between here and there

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Remote Studio: Basic Philosophy of the Program

Willow Wall

Before you arrive, I want to give you a little bit of context on this studio. I assume everyone has reviewed Remote Studio on the Artemis Institute web site. If not, you should. You will be better prepared to learn and discuss the more you understand the program. Read some of my essays on the website if you have the time. In brief, the Remote Studio and its format are developed out of ideas for teaching design from previous experiences and my PhD research. The program is an alternative to the abstract-rationalistic and scientific organization of teaching that pervades university programs. The course sequence will be orchestrated through hands-on, first person experiences from which each of you will gain unique and personal knowledge. One of the primary focuses is to help students re-engage with the rest of the world and the intuitive intellect. It is my belief that a good way to proceed is to provide students with inspiring and unknown environments, where their expectations have not been specified with “what to expect” lectures, and pragmatic projects. I also believe that the best way to understand your ideas is not through mock or “virtual” projects, but through hands-on immediate projects that are the intentional result of your imagination and reflections. We will discuss these ideas at length during the semester.


With these interests in mind I ask you to understand and accept that the studio may not always run smoothly, not only due to the nature of this type of educational model, but because of the context of real life: clients, weather, materials, people, etc. Certain dates will be scheduled such as the trips, but the itinerary for the trips will not be completely delineated. Sometimes the weather does not cooperate and we change the dates of hikes. The small individual project schedule (called vessels) and reading will be fairly well determined, but are always subject to change if we decide they just are not serving us best, or discussions need to be shifted to accommodate clients or weather. If you are some one who requires notification of a complete plan this studio process may put you on edge. From this experience it is possible you will learn something new about yourself. It is important that studio members communicate well with one another, this means good communication with me and anyone assisting you from the Artemis Institute. If we have good communication we will learn the most from one another.


If you are reading about Remote Studio for the first time learn more at :

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Today is a slow day. A quiet day. A reflective day. A bit of a sore throat and the sky is threatening some sort of snow. Most days like this also end up being a cleaning day. Cleaning and reflecting . As I was moving some things from here to there in my house I realized I was moving two artifacts that had been given to me by past students. I scanned around and quickly realize that many of the artifacts in my house were given to me by past students. All came at some point along the way after they took a class or classes from me. Many are things they made, from pottery to jewelry. Or a family member made. Some were brought back to me from foreign lands. Some were collected from the Earth. Many I long ago consumed if the came in the form of chocolate or wine. Some came in the form of music , which keeps me young at heart and hearing. Sometimes the gifts have been adventures in themselves like a Wyoming Cattle drive on a remote ranch.

The artifacts blend together with those wild things I collect: feathers, bones, horn and antler, seed and pine cone. They come together to help make the texture and memories of the life I live. And on this quiet , slow day, I take a moment to honor the blessings and gifts I have received in having such great people in my life….and share with you just a few from my first teaching job in North Dakota to just this past year. Each are part of the miles traveled between here there.

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Educating for a New World


In 2014 I am thinking about my past decisions, what has driven my professional choices, and I am thinking about where I am right now in my career, the choices I have made, what I have committed to. I am thinking about these things because I am looking toward the future and want to make sure I am still headed in a direction that I remain committed to. Over the year I would like to cover some of the intellectual ground that has influenced me. And if I am lucky some of my insights may inspire and encourage yours.

I started Artemis Institute because I want change the World. I didn’t start Artemis Institute simply to educate better designers, but to educate designers who think differently about the world, differently about themselves in the world. To lead more passionate and committed lives. To be empowered, to believe that they can change the world from their core beliefs to their actions. To gain mental and physical abilities to fuel the change. To provide an entry point into the world that inspires people who commit to a way of living that is beyond the self reference that is so dominate in today’s modern society. To create a world that grows from a sense of passion, love, and responsibility for others.

As I reflect, I don’t believe I was or am well equipped to drive the mission of Artemis Institute. What I mean by this, is that to start Artemis Institute was essentially to start a business, a big idea business, not a little idea business that follows a trend, or fits in an existing niche. Artemis Institute is not a spinoff of an existing company, not a special department or program in a University. Instead we are out in the world making our own waves and charting our own trajectory with no obvious path. More difficult is that Artemis Institute , as a big idea business, lies in the realm of educational altruism. Which, in our capitalist world means, non-profit. I wasn’t and never have been highly motivated by money, or making a profit. Instead I am interested in educating for the future, educating to change the world. But I have learned what having or not having money to spend means when searching for a way to create change in the world. If your goal is to change the world people need to know you exist. Needs to know your mission. Needs to know you mean “business.” In our multi-media culture, a culture that has all options at their finger tips, while at the same time being overwhelmed with the barrage of “campaigns” that exist from which shoes you should buy to which friend’s picture you should “like” finding a way for Artemis Institute to carry its message across state lines, national boundaries, the World Wide Web, different Eco-regions, oceans, and places has been a challenge. Primarily a challenge because with little funding to “campaign” not only is it difficult to help people learn about us, it is difficult to have people recognize the need to participate in the educational vision.

When I look back over the past six years I can hardly believe we are still standing. Not because the mission isn’t solid, but because my interest in education for the future runs against the overwhelming campaign of the “self.” Because in the end, Artemis Institute is me. It is an idea that grows from my beliefs, my sense of how the world should be, how we need to change to make the world a better place for all. However, we are still standing because there have been a few people who believe in me, believe in my ideas, and the founding of Artemis Institute, who have made sure that we have survived while I have been primarily focused on teaching Remote Studio, not campaigning for the non-profit These people have not been shy with their support, support I honor best by getting up every morning and continuing to believe in the need for change, and the ability to support a new vision of living and the world in the people who spend time exploring reality through the ideas of Artemis Institute.

And I imagine that these ideas may often seem cloudy to those I teach. They seem cloudy because I am more introspective than extroverted. And I believe that the best learning we do comes from teaching ourselves in an environment that supports our desire to learn. I think the outward visibility of the conventional education model simply misses the development of the individual. We may learn facts, and data, and context and history. But we learn very little about who we are, how we relate to the world and what effect we can have on others and the world. Our education system spends very little time preparing dreamers. We teach people how to look backwards. We prepare people for the “work force” we train people to be productive in the current framework of society. But dreaming is not encouraged, even when you are studying in a creative field today dreaming is being replaced with the idea of problem solving. There is a difference. Problem solving addresses the apparent issues, dreaming looks into the future to the world that is on the way. We need both: problem solving and dreaming.

But what is less valuable is educating people to simplistically fit the work force, the immediate needs. Because this educational attitude cuts short people’s ability to remain viable contributors in the future, instead only considering them as commodities. As a commodity we disregard our potential for participating in the making of the future. Without developing the ability to think like a visionary, to believe in vision and to believe in the ability to effect change we end up with a society that is defacto lazy, uninspired and without passion. Passion, I believe, is not a self-reflective condition, but passion is engaged when we look beyond ourselves and begin to recognize connections or potential connection between ourselves and the World. Instead of passion however, we have been educating toward selfishness, the non-motivated, and self-referential act of being lazy. Trading our potential for commodity.

The new world has the potential to be full of passion and vibrancy. And in order for the planet to remain viable we require these attributes. For without them we remain self-focused, self- preferential, lazy and selfish. We make poor choices for the whole. we make choices that exclude the rest, the world beyond the self. With the outward attributes of passion and vibrancy we commit to a world beyond ourselves, we dream of a world that can be more than its current present, and we believe in our ability to enact these changes. We recognize a world that is whole, interconnected and reliant on the health and value of all parts.

This is Artemis Institute. This is the belief system that supports the mission that there is a relationship between nature and culture, the world as its exists and the world that we make from our practices. A healthy, passionate and inspired culture does not evolve only in reference to itself, but evolves as we interact and live in the vibrant world around us.

I started with remote studio, which is an immersive design education program not only because these are my roots, but also because decisions about design are decisions about how we interact, impact and relate to the world around us. How we understand these decisions and how we understand ourselves in relation to the world and these decisions play a huge part in how the rest of the human population experiences themselves in the world. Where and how we live becomes how we are a part of or apart from the rest of the world.

Now it is your turn to think about how you live, the choices you make, where you invest your passion or if you are passionless. This is the time to think about how you are in the world and how you want to be in the future.

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What We Eat


Food. What I eat has been a long preoccupation. Long before Michael Pollan gained fame with his book “Second Nature” I was fascinated with food and eating. I am not exactly sure why, I guess it seems to bring the world into perspective for me. The tastes of food tie me to an experience and a place. They are specific, like scents that can bring you back to a place or memory when you smell something in particular.

When I was thirteen I chose to celebrate my birthday at an herb farm that was out in the country in Texas. When I think back to this event, I marvel that there was such a place in Texas, and that I wanted to celebrate my young teen birthday there. No wonder the kids in high school looked at me strange. I was and am strange. The choice of eating at the herb farm was not only for the food, but for the experience. The experience of eating, the celebration with friends, and the place. It was a marvelous place of gardens and green houses. It was architecture tied with food. And maybe that is where architecture and food tied together for me for the first time.

Since that birthday I have remained engaged with food and eating. How it is prepared, where it is grown or produced, differences in spice and deviations relative to the place. I have years of specific memories of eating. I have a collective of experiences of growing food and then learning how to cook with what I have grown. And today I am thinking about how food, eating and growing is becoming a discussion point for sustainability.

If you have been a student at Remote Studio you know that cooking and eating communal meals is an important aspect of the semester. I intentionally integrated cooking and eating into the program because of my belief that how and what we eat is critical to a whole and potentially best lived life. It enriches us, it grounds us, it defines place. It is celebratory, it can give meaning to events, it provides memories and ultimately helps us share our lives with others.

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The Magic Within Us



Remote studio starts tomorrow. I take a last summertime drive along the Tetons – a Sunday drive as a matter of fact. The pace is slower through Teton National Park than along the highways, purposefully slower for the wildlife. For our safety. Slower for our souls if we choose to let the pace seep into us. Parked along a Snake River overlook I watch the sun moving westerly across the blue sky. In a few hours the Tetons will be bathed in the pink light of sunset that I have grown to love. The seconds of magic light from day to night. We all have this magic within us if we choose to recognize it. To see the world in another way than we see most days. To gift ourselves the day. To hear the tires on asphalt as a type of music with pause created by the space between cars and the overtone of wind as it moves past ears. Magic music….

I am thinking about magic and the inner vision that the students bring with them when they come to Remote Studio. Their vision, their magic, is manifest in the things they create while here. Mostly we see the magic in the work that comes from their projects for the semester. These explicit creations mark the way they see the world, become the marks of their reality. These things they are asked to share with others, with the community. But for me, it is not only the vessels and the architecture they design and build that brings a smile to my face. It is that they share the magic of their vision in casual ways, little ways, that surprise me.

The Remote Studio “facility” is nothing grand. I can’t even refer to it as quaint. But the students bring magic to the place. And sometimes they even leave marks upon it in case we are a bit lost to find the magic ourselves. There are two written notes left by two different students that make me smile every time I think about them. One is on a utility closet door that springs open when you push it. Taped to the outside of the door are the words: Narnia in here. The other is more recent and serves as our address marker on the road. Written in orange marker on a small wood stake is our street address: 625. Following the numbers is the phrase: somewhere between here and there.

We choose to live by magic. We choose to see beyond the everyday. We choose to hold on to the magic within us. We choose how to live everyday.

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The simplicity of imagination




IMG_2307 IMG_2316 IMG_1839 One of the design components for this summer’s Remote Studio was a tree fort. This is one of the coolest forts you can imagine. It is beautiful and fantastical. At the open house the children ran rampant, jumping and screeching as children do. The tree fort and the companion vessel were a hit.

What I have grown to value from these experiences is what impresses these young imaginations most. Not the dynamic architecture. But the simplest of experiences. The opportunity for them to engage with the physicality of the Earth and each other.

The tree fort has a simple pulley system with a bucket at the end of a rope. The children immediately gravitated to the bucket and pulley. Giggles and laughter , dirt and rocks, up and down it went the entire play time.

Joy and laughter for children is found in the abundance of the simplicity of life. We often forget this when considering the needs of children. And we forget this for ourselves. The feel of the rock in our hand before we toss it into the air or across the water, the smell of dirt after a rain. The joy of a full moon on a summer night. Joy and laughter plain and simple. Life.

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Fodder for Fire

whats left over

whats left over


The snow has melted in Jackson Hole. Debris from tearing down a structure and building two Remote Studio projects show us that even conscientious builders produce more waste than we would aspire to. Separating out materials again: plywood, larger nominal members, caustic materials, and finally everything that could transform into firewood for heat this fall and winter.

the work

the work

How many times can scraps from one project be re-purposed for a next use? The next use no less graceful than the previous if the material finally finds purpose.

ready for winter

ready for winter

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A Dog’s Face




Noel, 36 hours or this...

Noel, 36 hours or this…


Dog’s know what they like. And they show us all the time. I am also impressed by their memory of places. My dog Noel travels a lot. Almost everywhere I go, she goes. After being in Louisiana for five months we made the journey home to the mountains. She happily hopped in the car when I loaded it for our trip. She thinks anywhere with me is better than staying put by herself. After 12 hours of driving she let me know how she felt (see the picture for yourself.)
The next day, more of the same. Driving. And then at the end of the day the landscape changed. About three hours from Jackson Hole she could smell the difference in the landscape. Could she recognize the distant peaks of the Wind River Range?



oh, yea. now this is home

oh, yea. now this is home

An hour from the Tetons she definitely knew where we were. Just take a look at the rest of the photos, shown in sequence. We arrived to Remote Studio and I unpacked while she sat on the table looking out the window.
The next day, under a beautiful blue spring sky, we took our first hike of the season. A place well known and loved by her, where leashes are packed away and the creeks flow abundantly with clear, cold water. Six miles of peace and joy! She remembers each side trail and every bush from her previous experiences. She knows her truth and she knows her place.

my place

my place

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Learning Louisiana’s wetlands

Montana, my home for the past thirteen years, is easy to fall in love with. Its dramatic mountains, wild rivers and clear streams make for perfect wilderness adventures, and great settings for the romantic novels of the West.

Montana’s rich wild lands and wildlife are fully and aggressively supported by organizations such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Sonoran Institute and the Nature Conservancy, who’ve made it their mission to protect and conserve the region’s beauty and qualities. The northern Rocky Mountains are held in such high regard that most of these organizations also have key offices in Montana to assist with on-the-ground efforts and provide field reports to their main offices. Their successes are measurable through the general public’s knowledge about and support of these places. Both the staff and members of these conservancy organizations join together to work toward significant conservation efforts like the preservation of grizzly bear and the reintroduction of the wolf, as well as more basic tasks such as building trails and teaching environmental courses.

 Last Year I fell in love with Louisiana’s wetlands, a place I had never been before. I was not prepared to be so captivated by this landscape or its people. From a distance the wetlands seem easy to know through a quick experience – simple, even simplistic. Yet, what I experienced was something quite different, a place that is wild, vibrant and intense, complex and rich. If the Rockies are all about straight-forward drama, wetland drama is reserved and subtle, requiring the investment of time and self-reflection. Louisiana’s wetlands are a viscous concoction of water, earth and air, elements constantly shifting in their percentages and relationships to one another. Sometimes more water, sometimes more earth, always the humid air holding an in-between quality.

 Spending time with the people who call Louisiana’s wetlands home provides a window into a contemporary culture that remains invested in the place for sustenance, livelihood, art and daily passions. Despite the inherent richness of the Louisiana wetlands, and the despite the experiences of wildness and beauty they provide those who come to know them, the uneasy truth is that the wetlands are vanishing. In part this is due to our abuse and over-use of them; in part it’s because, unlike Montana’s landscapes, they do not receive national public attention, much less a similar level of political and activist support.

 The loss of Louisiana’s wetlands means we lose one of the most vital and necessary ecosystems in North America. When we disregard this place, we not only fail to recognize that the survival of other creatures depends upon the wetlands’ continuation, but also that they and the wetlands are integral to our own lives and well being. There are many reasons for this, including such basics as the wetlands’ role in reducing erosion and retention of clean water.  But according to Dr. Paul Kemp, the reality today is that approximately “one football field of wetland is disappearing every thirty minutes.”

 Imagine, for a moment, watching your homeland disappear……..the place you live and love. 

 What are we to do when faced with such potential devastation and loss? As I see it, there are only two choices: complacency or engagement. Engagement is not an armchair activity – to change the direction of a current condition requires us to be vigilant, intentional and active. As we prepare to enter a new year, I challenge you to choose engagement. Learn the value of the wetlands; learn about the place you live.  Understand what’s at stake for all of us, take initiative, take action – as an individual or a group member. Volunteer to leave the Earth a better place than you found it. As Annie Dillard has written, and I try to live by everyday, “grasp your one necessity and not let go.”

My love of place is now divided between Mountain and Delta. I am fortunate, however, to have the ability to spend time in both. In Montana as director of Artemis Institute, and in Louisiana as the 2011-12 Marie M. Bickham Chair in the School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University.

Learn More: read Terry Tempest Williams’ essay, “The Gulf Between Us” in Orion Magazine, go to http://