New KBS LTER Artist-in-Residence program aims to create intersection between art and research

Erik Vasilauskas and Anna Lee Roeder, KBS LTER Artists in Residence for 2022

This spring, Michigan State University launches the Farmscapes to Forests: Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Artist-in-Residence Program, which will welcome artists from across all mediums to spend a week at the Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, Michigan, followed by a culminating visit in the fall or winter to share their work.

Supported by the National Science Foundation, Gretel Van Wieren, Professor in MSU’s Department of Religious Studies, is leading the program in its first collaboration with Dream Scene Placemaking, a husband-and-wife duo of mural artists based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

“I attended the KBS LTER All Scientist Meeting in the fall of 2021 and had the opportunity to meet numerous researchers and graduate students who were enthusiastic about exploring the idea of developing an artist-in-residence program,” Van Wieren said.  

Having completed more than 25 public projects in the last three years, Dream Scene Placemaking, which was established by Erik Vasilauskas and Anna Lee Roeder, was selected by a team of KBS researchers, staff, and graduate students to be its inaugural artist-in-residence.

“We are looking forward to spending time immersed in nature and exploring the surroundings as a family,” Roeder said. “We are excited to interact with the community of people that live and work there and to share in a creative exchange.”

In 2021, Dream Scene Placemaking partnered with Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation to hold an interactive photography workshop, titled City Snaps, for children attending summer camp. During the workshop, each child received a single-use film camera to take photographs of their time at camp, which were then used to make public displays throughout Kalamazoo. Based off several iterations of this project, Vasilauskas and Roeder will provide film cameras for the KBS community to share and take photographs of themselves and their work at the station. Additionally, they will explore potential on-campus sites for murals during their week-long stay.

Dream Scene Placemaking’s City Snaps public art display

“It is our goal to highlight the creativity and inspiration that can be found in these surroundings, as well as for participants to explore creative expression in an environment where they may usually be in a scientific mindset,” Roeder said. “We plan to work with KBS to come up with a plan for installing and displaying the resulting images.”

Vasilauskas and Roeder established Dream Scene Placemaking after a growing passion for public art. While their first collaborative mural was in Heraklion, Greece, as part of the Lakkos Art Residency in 2019, it wasn’t until they were invited to paint the City of Kalamazoo’s Kik Pool building later that year that they decided to officially incorporate as a public art collaborative. 

During their time at MSU, Vasilauskas and Roeder will take a tour of the KBS LTER’s research sites with scientists and staff and have a chance to explore its extensive natural lands. They will also have the opportunity to interact with the incoming summer cohort of undergraduate students.

“The artists will have access to KBS’s world-renowned research site and the diverse ecosystems and long-term experiments it contains, including grasslands, forests, and lakeside habitats,” Van Wieren said. “They will have opportunities to interact with researchers and students working onsite, including field work observation and participation with ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and social scientists going about their work.”

Before leading the program at MSU, Van Wieren gained valuable experiences at other LTER sites across the country and now hopes to execute a meaningful and successful collaboration at MSU. Van Wieren was the 2015 Writer-in-Residence at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Long-Term Ecological Reflections for Oregon State University and is currently the 2022 Artist-in-Residence at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve LTER for the University of Minnesota.

“These residencies have been incredibly formative and generative for me as a scholar and writer,” she said. “It has been a dream of mine since my experience at the Andrews Forest to develop such a program at KBS.”

To learn more about the KBS LTER Artist in Residence program, visit our page here. This article was originally posted by MSU’s College of Arts & Letters.