The Itasca Biological Station. Image: Jonathan Schilling


It is one thing to know about a river, and yet another altogether to consider the river itself as a way of knowing.

By linking communities at the headwaters and delta of the Mississippi River, the Big River Continuum cultivates dynamic exchanges and connections for artists from both regions to create and define in collaborative residency programs that ignite inquiry into the interconnectedness of cultures, research and river/land environments.

This project is a creative exchange with University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biological Station at the Mississippi headwaters, the Weisman Art Museum and the Curator for Creative Collaboration and Tulane University’s A Studio in the Woods in the Mississippi Delta. 

VIDEO: Recorded from a virtual event on June 11, 2021


In fall of 2019, artist Monique Verdin (Houma) from Louisiana was the first residency artist. Monique was hosted by artist Karen Goulet of White Earth Nation and Curator-in-Residence Rebecca Dallinger at Itasca Biological Station. During her three-week exchange, Monique visited with many Native artists, scientists and community members as she investigated ways in which the headwaters and the delta have been in conversation with each other for thousands of years. See Monique’s reflection within the lands of the headwaters:  Palms to Pines

Come March 2020—with train ticket in hand and bags packed, Karen Goulet was ready to embark for her exchange residency to New Orleans with Monique at Studio in the Woods. The pandemic halted all plans and detoured her trip to a “stay-cation” residency. Karen redirected her energy into a prolific body of work and blog, My Misi-Ziibi Detour.

Karen Goulet and Monique continue forward collaborating on a body of work as part of the artist exchange. In April 2020, the exchange artists conducted a month-long takeover of the WAM Instagram with postcard stories of place and life of the Mississippi River called Mizibis in Ojibwemowin.

See their Instagram Takeover posts here, or search #BigRiverDetour on Instagram.

Meet the Artists

Artists Karen Goulet and Monique Verdin. Image: Stephanie Xenos


Monique Verdin

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 & Seed Exchange, a part of the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative core leadership circle, co-producer/subject of the documentary My Louisiana Love and co-author of Return to Yakni Chitto; Houma Migrations.

Monique’s Big River Residency at Itasca Biological Field Station investigates ways in which the headwaters and the delta have been in conversation with each other for thousands of years:  Palms to Pines


Karen Goulet

Karen is a multimedia artist whose work is informed by the people and places that define her. “I see my work as an artist to be a tributary of a larger body of living, breathing creative spirit. I come and go as I move between various medias of expressing what I dream and remember, while documenting what I witness from a place of needing to make. I consider myself a cultural hybrid – from Ojibwe, Métis, Saami/Finn people. My family are makers—people who create and grow things.”

“My art reflects histories and relationships that have been made by journeys, evolving cultures, and the fierce will to survive. Water is ever-present in the stories and my history. The Northwoods waterways have been the lifeline of my family and culture. To have this opportunity to create work that honors water, through reflecting and research of this Great River, is something I am eager and honored to do.”

Karen is the Program Director of  Miikanan Gallery at the Watermark Art Center in Bemidji.

Catch her on facebook at Nitaawi Art. Read Karen’s blog at:


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.  Becca has an extensive background in community organizing and rural arts development. While at the White Earth Tribal and Community College Extension Service, Becca facilitated  multiple arts  access venues—through workshops, events, seasonal camps, and open studios. These creative gatherings brought together artists and communities in celebration of traditional arts and food through experiential learning. Currently, she was selected as a cohort member for the 2021 Creative Community Leadership Institute.


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.

This project is a creative exchange with University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biological Station at the Mississippi headwaters, the Weisman Art Museum and the Curator for Creative Collaboration and Tulane University’s A Studio in the Woods in the Mississippi Delta. It is supported by the 2021 Institute for Advanced Study’s Collaborative Grant