Summer 2025: May 19 - June 15, 2025
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This course takes place within the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande rift, and the Southern Colorado Plateau. Throughout this field course students and instructors visit sites on Puebloan land, Spanish land grants, Diné (Navajo) Nation, and other lands throughout the region hosted by local artists, Knowledge Holders, scientists, and guides.

The course will also visit various public lands including National Forests, National Parks, and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Semester Credits

Browse The Syllabi!

6 total semester credits/9 total quarter units:     

Climate Change Studies CCS 391 - Community-Based Resilience to Climate Change
Community Based Resilience to Climate Change is a course designed to introduce students to community-centric practices that build resilience in a changing climate. Students will learn about Acequia Culture, consider traditional agricultural practices in Northern New Mexico, inspect case studies of Indigenous peoples in the Southwest, and learn from modern researchers and scientists looking to develop climate resilient agricultural and land management practices today. Students will study traditional narratives of climate alongside ways that the Southwest’s climate is changing today, including readings and discussions about fire ecology, biodiversity loss, water conservation, and anthropogenic climate forces and impacts. The focus of this work is to develop a deep understanding of how communities have and do respond to climate crises, to consider how collective action can impact climate change, and to engage with traditional and community knowledge holders across one of the longest-occupied areas of land in the Americas.
Studio Art ARTZ 395 - Cultural Climate Expression in the American Southwest
Cultural Climate Expression in the American Southwest is an opportunity for students to dive deeply into the variety of traditional and contemporary expressive forms of the American Southwest, including ceramics, textiles, drawings, paintings, sculpture, dance, music, graffiti, and architecture. These creative outlets have been an integral part of Southwestern culture for millenia, from Indigenous cultures through Spanish cultures through modern American culture. This rich history provides an incredible backdrop for students to investigate their own expression of climate, ecology, biodiversity, loss, and opportunity through visual forms. Students will engage in a daily practice of creation through sketching and drawing, and will work continuously towards building a body of more complete work expressing their understanding of climate science, community, and place. Students will also integrate their understanding of climate change and their own physical and intellectual journey into an artist’s statement that will accompany their visual representation.

Academic Credit:

All courses offered through the Wild Rockies Field Institute are accredited through the University of Montana and the School for Extended and Lifelong Learning. Each Wild Rockies Field Institute course is approved and supported by University of Montana departmental leadership and faculty.

“Southwest Climate Studio Art: Change and Resilience in the American Southwest” offers two independent courses, each worth 3 semester credits, for a total of 6 credits earned for successfully completing the program.

Quarter System Students:
For colleges and universities on the quarter system, both courses are typically worth 4.5 quarter units, for a total of 9 units upon successful completion of the program.

Block System Students:
At institutions where one course is equal to one credit, each class (e.g. CCS 391) within a WRFI course is typically equal to one credit.

Southwest Climate Studio Art Course Description

Southwest Climate Studio Art: Change and Resilience in the American Southwest engages students in frontcountry camping across Northern and Western New Mexico. The course is split into two sections, each lasting about two weeks; the entire course is spent in a frontcountry setting, being vehicle supported. Some days include extended day hikes and throughout the course students will spend time engaging with community members, artists, and scientists throughout the region. Throughout the course, students will visit small rural towns and villages, as well as larger cities throughout New Mexico and also visit with local citizens, land managers, tribal members, elected officials, farmers, and ranchers. These guest speakers expose students to diverse perspectives on the landscapes and cultures of the area. During these visits, students will have the opportunity to re-supply with food and other basic supplies.
Students will read extensively about local relationships with climate and climate changes in the Southwest, learn some of the history and traditions behind regional art practices, experiment with various methods, and think critically about needs for communicating about climate within and between communities. Daily class discussions are complemented by meetings with local guest speakers, written assignments and art projects, and work exchanges within the community.

Southwest Climate Studio Art is an interdisciplinary course that attempts to provide a rich contextual view of the relationships and issues we study, emphasizing the contributions students can make with their direct experiences in the region and connections with diverse perspectives within the community. The course culminates with a public exhibition of students’ visual works, artist statements, and a final paper synthesizing student learning across the academic disciplines represented during the course.

Section One: Northern New Mexico

In Northern New Mexico, students will learn about climate resilience through community-centered agricultural traditions, Spanish and Indigenous artistic influences, and fire and water issues in the American West. Case studies include Acequia culture of small communities in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, fire ecology of the Valles Caldera, and water culture and the Cochiti Dam. Towards the end of Section One, students will focus on presenting preliminary studies for a body of creative work.

Section Two: Western New Mexico

In Section Two, students will visit sites of historic significance to Indigenous, Spanish, and American peoples and meet with Indigenous artists and leaders before spending setting up for several days at a remote base camp location to dive deep into their creative processes. During this time, students will have the opportunity to sink into their studio work. To round out the course, students will visit Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and return to Albuquerque where they will participate in a show of their work.

Pre/Post Course Work description

After the course, students will complete an academic paper reflecting on community climate resilience by answering the following questions:

  • How have and do communities respond to climate crises?
  • How does collective action impact climate outcomes?
  • How do modern and traditional ways of addressing climate intersect?
  • How is the story and data of climate change communicated today?


Course Sponsor: ArtToolkit

This course is sponsored and supported by our partner, ArtToolkit

At Art Toolkit, we believe that art can be a tool for self-expression, communication, exploration, and scientific inquiry. We aim to empower our customers to create art daily by providing well-designed tools and materials.

In 2004, upon graduating from Carleton College, artist, and Art Toolkit founder Maria Coryell-Martin embarked on a year-long Watson Fellowship to work alongside climate scientists and researchers around the world. This experience inspired a resolve to continue working as an expeditionary artist and to raise environmental awareness in audiences of all ages.  After a memorable experience juggling clumsy sketching tools while crawling in the sand for hours to monitor walruses in Greenland, Maria found she needed a more compact sketching and painting kit. The Art Toolkit and Pocket Palette were born.

Today, we create watercolor sketching supplies for urban and wilderness adventures and support a passionate community of artists-beginners and professionals alike. Our unique configurable palettes are available in three sizes, the Demi Palette, Pocket Palette, and Folio Palette. Lightweight and compact, they are perfect for sketching anytime, anywhere. Our namesake, the Art Toolkit, is a rugged all-in-one field art kit stocked with everything a watercolor sketcher might need. You can find our products, along with a selection of our favorite sketching tools, on our website.