Questa-based arts organization NeoRio and LEAP (Land, Experience and Art of Place) launched this year’s 2020 annual project during these pandemic times to “inspire community members to pause and give themselves some time to reflect on the theme of home and in particular what it means now."

LEAP partners with local nonprofits Localogy and Questa Creative Council. NeoRio is a venue for innovative art, experimental thinking, education and exchange.

The project asks the participant to envision or to “think inside the box”– a plain pine cube, with the dimensions 7 by 7 by 7 inches, and use your storytelling imagination.

NeoRio happens every year and is “a call to the public to explore the outcomes and experiences of artists, scholars, local experts and youth (and others) investigating and creating new works on natural world themes.” The cube serves as their point of departure, and can be picked up during normal business hours at the Taos Public Library and The Questa Visitor’s Center. See website below for more details.

Tempo asked Claire Coté, the founder and director of LEAP and NeoRio for more details on the project which invites participation from all community members.

Why the cube dimensions 7 by 7 by 7 – where were they constructed?

The wooden boxes are made by a wood fabrication company in Maine, called HA Stiles. The company is one of a few such companies that exist in the United States. The cubes have half-inch pine sides and thin Baltic birch bottom and slide top. The exterior dimensions, 7 by 7 by 7 inches, are approximate, as the company makes boxes based on the interior dimensions which are 6 by 6 by 6 inches. Resulting in the exterior dimension of just under 7 by 7 by 7 inches.

Our goal by choosing this size is to provide people with enough room for expression, enough room to put a variety of content inside the cube if so desired, while also keeping the work small, manageable and intimate. As a form in this project, the cube is the basis for visually exploring exterior and interior metaphors of this year’s NeoRio theme of Home, for the online exhibition. We have 100 cubes to provide for people to transform into their home artworks.

What is the intent behind the project?

We hope that this project will inspire community members (local, regional and beyond) to pause and give themselves some time to reflect on the theme of home and in particular, if it’s useful to them, ask what it means now, as many of us are spending much more time than usual in our home. For some of us, taking part in the project may also ask us to step outside of our comfort zone – making an artwork or sharing an audio story might feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

This is also part of the invitation; to try something different and stretch ourselves! It can be powerful for our minds and hearts when we create, and make with our hands and verbalize a story, experience or memory for others. Perhaps these different ways of sharing parts of ourselves and connecting with others during the pandemic will open doors to conversation and exchange. With the invitation to share an audio story many readers may think “I don’t have any stories to tell! I’m not a storyteller!” but bear with me…. By “story” we mean a memory, experience or short reflection on a time in your life, a person or a place that relates to home. It could be a cozy memory of a favorite food made by a beloved relative, it could be about discovering an animal burrow as a child, or the story of coming to be in a person’s current home or a reflection on staying home during the pandemic. This short audio story or reflection can be related to your cube artwork or not, that’s up to each person. Whatever is chosen to share will be a glimpse into your world and that is a gift to the rest of us.

It is more important now than ever to listen to others and find courage and strength within ourselves to share. Submissions will not be juried. Since part of the ethos of the project is recognizing that we each have a unique experience of the world and something valuable to express, there will be no awards. The works will speak for themselves. The intention is to acknowledge, amplify and create a platform to share these expressions.

Our goal is for everyone to feel welcome to take part at whatever level feels comfortable. There are two online platforms for the project. The first is the online exhibition “Home: Thinking Inside and Outside the Box” (digital documentation submission deadline September 26, 2020.) And the second is Home Digital Archive (receiving digital submissions through the rest of 2020.) This exhibition has more structure and submission guidelines, which may appeal to practicing artists, but is open to all meeting the guidelines. Each cube artwork will have a title, a short statement, an accompanying audio story and a biography of the contributor. The online Homestory-sharing events and archive is a collaboration with Questa Stories~ Community Memory Project (QuestaStories.org). For more information on how to find your cube and submit your story, visit the LEAP website https://leapsite.org

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