Hardrock Revision

For the next month, Orion‘s Poetry Editor Hannah Fries will be in Lake City, Colorado, where she’ll work with the Colorado Art Ranch to envision a new life for an abandoned silver mine. Check back next week for another dispatch from Hannah.

My background is in the arts (literature and music, mostly), and I have a deep faith in their ability to be a significant force for change. That’s what brought me to Orion over six years ago, and it’s also why I’m on my way to southwestern Colorado to be part of a team of artists and scientists that will work together to envision new uses for an old silver mine.

This project has taken form through the Colorado Art Ranch, “a nomadic interdisciplinary arts organization dedicated to fostering creative problem solving throughout rural Colorado.” The occasion is the re-purposing of the Ute Ule Silver Mine, located just outside of the tiny town of Lake City; the owner of the mine, LKA International, has proposed donating the mine property to Hinsdale County, Colorado.

The first settlers in Hinsdale County were silver and gold prospectors of the late nineteenth century, and the Golden Wonder gold mine remains active today. While mining has been an important economic force in the area for more than a century, there’s a new economic driver in the region: outdoor recreation and tourism. Many of the fifty inactive mines in Hinsdale County now pose a slew of hazards and environmental problems in the San Juan Mountains where they are located.

Recognizing the rift between pro- and anti-mining interests in the community, the Lake City Downtown Improvement and Revitalization Team (DIRT) asked the Colorado Art Ranch to bring together an interdisciplinary team that would listen to all voices involved and begin the process of envisioning new uses for the Ute Ule mine. As a poet and an editor, I’ll attempt to add my verbal skills to the impressive group of skills and talents represented by my six team members (whom I can’t wait to meet):

-Bland Hoke, artist and sculptor from Wyoming
-Julia Lewandoski, public historian, musician, and facilitator from Montreal
-Anna Mcleod, sculptor, curator, environmental artist, and mediator from Ireland
-Lydia Moyer, videographer, documentarian, and educator from Virginia
-Becky Sobell, landscape architect and community facilitator from England
-Linda Wysong, public sculptor, former civil engineer, and community collaborator from Oregon

The executive director of the Colorado Art Ranch, Grant Pound, will lead the project. We’ll also have a “guest curator,” T. Allan Comp, who leads the OSM/VISTA Team and Brownfields Initiatives at the Office of the Interior. He is also the founder of AMD&ART, a nonprofit that integrates the arts and sciences in environmental remediation. Check out Erik Reece’s Orion article on AMD&ART, here.

Over the next four weeks, our team will meet with scientists, specialists, and community members; conduct interviews; do a lot of creative thinking; and, finally, present a vision for the mine at a day-long community “Artposium” on August 13. It’s going to be quite the ride.