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Riverview Gallery, Weisman Art Museum
FREE and open to the public

Join us at the Open House, prior to the evening’s panel conversation, and have individual conversations with the artists and collaborators about their work:

  • River Stories: Monique Verdin and Karen Goulet invite the public to share with them their personal river stories. The shared stories will be woven into the summer exhibition at Weisman and Watermark Art Center.
  • The Tiny Museum: Microbial Scientist Jonathan Schilling will share his way of observing the wonderful world of small animals. Please bring a well charged phone.
  • Soil Chroma: Gabriela Hidrobo will share her experience with Soil Chromatography: a unique photographic process used by farmers to learn about the health of their soil.

Panel Conversation

May 4, 6 – 8 p.m.

The evening’s discussion will begin with a series of brief prompts by the artists and their collaborators: Prof. Jonathan Schilling, Director – Itasca Biological Station; Gabriela Hidrobo, graduate student – Applied Plant Science; artist Karen Goulet; and Rebecca Dallinger, the Big River Continuum project’s guest curator. The prompts will be followed by a public conversation moderated by artist Monique Verdin.

Big River Continuum is an initiative of the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum and Itasca Biological Station and Tulane University’s A Studio in the Woods. It is supported by funds from the NW and Central Regional Development Sustainable Partnerships. Itasca Biological Station, Weisman Art Museum, and by the 2021 Institute for Advanced Study Collaborative Grant.

Featured Speakers

Karen E. Goulet is a multimedia artist often working with textiles and written word. She is a White Earth Ojibwe Band member and is also from Metis and Sami/Finn people. Her work is informed by her experiences, the people she is from and places she loves.  She received her MFA in sculpture from UW-Madison and an MEd from UM Duluth and has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for 25 years. She is the Program Director for the Miikanan Gallery at the Watermark Art Center in Bemidji, MN working as a community change maker through her creative practices. 


Monique Verdin is a multidisciplinary artist responding to the complex interconnectedness of environment, economics, culture, climate, and change along the Gulf South. 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 &  Exchange, a part of the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative, co-producer/subject of the documentary My Louisiana Love and co-author of Return to Yakni Chitto; Houma Migrations.


Rebecca Dallinger is the Curator-in-Residence for The Big River Continuum at the Itasca Biological Station and the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Museum. She has an extensive background in community organizing and rural arts development. She lives in Ogema, MN.


Gabriela Hidrobo comes from the Andes of Ecuador where she has participated in reforestation projects and native species non-timber forest products research. Her proximity to land and agroecological practices have been the red thread of her professional and academic experiences. Gabriela is a Fulbright student at the University of Minnesota studying the effects that cover crops have on microbial diversity and nutrient cycling in organic agricultural systems in MN.


Jonathan Schilling is a professor at the University of Minnesota and Director, Itasca Field Station at Itasca State Park, Shevlin, MN.  His research and teaching is focused on the biology of fungi, and microbial decomposers. 


Special guest: 

Betsy May (Nett Lake) is an elder who lives in Naytahwaush, MN


The Big River Continuum Collaborators

Lang DeLancey, PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota researching soil carbon storage and the role of fungi in ecosystem processes. 

Nokomis Paiz, Artist Liaison, Watermark Art Center, Bemidji, MN

Elise Harrington, Assistant Professor in the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of MN 

Gabriela Hidrobo, Fulbright student, U of MN

Cammie Hill-Prewitt, Residency Coordinator, A Studio in the Woods, New Orleans, LA 

Lesley Knoll, Scientist, Itasca Field Station, U of MN

Shirley Nordrum, Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Educator, U of MN 

Emily Schilling, Faculty, Biology, Ecology and Environmental science, Augsburg University

Jonathan Schilling, Director, Itasca Station, Faculty U of MN

Dennika Mays, Fellow, Lead for MN, U of MN Crookston 


The Big River Continuum Contributors

Connie Cox, Naturalist, Itasca State Park, MN

Tammy Greer (Houma), faculty, University of Southern Mississippi 

Terry Janis (Pine Ridge), lawyer with the Nibi Center, White Earth Nation

Takeo Kuwabara, Communications Coordinator, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT 

Sandra Lichter, Naturalist, Itasca State Park

Peter Neff, glaciologist and climate scientist, U of MN 

Ama D. Rogen, Managing Director, A Studio in the Wood, New Orleans, LA

Heidi Roop, Assistant Professor of Climate Science, Co-Director Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, Extension Specialist – Climate Science & Adaptation, U of MN

Tyler Siedel, graduate student, Water Network,  U of MN 

Nick Slie, performer, producer & cultural organizer, Mondo Bizarro theater, New Orleans, LA

Jo White feather, elder, Leech Lake Nation