Colorado Art RanchPhoto: David Peterson

Aldo & Leonardo


What happens when artists and scientists work together?

How is the art affected? How is the science affected?

Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute are hosting one-month residencies in six different wilderness biomes throughout the United States. Artists will be collecting data with researchers and creating their own work in response. Download Flyer

aldo blogRead the blog about the Aldo & Leonardo Project

Passed into law on September 3, 1964, the Wilderness Act will mark its 50th anniversary in 2014. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of art and science designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act.

Our project, entitled Aldo & Leonardo, is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. During 2013, the U.S. Forest Service's Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute (ALWRI) and Colorado Art Ranch will sponsor small groups of visiting artists and resident scientists for one-month shared residencies in or near six wilderness sites. The scientists and artists - visual, literary, and performing - will collaborate to produce a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness.


The Work of an Artist or Scientist begins with Questions

Today's issues facing wilderness biomes and human beings require complex thinking. Complex thinking requires both broad and focused perspectives. The problem solving approach used by artists gives rise to a range of possibilities previously unimagined and the possibilities can enrich the framework for scientific inquiry.

working groupFor example, Leonardo da Vinci, both an artist and a scientist, imagined the helicopter centuries before a working version could be realized. His vision gave scientists and engineers the basis for the ultimate invention.

Artists and scientists are similar in that their work starts with questions
about the what, why, and how of the world's phenomena, yet the methods they use to explore and find answers are poles apart. When artists and scientists work together, their different perspectives and ways of thinking can lead to conclusions that combine the best of right-brain and left-brain thinking. The scientists begin to think like artists and the artists begin to think like scientists. The disruption of their typical ways of seeing and the cross-fertilization of ideas facilitate creative problem solving.

Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
While many scientists conduct research relevant to wilderness, the Leopold Institute (ALWRI) is the only Federal research group entirely focused on wilderness. We are dedicated to the following goals: To develop the scientific knowledge and tools needed to protect and preserve wilderness and the ecological and social values derived from wilderness and similarly managed lands, and to communicate and facilitate the application of this knowledge to the wilderness management agencies and other user groups.

ALWRI is administered by the U.S. Forest Service and operates under an agreement with the Forest Service, Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

Selected Biomes

Information about the sites may be found at We will be providing project specific information as it becomes available.

Application Deadline: December 15, 2012
US Forest Service
Project Information

Monomoy Wilderness, Massachussets –Marine/Coastal
June 17-July13, 2013
Application Deadline: February 1, 2013
US Fish and Wildlife

John Muir Wilderness–California–Alpine
July 10-August 7, 2013
Application Deadline: April 15, 2013
US Forest Service

Noatak National Refuge, Alaska–Boreal Forest/Arctic Tundra
July 15-August 15, 2013
Application Deadline: April 15, 2013
National Park Service

Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado–Desert
September 1-30, 2013
Application Deadline: May 1, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area, Minnesota–Fresh Water and Deciduous
September 15-October 15, 2013
Application Deadline: May 15, 2013
US Forest Service





To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a
useless waste; to others, the most
valuable part.

- Aldo Leopold

The artist sees what others
only catch a glimpse of.
- Leonardo da Vinci


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible?
Artists who are adventurous, open-minded and who use their skills, talents, knowledge and passion to react to the world we live in.

What experience is necessary?
The artists do not have to have experience with any particular location or scientific inquiry. Preference will be given for artists who have worked collaboratively and have demonstrated an ability to adapt to new and sometimes challenging situations.

Who should apply?
All. We hope to have a broad range of arts represented including, but not limited to: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, painting, sculpture, installation, dance, music, drama, video, film, performance and printmaking? Did we leave you out? Just show and tell what you do.

How can I do my art in the middle of nowhere?
Good question. Not every medium lends itself to production in far-flung environs. Artists will have 60 days beyond the end of the residency to submit final work electronically. Physical work may be included in a traveling exhibition for one year.

Where will I live?
This will vary for each location, but housing will be provided for your base. There may be trips that involve camping to conduct research for part of the time.

Will we have access to phone and internet?
Not necessarily. Wilderness by definition does not provide for these services. The housing may or may not be in a coverage area. The internet may be through a government agency which is quite limiting (limited access to some sites such as Skyp). In general there will be times to get to phone and email, but do not count on it.

How will the month be structured?
This will vary depending on the research that is being conducted. In general there will be a three day arrival/orientation/coordination period followed by field work. The end of the time you will mostly be working on your own projects.

What does it cost?
There is a $50 application fee and you will be responsible for travel to the area and your food. Travel within the park or wilderness and housing will be provided. Each artist will receive a $1,000 stipend upon arrival.

How will the artists be selected?
Colorado Art Ranch will assemble a jury to review applications and work samples. The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute will have a say in accepting finalists.

May I apply to more than one residency.
Yes, as many as you like. There is an application fee of $50 for the first application and $30 for each additional application. You do not need to resubmit your application, but there may be an additional question for subsequent applications.

How many artists will be selected?
There will be three artists chosen for each of six locations.

What should I pack?
Hold on, you haven’t even been picked yet! There will be a suggested packing list for each location that will be sent to finalists.

What are the physical requirements?
We are trying to make the sites as accessible as possible, but some locations may require some physical effort to help conduct the research. Check the description of the research environment and email or call us if you are concerned about your abilities. In all cases you will have a more enjoyable time if you are fit.

May I bring a spouse, friend, kid or dog?

Who are the partners?
Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute are the primary partners. We are working with several agencies to create this opportunit: The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.