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Prairie Artist Betsy Roe to Commemorate Conservationist Jan Garton

Artist Betsy Knabe Roe was artist-in-residence at Bird Runner from 2009-2011. During that time, she created three installations on site. The following from February 2010 describes the beginning of the first one.

Betsy surveys the site for 'Revival.' The field was once in brome but has just been sown back to native. Here Betsy will create an installation honoring conservationist Jan Garton.
MCDOWELL CREEK, Kansas. Artist Betsy Roe was hard at work on Sunday-lying in the sunwarmed grass at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, a native prairie preserve in the heart of the Flint Hills. "I felt daunted, this project seemed so big," she says. "So I lay down in the grass, and the word 'center' came to mind. I just lay there and felt the warmth. I thought about 'center,' 'centering,' 'centered'-all the different meanings."

Roe was in the middle of one of the most difficult parts of the artistic process-acknowledging obstacles, awaiting guidance, inviting inspiration. Her openness paid off: her contemplation of "centering" allowed her to imagine a design not only taking shape but taking root in that particular location. With renewed zest, she went back to pounding in stakes and laying out string, marking dimensions for an outdoor work of art to honor the memory of Jan Garton, the conservationist who saved Cheyenne Bottoms and who passed away Nov. 6, 2009.

Betsy begins work on 'Revival,' an installation honoring conservationist Jan Garton.
Roe has been commissioned to do this "installation" on a three-acre brome field which is being restored to native prairie. "Installations" are part-sculpture, part-architecture and are sometimes dwelling-sized structures designed to surround the public with experiences rather than simply present them with something to look at. Roe has set herself the task of reflecting Garton's many facets-especially her sense of humor and her love of the tall grass prairie, where she requested that her ashes be spread.

In honor of Garton's philosophy of creating harmony between humans and other species, Roe wants her creation to be inviting, interactive, playful--and biodegradable. Roe is known for works of art that embrace natural processes, including decomposition. Therefore, she will construct the Garton memorial out of indigenous materials, together with native seeds-so as the work disintegrates, prairie plants will emerge. Her working name for this piece is, appropriately, "Revival."

Designated Kansas's 2009 "Emerging Artist of the Year," Roe is known for many works based on the tall grass prairie, including one on the belowground habitat. Roe has outlined an area roughly 50'x50' at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge for "Revival."

Saplings cleared from native prairie
are anchored in the ground.
The figures begin to take shape.


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