In My Backyard


An art-science talk by Kristen Orr and Kate Fleming

This event is co-sponsored by AS IF Center and Toe River Arts and is free of charge.

Artists Kristen Orr and Kate Fleming will be in residence at AS IF Center for two weeks this spring. They will give an art-science talk titled “In My Backyard” at the Arts Resource Center on May 5 from 11am-12pm.

During their residency, Kristen and Kate will be creating a series of prints based on an artistic and scientific research trip they took across North Carolina in May 2017. The artists spent a week visiting seven nature preserves, each within a distinct ecoregion of the state—Roan Mountain, Linville Gorge, Uwharrie National Forest, Weymouth Woods, Green Swamp, Black River, and Carolina Beach State Park. They documented the species, colors, textures, sounds, and smells of each location using a variety of artistic and scientific methods. Using the data they collected on their trip, they are collaborating to create imagery that is representative of each location.

At the talk on May 5 at the ARC, the artists will share stories from their epic road trip across the state and describe how they used artistic and scientific methods to capture the essence of an ecosystem. Their collected visual data, including notes, sketches, paintings, color swatches, pressed plants, soil samples, and field recording will also be on display.






Kristen and Kate are working on their project with scientific guidance from Dr. Peter Weigl, an ecologist at Wake Forest University and from The Nature Conservancy of North Carolina.

Kristen is a multimedia artist and designer from Winston-Salem, NC. She currently works as an exhibit designer for the Museum of Science, Boston and holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Kate is a painter and printmaker based in Arlington, Virginia. She works as an exhibit specialist at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC and graduated from the College of William and Mary. 

For more information about the May 5 talk, visit the Upcoming Events page.

Weaving Research into Creative Writing: Two Events

Writer Cynthia Reeves is the 2018 “Art of the Climate” resident AS IF Center. Her current writing project is a trilogy of linked novellas entitled The Comfort of Water. All three are set on the Svalbard archipelago, where in June 2017 she shared the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition with 31 other artists. Cynthia is pleased to offer two events, co-sponsored by AS IF Center and Toe River Arts — a workshop on using science in creative writing, and a talk about her adventures in the Arctic and how they have inspired her writing.

Both the workshop and the talk will take place on Saturday, March 17 [NOTE NEW DATE] at the Arts Resource Center at Toe River Arts, 269 Oak Avenue, Spruce Pine, upstairs. Events are free of charge, but participants will need to RSVP to reserve a spot, and will be encouraged (but not required) to make a small donation to AS IF Center and Toe River Arts.

The author writes: “That one can ‘live’ on an ice floe—at least for the time the floe remains intact—is fascinating to me. During our trip, we anchored to an ice floe so that I was able to experience what that would be like, the dangers inherent in it, the way it moves without you noticing.”

WORKSHOP: Making the Leap from Fact to Fiction
Saturday, March 17 10:00am-2:30pm with a break for lunch (try Fox & the Fig or DTs Blue Ridge Java). This workshop will focus on finding inspiration for creative writing in “fact” and incorporating research into fiction. We will address questions such as: How do you write authentically about subjects with which you might be only tangentially familiar? Why do certain subjects–climate change and historical events, for example–intrigue you? How can that fascination be put to use in your writing?

Preparation for the workshop will include completing several reading assignments totalling approximately eight hours. The workshop will consist of an informal lecture as well as a writing exercise that will be completed in class and shared with other participants. Due to time constraints, there will not be an opportunity for Cynthia to read the work of participants beforehand.

Minimum 8 participants / Maximum 12
Workshop registration closes March 10

To apply, write a brief (250-300 word) essay about why you are interested in the workshop, and email to us by March 10.

TALK: Of Ice Floes, Whale Bones, and Abandoned Mines: Close Encounters from the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition
Saturday, March 17, 4:00pm-5:00pm

This talk will reflect the ways in which travel and research inspire Cynthia’s work. She will share photos and personal experiences from her Arctic Circle residency aboard the schooner Antigua, and will read from her work-in-progress inspired by encounters from that residency. One impetus from her trip that shaped her project were serendipitous comments from her fellow artist-shipmates as they wound down their adventure. They would say: This is our “last landing,” our “last beach,” and “our last glacier.” The idea of there being a “last glacier” jogged something in her mind—tying the idea of climate change and its potential impacts directly to her work. The stunning and otherworldly beauty of the Arctic landscape was also a source of inspiration, especially contemplating what would be lost if that landscape continues to be compromised.

RSVP by email to save a spot.

AS IF Center’s first resident: Cynthia Reeves

The Art of the Climate resident has been chosen, and is also AS IF Center’s first official resident. Through a competitive process, we selected Cynthia Reeves, a writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of journals and anthologies. She has won numerous honors, including Miami University Press’s Novella Prize (2007) for Badlands; several Pushcart Prize nominations; and prizes in Columbia’s Fiction Contest, the 2006 and 2008 Quarter After Eight Short Prose Contests, New Millennium’s Short Short Fiction Contest, and Potomac Review’s Fiction Contest. She has also been awarded residencies to Vermont Studio Center and the 2017 Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition to Svalbard.

Cynthia Reeves at Svalbard. Photo by Carleen Sheehan.

Cynthia’s work most often arises in the intersection between history and science. She seeks to portray how the political and the external impinge upon the personal. Often that fresh angle comes through locating the work in the lives of ordinary people whose stories have been lost or ignored, with the goal of enlarging our engagement with wider, unfamiliar worlds. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA program, Cynthia has taught in the creative writing programs at Rosemont College and Bryn Mawr College.


What will Cynthia be doing at AS IF Center?
Cynthia’s current writing project is a trilogy of linked novellas entitled The Comfort of Water. All three are set on the Svalbard archipelago, where in June 2017 she shared the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition with 31 other artists. The first novella, The Last Whaler, concerns a Norwegian couple—a beluga whaler and his botanist wife—stranded on Spitsbergen during the winter of 1935-36. Among other themes, it explores the effect of humans on the environment and the protagonist’s changing attitudes toward harvesting whales. The second, The Last Glacier, is a fairy tale set in a parallel contemporary world told from the point of view of the glacier. Its intention is to describe a world that could be lost without significant intervention to slow down the loss of ice at the poles. The third, The Last Eden, a post-apocalyptic novella set in the near future, centers on two characters—a female botanist and a hominin creature—confronted with a cataclysmic event: the sudden massive calving of an ice shelf that isolates them in an Arctic cave. Each has knowledge of the past but no way to access or employ that knowledge. What would become of their desire to reclaim a world already gone? What is the potential for a relationship, for love, to redefine the possible even in the most extreme conditions?


This writing project poses two major challenges: to create three very different, authentic worlds, and to portray the geo-political and scientific context in which each story is set. During the residency, Cynthia will continue writing the novellas while also collaborating with scientists at NCEI—especially botanists and glaciologists—to more fully understand the implications of climate change on plants and ice and to supplement her years of Arctic research.


We look forward to Cynthia’s visit.

Sara Rich visit to AS IF Center – all about dendroprovenancing

Last weekend AS IF Center hosted Dr. Sara Rich, Lecturer in Art History at Appalachian State University. Sara is a certified diver, a scholar of Arabic and Hebrew, versed in the science of dendrology, and author of Cedar Forests, Cedar Ships: Allure, Lore, and Metaphor in the Mediterranean Near East. Her work involves dendroprovenancing – using dendrochronology to date the wood in shipwrecks. Each year, the earth’s climate leaves a signature of width in tree rings – the overall pattern of thinner and thicker rings can be read like a bar code that dates the tree from which the wood was cut.

AS IF Center breakfast at the Yellow House

Sara came to AS IF to work on a fiction project. We shared a breakfast with Olga Ronay, AS IF Advisory Board member and one of the founding partners of High Cove (where AS IF Center is located), John Moore, woodcarver and former professor of Classics at Brown University and New College, and Byrne Tinney, former UNC faculty member in Spanish, meteorology expert, and longtime resident of the area. Several other High Cove community members had a chance to meet with Sara as well. We shared pizza, hiked, enjoyed a fire at the Lodge, added “dendroprovenancing” to our vocabulary, and talked about ancient history, Arabic and Hebrew language, world travels, and alternative narrative forms for telling the stories of science.

At Sara’s visit, we were envisioning a way to screen off the Yellow House residents’ quarters and studio from the rest of the house, to create more privacy for residents to work. We were inspired with the idea of making a folding privacy screen, collaged with drawings, writings, collections and other works from AS IF visitors. Sara left us with the first element for this project, seen below: a study for a painting of a the multibeam echosounder imaging of the wrecked 16th c. galleon in the Eo Estuary in Ribadeo, Galicia, Spain. Thanks for your visit, Sara – we hope you’ll join us again!