Speaker Series


Ace Kvale

Sixty Days to Nowhere

Wednesday, September 21 at 7 PM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

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Photographer Ace Kvale invites you to accompany him, through stories and images, on a great adventure that began three years ago when he completed a 27-day backpacking trip out his backdoor in Boulder, Utah. The program will bring you closer to the spectacular beauty of the Colorado Plateau with breathtaking shots and tales from his encounters.

The culmination of many years of research and reconnaissance hikes, it was a singular life event. However, in hindsight he realized it was short sighted. Ace turned toward home when what he really needed to do was keep going to the natural destination – the beacon that beckons us all, floating on the horizon like a dream, the center of the canyon country universe, the breast, the mother, the giver of life: Navajo Mountain. Ace set out again in September 2015 with two friends. Heat, storms, lightning, unknown routes, logistics, water sources, food caches, rescues – they had it all. And through it all the rhythm of life. The cycles of the moon. The routes of the ancients revealed in the search. The quest. To view and feel the land long before roads or an artificial lake marred the landscape. An attempt to grasp the canyon country, to hold it close. To feel the vibration of the earth by walking through it.

Born in Minnesota, raised in the Rockies, Ace Kvale has been wandering the globe, camera in hand for over thirty years. While on assignment for National Geographic in 2005 he glimpsed the immensity of the Escalante country. In 2006 he moved to Boulder, Utah to indulge his obsession for the wild places where he bases himself for worldwide expeditions documenting humanitarian projects and for losing himself in the remotest canyons of the Colorado Plateau.  See Ace’s portfolio here.


Paula McNeill

Appreciating the Work of Featured Artists: Dave and Ryen Treanor and Featured Vendor: Ernie Washee

Friday, September 23 – 11 AM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

Paula will discuss the lives and works of Escalante resident artists, father and daugher, Dave and Ryen Treanor and Blanding resident silversmith Ernie Washee.   

Ryen and Dave2Dave and Ryen Treanor:  Dave first entered the Escalante Canyons Art Festival in its second year. He took a couple years off to spend some time to understand what Plein Air was really about.  In 2012 he felt comfortable giving it another try and won Honorable Mention in Watercolor/Pastel/Mixed Media. In 2014, he won the People’s Choice Award and in 2015 he was awarded with Escalante River Watershed Project River award, for the best portrayal of the Escalante River.  Whether Ryen is drawing, painting, building, writing, singing, or playing, she is ALWAYS creating. And while Ryen is always up for a new adventure, she has an old world propriety and sense of integrity that is as inspiring as it is humbling.

ernie colorErnie Washee:  Dine (Navajo) silversmith and artist, Ernie Washee was born in Crownpoint, New Mexico and raised by his grandmother in the small community of Mariano Lake, New Mexico.  His clan is Deeshchii’nii (Start of the Red Streak People).  In recent years, Ernie has been influenced by the many rock art motifs and traditional Dine stories of the early people of the Southwest.  Drawing on these inspirations, Ernie has developed a style of work that he calls, “rock art jewelry”.

Art educator and photographer, Paula L. McNeill, divides her time between Valdosta, Georgia, where she is on the art faculty at Valdosta State University and summers in Escalante, Utah, where her family has had a summer home since 1980.  A Southerner by birth, McNeill received her BA in Art from Arizona State University; her MA from the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque; and her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  With an interest in community-based art, for more than ten years, McNeill has documented the art and lives of visual artists in southern Utah through video-taped oral history interviews.  She has published some of these findings and has made numerous presentations at state and national professional meetings on this topic, including presentations on the Featured Artist for the Escalante Canyons Art Festival since 2004 when the Festival began. At Valdosta State McNeill teaches art education and creativity courses.


Lisa Takata

Mind Mapping to Capture the Beauty of Nature

Friday, September 23 at 3 PM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

IMG_3055Explore simple ways to observe and record our outdoor experiences with mind mapping, journaling and collaborative activities for our own creative inspiration and to share with others back home.

The beauty and expansiveness of Escalante’s landscape offers great inspiration but can easily overwhelm the senses.  This interactive presentation offers some simple tools for making the most of our time here to record more of what we are seeing and experiencing.  We will learn how to use our notes and sketches to provide personal creative inspiration and make it easy to share the richness of our experiences with family and friends back home.  These tools can easily be applied to any future journeys you may take.   A short nature walk is included to practice our skills, so remember to bring a journal and something to write with to this program.

Mind mapping is a great tool to broaden our observations when we go exploring outdoors. Each participant will create a map unique to their particular interests…what are we most curious about discovering during our visit? What will each of our five senses show us? What will we see during different times of day? What living plants and creatures inhabit the area? What colors will we see around us? What types of geographic features will we find across the landscape? No artistic experience is necessary to make a successful mind map – all you need is a large piece of paper, a pencil and a sense of curiosity about the natural world around us.

2016 Takata workshop

Lisa Takata is an artist and writer from Phoenix, Arizona. She enjoys exploring outdoors and has completed artist residencies at Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks. The Southwest’s dramatic geography and cultural history provides constant creative inspiration.  She spent three summers on the volunteer crew of an annual Navajo wool buy, helping Navajo families continue their sheep herding traditions and earn fair market prices for the wool and mohair they raise.


Lisbeth Louderback and Bruce Pavlik

The Archaeology and Conservation of the Four Corners Potato

Saturday, September 24 at 11 AM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

potato imageCould Utah be home to the earliest known domestication of a wild native plant? We have been examining that possibility through archaeological and botanical studies of the Four Corners potato (Solanum jamesii), a species found in southern Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The work has highlighted the importance of collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems in deep time.

Drs. Louderback and Pavlik predict that at certain archaeological sites there are remnant populations of this species, descended from strains that had once been subjected to domestication processes. With the demise of the cultural groups that originated and maintained them, these earliest crops ceased to exist and reverted back to what now appears to be wild.

Although once ubiquitous in Escalante (which the pioneers called “Potato Valley”), S. jamesii is now hard to find on the landscape. We are partnering with the USDA/ARS US Potato Genebank to incorporate population genetics into a conservation strategy for archeologically associated outposts of the species in the Four Corners region. By establishing the cultural significance and potential agronomic importance of S. jamesii we hope to facilitate conservation through better land management practices and local outreach.

Dr. Lisbeth Louderback is Curator of Archaeology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Utah. Her research interests include archaeology and archaeobotany of the arid western North America. Dr. Bruce Pavlik is Director of Conservation at Red Butte Garden (University of Utah) and Principal Scientist at BMP Ecosciences. His research concerns conservation and restoration of native plants and ecosystems.


Scott Thybony

The Disappearances : A Story of Exploration, Murder, and Mystery in the American West

Saturday, September 24 at 1 PM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

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Scott ThybonyScott Thybony draws from his latest book to present a story of exploration, murder, and mystery set in the Four Corners country during the 1930s.  He includes readings from The Disappearances and historic photographs to recount the struggles of a girl in search of her father, the mystery of a Los Angeles artist in search of beauty (the festival’s namesake – Everett Ruess), and the explorations of a scientist seeking ancient cliff dwellings.  All were young, all went missing and were feared lost, and all three incidents unfolded at the same moment of time in the tangle of canyons and slickrock expanses of Utah.

Scott Thybony has covered the American West on assignments for magazines such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Outside.  His books include Burntwater and The Canyon Country, while his stories regularly air on Arizona Public Radio.  To use food as biography, he has eaten tamales made with blue corn and ash after dancing with the Yellow Clowns during a Hopi ceremony, deep-fried Rocky Mountain oysters after a morning of branding cattle, and cold mutton stew with Navajo medicine men.  For more information on Scott and his work visit this site.


Christa Sadler

Deep Time on the Grand Staircase: 25 Million Years in the Life of Southern Utah During the Late Cretaceous

Saturday, September 24 at 3 PM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

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Deep Time on the Grand Staircase explores the extraordinary world of southern Utah during the last part of the Age of Dinosaurs. From about 100 million years ago to 76 million years ago, the region was home to a diversity of plants and animals that seems impossible today: magnolias and smothering vines, conifers and sycamores played host to a menagerie of dinosaurs and crocodiles, turtles and lizards—and early members of the birds and mammals. While most of these creatures and plants would become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, at this point in time life was flourishing, and southern Utah appears to have been a cradle of diversity and evolution. Although we see the beginnings of our modern world in this time period, we also may be able to look into the future by examining the past. The extraordinary “greenhouse world” of the Late Cretaceous may have important information for our modern world in the context of a changing climate and changing ecosystems.

Christa Sadler is a paleontologist and educator, author, and wilderness and river guide with an enormous love for all things earth. She calls Flagstaff, Arizona her home base, but pretty much any river, trail, mountain or ocean is home. Her publications include There’s This River… Grand Canyon Boatman Stories (This Earth Press); Life in Stone (Grand Canyon Association); Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Petrified Forest Museum Association); and Deep Time on the Grand Staircase: Dinosaurs, Discovery, and the Late Cretaceous World of Southern Utah (Glen Canyon Natural History Association).  Check Christa’s website for more information: this-earth.com.