NeoRio embraces science with creativity

Annual festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table

By Tempo staff
Posted 9/18/19

NeoRio offers thought-provoking art installations right on the rim of the Río Grande gorge, along with a farm-to-table feast, poetry and music. The outdoor contemporary art and …

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NeoRio embraces science with creativity

Annual festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table


NeoRio offers thought-provoking art installations right on the rim of the Río Grande gorge, along with a farm-to-table feast, poetry and music. The outdoor contemporary art and community event offers the opportunity to discover the sublime Wild Rivers area of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument - or to experience it in a whole new way. Now in its 11th year, this event offers a unique experience every year.

NeoRio 2019 will take place at Montoso Campground at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area Saturday (Sept. 21), from 4 to 9 p.m.

Each year, NeoRio features a different theme. This year's theme is "Universal Elements" and coincides with The United Nations' "International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements" and the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Periodic System by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.

Works and activities at the event will tie into this theme through creative interpretation by visual and performing artists and contributors. The theme encourages both scientific and philosophical perspectives. It is an invitation to get curious and embrace Universal Elements in our everyday life, appreciate the genius of the periodic system, explore perspectives on Universal Elements through wisdom traditions and marvel that we are truly "made of stardust."

The event will host featured artists Cynthia Moku (Boulder, Colorado), Sarah Parker (Questa), Laurianne Fiorentino (aka Lauria, from Santa Fe) and additional local and regional contributing artists and projects.

Featured artist Moku paints in contemporary and traditional formats, including a large scroll painting acquired by the Denver Art Museum for its permanent collection of 20th-century Buddhist art. Moku's contemporary ink-art paintings reflect her unique and singular training in Asian calligraphy. From this foundation, she developed Indelible Presence contemplative brushstroke practices connecting wisdom traditions and communities through the arts - done within annual meditation retreats and more recently in large, public cultural events.

As a guest artist at NeoRio, Moku will bring her contemporary Indelible Presence work to the Río Grande Wild Rivers environment, leading an outdoor community brushwork performance called "One Continuous Gesture" with an eight-foot body brush, and in honor of the great river of the north.

About this performative, contemplative work, Moku says, "OCG honors the intention of the no trace ethic and embodies the universal elements theme of this year's NeoRio event through a spontaneous 'passing of the brush' linking the cultural community of the festival in making a large extended calligraphy together."

Coinciding with the Indelible Presence work, she will also talk about her ink-art universal element paintings from the series, "Flying White," in the evening.

Featured artist Parker's passion lies in radio production, printmaking and interactive community art projects. She has produced independent pieces for community radio stations since 2005. Parker uses interactive art projects to begin conversations about community and our roles within them as individuals. She currently teaches special education in a small Northern New Mexico elementary school and is involving students in her project.

NeoRio will host her piece "Elements of Community." This interactive, community art project guides participants on a quest for chemical elements in the rugged Wild Rivers area to create a collaborative periodic table. Part scavenger hunt, part collaborative artwork, "Elements of Community" sends participants, via clues, in search of chemical elements throughout the NeoRio event site, then asks them to creatively interpret their finds in drawings or words to add to the Elements of Community Periodic Table.

Parker said about her work, "It's all about community. I am committed to affirming the importance of communities' voices and the dissemination of these voices. I believe that our stories are what connect our common experiences and distinguish our unique perspectives."

Featured artist Fiorentino is a singer-songwriter with over 20 years of experience writing and recording original material. She describes her music as "Americana soul" and is the recipient of multiple nominations and awards. She hosts the Elemental Concert Series at the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe with cellist Michael Kott, taking the audience through the Periodic Table of Elements, delving into the personality of a single element at each concert. She brings this unique musical exploration to NeoRio.

During the first part of the afternoon, guests are invited to participate in Moku's "One Continuous Gesture" performance and Parker's "Elements of Community" project as well as family-friendly, hands-on, activities including LEAP's "Intersecting Art and Science Elements Education Program." Questa Stories in collaboration with Questa Library will also be on-site collecting stories about Wild Rivers with the StoryBox toolkit. The Elemental Concert by Fiorentino will begin at 5 p.m. The elements-themed NeoRio raffle will take place throughout the event as well.

Music from the High Desert Acoustic Duo, Mark Dudrow and Justin Dean, will usher in the evening festivities at 6 p.m. Enjoy a locally sourced, Northern New Mexico, fall feast from the Questa Farmers Market growers, cooks and bakers. The feast is coordinated by the Questa Market manager Gaea McGahee and contributors to the feast will be familiar to those who have visited the market.

At dusk, on the heels of dinner, portable solar power provided by PPC Solar will enable NeoRio featured artists and leaders to offer short, informative, illustrated talks.

NeoRio is a Bureau of Land Management National Public Lands Day event and embraces the No Trace Ethic and its seven principles. (Learn more about these seven principles and fun, easy multisensory ways to remember them with BLM ranger Tim Long just after 4 p.m.).

The event is organized by LEAP (Land, Experience and Art of Place, a program of Localogy) in partnership with Questa Creative Council, Bureau of Land Management's Taos Field Office and others.

Claire Coté, LEAP director, says, "We hope that a kind of alchemy occurs with the confluence of art, environment and this year's fascinating NeoRio theme."

NeoRio is made possible by individual donations, local business and media sponsorships as well as grant support. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional thanks also to grants from Taos County, Chevron Questa Mine Grants for Good, and Questa Economic Development Fund and sponsorships from PPC Solar, Zia Event Design, North Star Toys, Questa Credit Union, Centinel Bank, Taos News, Beyond Taos, Questa Farmers Market, Common Fire, Walking Bear Farm, Cerro Vista Farm, Cid's Market, 203 Fine Art, Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, Angie Coleman Studio and many generous individual donors and volunteers.

For more information, visit, email, or call (575) 224-9066.

NeoRio 2019 Schedule

Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers area, north of Questa

4 p.m. No Trace Presentation, participatory artworks and hands-on activities

5 p.m. "Elemental" concert with Laurianne Fiorentino

6 p.m. Farm-to-table feast and music by Justin Dean and Mark Dudrow

7 p.m. Artist talks

8 p.m. Campfire

Ride the shuttle provided by Los Rio River Runners and help NeoRio become a "no trace" event. A round-trip ticket is $25 from Taos, $20 from Arroyo Hondo, $15 from Questa, by reservation. "Get the shuttle in downtown Taos, Hondo or Questa and ride care-free to enjoy NeoRio for the afternoon and evening and then be delivered back to your car. [Call (575) 776-8854.] If you are unable to take the shuttle, carpool. Parking is limited," a statement reads.

This is a free event. Donations are appreciated.


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