Creative integrity

Art+Environment Conference

Rachel Milon, director of communications and marketing at NMA, explains a piece in the Landscape Futures exhibit.

Rachel Milon, director of communications and marketing at NMA, explains a piece in the Landscape Futures exhibit.


Solutions to environmental concerns can be complicated, expensive and technical. But the line between science and art blurs as specialists collaborate with others outside of their fields.

This week local and international artists, writers, scientists and activists will gather at the second Art+Environment conference at the Nevada Museum of Art. NMA is known internationally for bridging the gap between artists and scientists.

“We’re trying to foster a dialogue about art and the environment, about places,” said Rachel Milon, director of marketing and communications.

A cultural demand for these conversations led to the development of the Center for Environment, which opened in 2008 after the first A+E conference.

“It was a kind of ‘chicken or the egg?’ scenario,” said Milon. “We needed to hold the conference to figure out if a center like this could exist. But we needed the Center to inspire future conferences.”

NMA is celebrating its 80th anniversary and has an exhibit showcasing its history and connection to the Nevada landscape. The design of the building itself was influenced by the desert, and the colors on the museum’s website change in conjunction with the temperature outside.

The conference exhibit, “The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment,” opened on Sept. 24 and features more than 100 artists who documented physical changes of the Earth, while simultaneously capturing the awe and devastation created by humans and natural occurrences.

“You see this mountain, and it’s got these steps that you can walk on, and you think ‘That’s beautiful. That was created by man,’” Milon said. “Part of environmental awareness is understanding our place in it.”

Along with the exhibits, the museum houses an extensive archive documenting the process of the artwork, which is open to the public and attracts scholars from around the world.

“We try to study the process of artists to understand creative thinking,” Milon said. “To us it’s similar to the process of nature. Artists document those changes.”

Northern Nevada has also established the literature and environment field of study though the University of Nevada, Reno English department, and the two programs collaborate. However, the movements arose separately.

“I think that’s a testament to the Nevada landscape. It’s inspired two separate, worldwide movements with a similar goal, to connect with the earth analytically and emotionally,” Milon said.

Milon hopes that the uniqueness in artistic perspective will encourage the community to think critically about their landscape.

“We’re not making a political statement. It’s not necessarily about environmentalism. We’re not suggesting anything,” said Milon. “We’re here to facilitate conversation about how the environment is altered for resources to help us survive.”

Worldwide science and art communities have A+E given high praises for its encouragement of ingenuity. “What gives me the most pride is people talking about our community,” Milon said. “Artists from New York or Iceland are just awestruck when they come here to work. Their enthusiasm for our natural surroundings helps me see it with new eyes. It shows how valuable the environment of Northern Nevada is.”