By Matthew Eshed

Creative graphic art by Dr. Garrett Smith, MEM Faculty 

Western’s Clark Family School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) hosted an event for the annual United Nations International Mountains Day celebration, held every year on Dec. 11. This year the event was held entirely on Zoom from 6-8 a.m. to accommodate international participants, and featured 12 student artistic presentations, three Masters of Environmental Management (MEM) student project presentations, and a live keynote by Professor of Art Tina Butterfield, who presented her Women of the Land project. The event was hosted by MEM founder and longtime Western faculty member Dr. John Hausdoerffer, and organized by Dr. Ricardo Vasquez-Perales. 

Professor Butterfield’s Women of the Land project features stories, paintings, and photographs of women in the Gunnison Valley region and their relationship to stewardship. The project “explores, documents, and celebrates the woman of the land in Gunnison County through mixed media artwork, poems, and short essays to merge history, personal memoirs, the land, and local culture, to create a visual biography of a place and the women of here and now. “ 

Image from Women of the Land project 

Artistic presentations featured a mix of original and cover solo guitar and piano songs by MEM alumni Nick Story, Sam Steele, and Dave Majerus, as well as current MEM students Sean Kohler and Davis Clark. Original storytelling was offered by MEM students and candidates Kara Willard, who spoke about the Glacier Farm Project, and Jeanea Blair, who read an original piece. 2021 MEM alumna Gillian Steininger shared a clip from interviews with women and their relationship to mountain resiliency.  

Jamming with MEM Alumni and musician Dave Majerus 

MEMer Matthew Eshed provided a dramatic reading of excerpts from Thoreau’s Walking, MEM faculty member Garrett Smith shared digital art, and community members Tori Jarosh and Laurie Vasily shared a podcast, No Handlebars, as well as a music video entitled “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Theme Song,” respectively. The music video was produced for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, or ICIMOD, which is “a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas.”  

Current MEM students Abraham Proffit, Alex Stach, and Kristen Hencke shared updates from their masters’ projects, featuring a visitor study in the Uncompahgre National Forest (Proffit), work on winter recreation in the Gunnison Valley (Stach), and developing a visitor use management plan in the Weminuche Wilderness (Hencke).  

The purpose of International Mountains Day is to express solidarity with mountain communities around the world, all of whom are facing uncertain futures amid a changing world. The artistry and vibrancy of our environmental projects were on full display, embodying the last line from the Thoreau reading: “In short, all good things are wild and free.”