Grand inspirations: Grand Canyon Semester students' work on display

2012-12-02T05:05:00Z 2013-01-13T02:41:39Z Grand inspirations: Grand Canyon Semester students' work on displaySETH MULLER Features Editor Arizona Daily Sun
December 02, 2012 5:05 am  • 

Ari Weiner and Clara Nibbelink -- two honor students taking part in the Northern Arizona University Grand Canyon Semester -- both traveled downriver through the Canyon as part of the coursework. And their reactions proved decidedly different.

Weiner found herself moved wildly by the Canyon, heart-swollen by the natural wonder bared open before her. Nibbelink found herself shaken by the torrent of rapids and the feeling of being closed in. But with the fear came deep thoughts on nature and existence.

The two joined forces to create a dueling spoken-word piece that deftly captures the visceral reactions many people have when running the river through the great gorge.

"And have you ever felt the blossom of the world turn upside down around you and trap you in it, letting you see how naked you are, following you down a river like a plastic dome?," Nibbelink shares in the spoken-word piece, called "River Talk."

"And have you ever not felt the burden of your own mind? Weight oh so heavy on your rundown body and delicate heart?" Weiner inquires.

"And have you ever been the girl, named Forever, trapped in a cracking, transient body -- a Rabbitbrush blooming instead to be a Skyrocket, hot fire red but so short-lived?" Nibbelink asks. The questions unfold, before the two answer at the same time, "I have."


This spoken-word will be one of a number of creative works shared during the December First Friday Art Walk, as the students from the NAU Grand Canyon Semester share their perspectives on the Canyon and the Colorado Plateau through image and word.

The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at artist Bruce Aiken's studio in the second floor of the Babbitt Building, 113 N. San Francisco St., Suite 209. The spoken-word, poems, essays and stories will be read by the students from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

On campus, people are invited to stop by the duBois Conference Center's Fremont Room between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday to listen to the presentations of the students' research projects.

The Grand Canyon Semester is described by the students as "kind of like studying abroad, but domestically" in that most of them apply and come from other universities to participate in a 16-credit honors-based semester that includes coursework and field studies.

"I came because I wanted to learn more about the National Park Service," noted Deana Hughes, a student who also has worked at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. "I feel like I'm getting so much to take away about what the park service really does."

Most notably, the students of the Grand Canyon Semester go on a river trip as part of their interactive research on the Colorado Plateau. They also take field trips to places such as Black Mesa on the Navajo Nation and Flying M Ranch east of Flagstaff.

With all aspects, the focus is on water as a theme -- though honors program director Wolf Gumerman notes that the theme is explored on many different levels as it relates to the Colorado Plateau.


This semester, the third under a recently revamped honors program, has been especially productive on the creative front. The students have been encouraged to express themselves through various media to capture the essence of their experience in a deeper, more meaningful way.

"I've been experimenting with art and painting this semester," noted Jessica Beutler, one of the students who came to the Grand Canyon Semester from Portland State University. She had not previously approached painting. "I've been inspired by the whole region of the Colorado Plateau. I'm painting landscapes and wildlife on blocks of wood."

Jeremy Krones, who came from University of Maryland for the Grand Canyon Semester, explored the essay form as his way to capture his views and experiences.

"I really liked the creative project idea," he said. "One of our extracurricular mentors was Bruce Aiken, and it was great to hear his perspective."

This Friday, the students will have a chance to be in Aiken's studio to share their own creative expressions of the Grand Canyon and the Plateau with the public. "It's been very gratifying for me to be a part of the team that creates an environment for these kids to explore the Grand Canyon," Aiken said. "We had 13 students in the semester, and all of them were super tuned in."

If you go ...

What: Art and readings from NAU Grand Canyon Semester students

When: First Friday Art Walk, Dec. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. Readings 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Bruce Aiken's studio in the second floor of the Babbitt Building, 113 N. San Francisco St., Suite 209

Cost: Free

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