The Itasca Biological Station. Image: Jonathan Schilling


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.

This year, artists Monique Verdin and Karen Goulet will produce work through collaborations with one another, and with environmental scientists at the Itasca Biological Station. We’d originally planned for Monique to be at the station for three weeks this fall; Karen planned to visit A Studio the Woods in Louisiana in the spring. But this project, like so many other scheduled programs, is taking a detour due to COVID-19.

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 project is curated by Rebeca Dallinger, Curator-in-Residence at the Itasca Biological Station and 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.

This spring, follow Big River Detour – a WAM Instagram Residency by artists Monique Verdin and Karen Goulet, April 15 – May 15, 2020.



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Meet the Artists

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 and author of Return to Yakni Chitto Houma Migrations. Monique’s Big River Continuum residency at Itasca Biological Field Station in MN 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. Her 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 media, expressing what I dream and remember, while documenting what I witness from a place of needing to make.”

She goes on: “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.”

Read her 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. 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.


Read more about Monique’s work here >>


The Big River Continuum is honored to announce  our partnership with UMN Extension’s Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (CRSDP): Community- University partnerships for sustainability, serving Greater Minnesota. The CRSDP Board of Directors awarded funds in July 2020 to the Big River Continuum Project at Itasca Biological Station, in collaboration with the Weisman Art Museum. For more info about CRSDP. visit go to Or, follow RSDP on Twitter @RSDPMN and Facebook @UofMNExtRSDP.

Alya Ansari, Target Studio Assistant