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Professor Tom Minckley and lead-artist Patrick Kikut (Visual and Literary Arts) still collaborating on the 2019 SCREE Expedition

February 8, 2021
Tom Minckley Running the Colorado River
Tom Minckley running the Colorado River

 

The Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) project, led by University of Wyoming geology & geophysics Professor Tom Minckley, is a collective group of artists, authors, conservationists and scholars who will engage with citizens along the Colorado River corridor to consider visions for the future of the region. Nearly two years after Minckley and Kikut ended their trip on the shores of Lake Mead, they are still working on this expedition, through painting, writing, and outreach that comes from trying to look at a socio-ecosystem whole as they did with the Colorado River Basin.

Patrick Kikut watched as the 18-foot raft carrying his supplies down the Green and Colorado Rivers headed into white water. Then the raft flipped. The walls of Utah’s Cataract Canyon rose above him; his belongings, strapped to the capsized raft, bobbed along in the river before him. Seated in a nearby raft, Kikut was most concerned about the dry box containing his watercolor paints and compositions. “If water gets in there,” he recalls worrying, “all of the watercolors in all the little tins are going to bleed out and I’ll have tie-dye.”

Kikut, a painter and lecturer at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was on the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition, a 70-day, 1,000-mile journey. It was summer 2019, and the expedition marked the 150th anniversary of geologist John Wesley Powell’s first passage down the Green and Colorado Rivers. Paleoecologist Thomas Minckley of the University of Wyoming organized the trip and invited researchers, conservationists, writers, and artists along.

As lead artist and one of the few adventurers making the entire journey, Kikut was following in a centuries-old tradition of painters joining researchers on expeditions. Starting in the 1700s, artists became “crucially important members of scientific expeditions,” says Daniela Bleichmar, a professor of history and art history at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Researchers relied on painters to depict plants and animals as they studied new species and, in the following centuries, sweeping landscapes as they explored new terrain.

Read more here 

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