Welcome to the Secretome

A Youth Ecological Arts Project

October 13-November 13, 2021

Corrine Woodman Galleries

When:  OPEN HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5 pm

Where: CORRINE WOODMAN GALLERY, The Arts Center (700 SW Madison Ave, Corvallis)

Students from Muddy Creek Charter School and Kathryn Harrison (formerly Jaguar) Elementary school took part in an ongoing ecological art project created by artist Karin Bolender of the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W).

“Welcome to the Secretome” is an ongoing collaborative ecological-art project created by artist Karin Bolender of the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W). It invites participants to culture microbial life in specific ecologies and then engage with microscopic images of their unique cultures as mysterious “treasure maps.”

Secretome culture-maps are portals into subvisible worlds-within-worlds, always both real and imaginary.

During Spring 2021, over a hundred local elementary students cultured the environments around their schools and created their own illustrated Secretome culture-map stories. These were Grade 2 & 3 students from Muddy Creek Charter School and Grade 5 youth from Kathryn Harrison (formerly Jaguar) Elementary. Karin Bolender worked closely with classroom teachers to adapt the Secretome project for their classes. 

Tyler Wilson at Muddy Creek began integrating the Secretome project into the art-science curriculum for classes beginning in January. When students were able to return to the school grounds in March, Secretome explorations began right away among the awakening trees and grasses, treacherous blackberry passages, and vanishing waterholes of Muddy Creek’s Restoration Area. 

Joined later by Heather Merfeld’s Grade 2 & 3 students, Muddy Creek’s crew of Secretomers explored the school grounds over the next few months, revisiting their culturing spots over time, noticing changes and possible correlations between their secret maps and the dynamic landscape, and composing and illustrating their own Secretome stories.

In May, three Grade 5 classes at Kathryn Harrison Elementary—led by Kristin Silbernagel, John Nelson, and Kristin Erickson—cultured chosen spots around Dixon Creek, seeking secret portals into imaginary worlds, guided by their cultured treasure maps and encounters with the mysterious, microscopic lives that drew them. 

Visitors to the Corrine Woodman Gallery will experience these special portals into the Secretome in the Corrinne Woodman Gallery, where documents of the project’s process will be displayed alongside the students’ diverse, colorful, and wildly imaginative Secretome culture-mappings. 

Teaching Artist Karin Bolender and Three Student Participants share more about this project.

This project is being shown in tandem to the education and arts exhibition project about climate change What Will Nature Do? currently in the Main Gallery.