Epicenter Fellow Sarah Baugh
Sarah Baugh came into B-1 where we chatted for a while about why she keeps returning to Utah, what’s going on at Epicenter, and why it matters to her. When I first met Sarah in design school years ago, neither of us realized her path would be so frenetic and full of energy. She was kind enough to share some of her thoughts on why she is where she is, and what kind of work there is to be done.
It’s your third time going to Epicenter. Why go back?
This is a question that I often ask myself. Why do I keep returning to this place?
I think that it’s the combination of the landscape and the people. I love the desert that surrounds Green River — the colors, the surreal rock formations, the vastness, the rugged plant life, the sunsets, the small pockets of water, the Bookcliffs, the San Rafael Swell, the distant La Sal mountains, the slot canyons, the redrock, the slickrock, the exposed rainbow stratum, the tumbleweed, the sweeping vistas, the old highways that are receding back into sand and sagebrush, the way you can drive for miles and not see any sign of human life, the ambling Green River. There are so many places to explore and things to do.
Every time I return see and experience something new. And the people. Green River is isolated — the nearest town is 60 miles away — so it’s very important that you are surrounded by good people. The folks who run Epicenter have done a great job of building community, within the town, but also amongst themselves. It’s a live/work situation, and it’s really all encompassing. We eat dinner together every night, spend weekends at the beach or hiking, and then work together in the office all week. And somehow it all works. Last weekend we were invited to a Quinceañera. It was my first, and I was blown away by how warmly we were welcomed into this event. It was an amazing, and completely new experience for me — full of food, music, and dancing. It was something that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.
But why return to Epicenter? The crew here is doing work that I can get behind and that I feel compelled to contribute to. I first came here as a Frontier Fellow in August of 2012. I created a project with the help of the Green River city archivist, JoAnne Chandler, that featured materials from the archive, and included a screening of a 1938 French kayak expedition down the Green River. This project felt more like an exercise, and less like something final and polished. I left feeling like there was still more work to be done.
Nicole Lavelle and I returned in February 2013 to do the Green River Newspaper project. She had also been a Frontier Fellow in 2011. It was great working with her because we both had kind of a base understanding of the town, but we were both really curious and motivated to learn more. The newspaper allowed us to really embed ourselves in the community, and in the end this yielded something that we were proud of, more importantly, the residents of Green River were proud to contribute to.
The impetus for my current visit was twofold. I’m moving to Virginia in the fall and feel a sense of urgency to spend as much time out West as possible. Utah really won me over from my first visit, and returning felt like the right thing to do. Beyond this love of the land, I wanted to do work for Epicenter. I knew that if I stayed in Portland for the summer I would spend my time doing freelance for a studio, which is fine, but I felt that I wanted to step away from this type of client work for a bit. Being here feels more urgent. The projects I’ve lined up for the summer include: writing grants to fund future Green River Newspapers, developing the framework for an Epicenter membership program, and designing a book showcasing the work of past Frontier Fellows.
Talk about the sunsets.
Last night we packed everyone into a single car, and drove down the longest street in Green River (Longstreet) to catch the sun as it sank into the Bookcliffs. Earlier it had reached 100 degrees, but the air was beginning to cool as we drove down the dusty road, along the river, deeper into the canyon. The sky stretched out above us and the underbellies of long wispy clouds turned pink and gold just above the craggy silhouette of the San Rafael Swell. We stood by the river until the bugs drove us away. The sun slowly disappeared as we drove back into town with the windows down and our hands catching the wind. It never gets old.
How is temporary, borderline transient life in a forgotten corner of America?
What exactly is Epicenter?
Where’s the value for you, Sarah Baugh?
I’m constantly asking myself this question, coming up with answers, revising, throwing those answers out, and starting over. For me, now, it’s about loving a place so much, that you just can’t help but make work about it. That’s a messy sentence, but I think it sums things up.
You’re an infrequent, but regular member of this town, do you feel like you’re giving or taking from Green River?
Will Green River grow or thrive in this century?
What other Portland-based creatives go/have gone to Epicenter?
What does the date of August 22, 2013 mean to you?