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Summer Intensive Courses

Signal Fire 2017

Wide Open Studios 2017 Summer Immersion Trip: Into the Wilderness

INSTRUCTORS: Ryan Pierce and Kerri Rosenstein
APPLICATION DATES: January 1- March 31, 2017 (apply via
PROGRAM DATES: July 23- August 19, 2017
TUITION (Non-Credit): $2800

OPEN TO: Graduate and undergraduate students, or others seeking a curriculum-rich engagement with the landscape. Ages 18+.
ACTIVITIES: Backpacking and car-camping
DIFFICULTY: Challenging. Trip includes backpacking in rugged terrain and unpredictable conditions. Most days will be limited to five or six miles of hiking with a pack, with occasional exceptions. The course content involves an average of 30 pages of reading each day, in addition to required projects, discussions, and the demands of backcountry living. Applicants should have the enthusiasm and patience to live in a closely-knit group for an entire month. Appropriate for anyone in good physical health regardless of previous outdoor experience.

Wide Open Studios is an immersive art and ecology program that invites students to explore their studio practice in stunning wilderness locations, amidst an atmosphere of friendship and critical thinking. Our curriculum is centered on the natural and cultural histories of the sites we visit, and the possibilities of making art in— and in response to— wild places. Individual and collaborative projects invite students to see the wild as a place of wonder, empowerment, action and connection.

Our 2017 theme of folklore and storytelling looks to ways in which these traditions inform our relationship to place, peoples, and the natural world. Through the lens of oral histories and written stories, we will examine the naming of places, claims to land ownership, histories of contested landscapes, and ties to natural resources. This year’s Summer Immersion Trip takes us to the Nez Perce homeland of Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains and the Idaho/Montana Bitterroots. The legends of the Nimi’ipuu will provide a lyrical introduction to this land of rugged mountains, clear streams and thickly timbered forests. As we hike and camp throughout the region, we will encounter stories of French fur trappers, Chinese gold miners and others who shaped the land and culture of these mountains. We will also discuss the role of artists as storytellers and consider how it contributes to a deeper understanding of the American West.

This class combines practical instruction on backcountry travel with art projects, readings and discussions. The structure of the course is immersive; students will travel together for the duration, embarking on a sequence of backpacking and camping trips separated by brief resupply stops. Through individual and collaborative projects, students will experience the potential of relocating their studio practice, working on-site and far from civilization. Visiting artists and scholars will add to our inquiry. This is not a course in survivalism, but will impart basic skills of preparation and self-sufficiency for safe and ethical wilderness travel. Students will complete a significant self-directed project, combining course content with research and their existing interests. The class will culminate in a 36 hour ‘solo,’ a period of stillness and solitude for self-reflection.

Wide Open Studios is a project of Signal Fire, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides opportunities for artists to engage in the natural world. More at

Questions? Email Ryan Pierce


Curatorial Intensive: Curating through Craft

INSTRUCTOR: Namita Wiggers
DATES: July 31-August 4; August 7-August 11
TUITION: $2,500

Explore curating as a research and observation-based artistic practice through a variety of approaches. Investigation of contemporary craft discourse, scenography, and material-based inquiry will be emphasized through a variety of readings, journaling, photo documentation, hands-on making and scenography. Through discussions, lectures, group activities and Making | Object | Research lab environments, students will gain a deeper understanding of how curating is applied to the presentation of craft and material-based objects. Using objects and materials related to the history of craft, a variety of spatial environments and modes of interaction from the “white cube” to socially engaged projects will be investigated.

Prerequisite for For Credit Students: 12 credits of studio courses beyond first year foundation courses 
Prerequisite for For Non-Credit Students: 60 hours of studio courses or the equivalent by permission

INSTRUCTOR: Namita Wiggers

From 2004-14, Namita Gupta Wiggers served as Curator (2004-12) and Director and Chief Curator (2012-14) of Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon. During her tenure, Wiggers curated over 65 exhibitions, raising the national and international profile of MoCC through programming that shifted how craft is engaged in museum settings. Pivoting on questions about craft histories, materials, processes, and the location of craft objects, installations, and experimental projects within a museum context, Wiggers is known for research-driven exhibitions which catalyze dialogue and understanding of craft as a vital aspect of contemporary culture. Wiggers is Director and Co-Founder of Critical Craft Forum, an online and onsite platform for dialogue and exchange about craft in contemporary culture ( She is the Exhibition Reviews Editor of Journal of Modern Craft, editor of the forthcoming Companion on Contemporary Craft (Wiley Blackwell) and researching a project on gender and jewelry with Benjamin Lignel.