Portfolio > Art/Design Projects

The Dory Project is a socially engaged art project that would use the construction of a wooden river boat as both a metaphorical and literal vehicle to foster discussions and critical making centered on the exploration and exploitation of Western rivers. The project seeks to raise awareness of urban dwellers to whom water issues can seem remote and abstract through new experiences and a broad range of creative work.

Split into two phases, Phase 1 of the project will use the construction of a small dory style boat (nicknamed a "drought dory" by its designer) as a focus for a series of community information sessions and demonstrations at locations around the Denver Metro area, as well as closer to some of the headwaters of the rivers that sustain the Front Range urban corridor. These com-munity sessions will engage include diverse conversations led by the artists and other experts on issues including water in Colorado, to the history of the Rocky Mountain West, and the role of art and creativity in addressing complex societal problems. In addition, discussions on boat building, and engaged object making will accompany small take away making projects and perhaps opportunities for the community to leave their mark on the dory that will be under construction.

Phase 2 will use the boat as a platform to take artists and other Denver creatives into the field to experience the landscape and see the rivers that sustain our Western cities. One hundred and fifty years after John Wesley Powell explored the Green and Colorado rivers in wooden boats, creatives who participate in these short "Boat Residencies" will have a unique oppor-tunity to reflect on the power and importance of our delicate river systems. Participants will be asked to create a work based on their experiences these works which might include low or non-impactful pieces while on the river, mark making on the boat itself, or work made later after reflection. These works will be documented and cataloged in an online gallery and later exhib-ited at the Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver. It is our hope that the boat will continue to spark conversations about the value of creativity and conserving our natural world as it travels around the Rocky Mountain West.

The Dory Project is the latest in a series of projects that began with Phil Mann’s Floatposium on Art, Nature and Science hosted by Colorado Art Ranch in 2012 & 2013 which took partici-pants on a multi-day river rafting trip/symposium. Translating that experience into an academ-ic setting Phil and Matt Jenkins developed the Headwaters Field Study course (proposed for Summer 2020 at CU-Boulder) to blend unique field-based learning with public interest design/ socially engaged art and create a space in which to bring together Colorado creatives, scien-tists, environmental advocates and students to share ideas on the serious water issues facing Colorado and the Western United States.

Socially engaged, environmental art project, wooden dory
The Dory Project
Socially engaged art

An OARS dory in Idaho.

Image courtesy of Ashley Brown