R.O.W. - Land Art for Farmington

$425 of $500 goal

Raised by 14 people in 15 months

This project is called "R.O.W.”, which, in surveyor parlance stands for Right-of-Way, which usually signifies the route of a planned road, pipeline or other construction. (I worked as a land survey crewmember for several years, and have been fascinated by its implications ever since.)

R.O.W. will be a temporary work of Land Art in Berg Park, Farmington. It will consist of a straight line of surveyor’s lath, each stake complete with typical red flagging and information markings, planted in the ground every 30 feet or so, running due north and south from the top of Berg Park, near the Fairview Road entrance to Berg Park East, to the park’s southernmost boundary on the south bank of Willetts Ditch, a distance of approximately 1,500 feet. This line parallels an existing section line and should be a true meridian. It will cross the Animas, and run through woodlands and meadows, and be visible from several roads and trails, as well as from the bridge crossing the Animas at Berg Park East, but should not offer any obstructions to park visitors. It will be in place for a maximum of two weeks, after which it will be removed and leave no trace of its prior existence.

In a nutshell: If a fossil fuel company can do this, then so can I (if only just symbolically). Less controversial perhaps is my intent to expose the Western ideology of "The Land" as being more or less strictly that of property, resource, commodity. "Nature" has no value in this system unless it can be exploited. The line of survey lath is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Therefore, an important part of the piece (think Christo in miniature), will be going through the usual process of determining surface ownership and mineral rights, permitting, liability coverage, One Call  - "Call before you dig!" – notification (since R.O.W. will cross an existing pipeline), and whatever other legal requirements that govern any typical fossil fuel company’s right to install a pipeline or construction company's to build an access road or other structure on public or private land. If necessary, I may have to go to court to force the issue. With DAPL protests and BLM fracking leases around Chaco Canyon in the news it seems like a timely project.

To that end, I will need the cooperation of several Farmington entities, including the River Reach Foundation (RRF) and City of Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department (PRCA), since they are both landowners (RRF has handed over management of its property to the Parks Dept), the PRCA Commission, perhaps the City Council too, and at least one other private landowner and a local energy company. I would like to enlist the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council in endorsing this project and perhaps act as fiscal agent in case any funds that come my way require this.

As of March 24, 2017, I have made presentations to the RRF Board, PRCA Department, PRCA Commission, NWNMAC Board and the private landowner, all of whom have given their verbal approval. In response I have received a City of Farmington draft Agreement which I am still analyzing; I have received an offer of short term liability coverage from a local insurance company; I have received a letter of approval from the private landowner; I have received a letter from the NWNMAC agreeing to act as fiscal agent; I have sent a letter agreeing to the RRF Board's conditions for its endorsement.

R.O.W. should not be perceived as a hoax or practical joke. Nevertheless, I hope that people coming to the park will scratch their heads, wondering if the Parks Department or a gas company or someone is planning on putting in a road, or a pipeline, or structure. They may be concerned whether this is really possible. Or they might just be fascinated with it, try to see if they can follow the line through woods and meadows, or try to verify if it is really straight and on a true meridian. Its perfection is also something I am hoping to emphasize – a stark contrast between wild, improvisational nature and rigid, geometrical human culture.

R.O.W.’s budget is roughly $800.00. Both Parks and the private landowner require a one million dollar short - term liability coverage policy. Sounds fantastic but is not unusual for events. That will cost $300.00. I have hired a professional surveyor for $400.00, including supplies such as stakes and flagging. Additional documentation such as maps and drawings may cost more. Project-related publicity may run $100.00 or so. I also plan to mount an exhibition in relation to this project, so in the future I will be investing in photo prints, document printouts, picture frames, etc.

So far, I have raised $400.00! You have made this project possible! You will get credit on anything and everything related to this project (unless you want to remain anonymous). You will get name-dropped at any  R.O.W. exhibition I wrangle in Durango or Santa Fe. If you wish, after it is over, you can have a souvenir lath!

This project is very important to me, could have a significant impact on my artistic career, could make a noteworthy contribution to the art of Farmington and raise its visibility in the state, and cannot be realized without your help. Thank you.

A little background:

I moved to the Four Corners region of New Mexico after graduating, first getting a job as an art instructor in a Bureau of Indian Affairs elementary school on the Navajo Nation and then moving to Totah (Navajo for Three Rivers) AKA Farmington. Since 1999 I have been a part time Art Instructor at San Juan College.

I am also a full time artist, which means my resume is long and my bank account is empty. Perhaps the highlight of my art career has been in winning a public art commission through the State of New Mexico's Art in Public Places program in 2012 for the state's centennial (all of which was spent on making the dang artwork; I didn't pocket a dime).

Two  summers ago, I was invited by THE LAND/an art site, an arts organization based in Albuquerque,  to develop a work of art that interacted directly with the 40-acre plot of undeveloped land they own in Mountainair, a village southeast of Albuquerque, as a way of representing the human relationship with nature. 

THE LAND folks liked my "Centerline" proposal and so - along with 5 other artists who came from all parts of the world pursuing their own projects - I started making regular trips down to Mountainair to gather as much information about the site as I could in order to make as complete an inventory about that plot of land as possible. This included flora and fauna, geology and history, politics and whatever else. I wasn't entirely certain how I would transform this archive into an artwork but I did produce an information graphic - "Phase I" -  in time for display in THE LAND/gallery's fall exhibit, titled "Transform".

"Phase III" of my project was to install a line of surveyor's stakes corner to corner along the diagonal of THE LAND's square-shape lot. The idea was to foreground the site's vulnerability to development. Turns out THE LAND does not own the mineral rights to its property. If someone, say a natural gas pipeline company, wanted to branch off from the existing utility right-of-way that already runs across the southeast corner of THE LAND's lot and tie it to another line by crossing through there, they might just be able to do it.

Well, we never got that far. Sad to say, the THE LAND has apparently gone out of business - at least I can no longer contact them and no one seems to know what happened to them. There is a rumor that the couple who ran it decided to run off to Mexico and join a band of devotees of an Aztec shaman.

To make a long story longer, I decided that I wasn't going to take this disappointment lying down. I wanted to install that survey line. I wanted to see if it would work. I decided I could do pretty much the same thing right here in Farmington - and save time, distance and money.  I decided that the best place to install a line like this would be in one of Farmington's Animas River parks.

If you have gotten this far, thank you for your indulgence and endurance.
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October 29, 2017.


Since last summer, after the R.O.W. temporary centerline survey installation has come and gone, I have been working on several project-related items. One is the creation of a video that records me walking down the line of stakes while narrating the process of its development. It should be about ten minutes long. I hope to use this as a sort of "How-To" for artists interested in self-initiated public art projects.

I have also printed out a photo of a close-up of one of the stakes, which I entered in the Durango Arts Center's annual Members' Exhibit, "Human/Nature". This started just a few days ago, last Friday, October 28. If you get to Durango any time in the next few weeks, stop in; my photo is right inside the entrance to the DAC Gallery.

I am also still working to further develop this project into an exhibition that will showcase the entire breadth of the project, basically a meditation on the Western notion that the natural landscape's identity and value is strictly as property and resource.

Attached are the DAC photo and a grid of all the stakes installed at Berg Park.

Strictly speaking, this GoFundMe campaign is over. It was started to help defray the cost of the centerline survey portion of the larger project.

Thanks to everyone who helped. As promised, anyone who wants a souvenir lath can call me at 325-4172 or stop by my house at 312 W. LaPlata St. (the street behind the Civic Center).
Each lath or flagging used in survey.
Close-up of STA 1 + 20 in DAC show.
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It's official!

The installation of the "R,O.W." temporary Land Art for Berg Park will take place on Saturday, June 17, beginning around 8 AM. We will start at the north end by the open shed on the empty lot next to the Berg Park East entrance sign (access via San Juan Blvd, turn south on Fairview, then west on River Road). If you don't see us working, follow the orange surveyor lath south to the Animas River bank or across on the other side. Feel free to take pictures, ask questions, etc. Thanks.

Michael Darmody
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R.O.W. Notice of Staking (preliminary)

At the risk of jumping the gun, I am happy to report that, as far as I can determine, I have met all conditions necessary to install my R.O.W. temporary artwork in Berg Park. Yesterday (Friday June 9) I submitted the last of the paperwork for the terms of my agreement with the Farmington Parks Department and expect them sign off on it by Monday.

I have set the installation date for Saturday, June 17 (a week from now), beginning around 8 AM at the north side of the Clayton property (open field adjacent the Tucker/Fairview entrance to Berg Park East from San Juan Blvd), and ending at Willetts Ditch, crossing the Animas River, open parklands and woodlands on the way. This artwork will remain in the ground for about 2 weeks and will then be removed. The surveyor I am contracting with believes the whole job should take about 4 hours.

I will issue an OFFICIAL Notice of Staking (a BLM term that I just happen to like) hopefully on Monday inviting anyone who wants to witness the procedure to come on down, take pictures, ask questions, etc.

Thanks to all who helped make this project possible.
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"It's all part of the process."

A funny thing happened on the way to installing the R.O.W. line of stakes this weekend. First, both my vehicles decided to take a holiday from working. Without them, I can't realistically expect to travel anywhere, not even to Berg Park with equipment and such. Second, I have a tiny tiny fund of money available for anything and everything that exceeds basic bill paying. So, I decided to spend it all on getting one vehicle back up to speed. Ironically, the very act of paying for this service means that I no longer have sufficient funds to pay for the short term liability insurance required or the services of a professional surveyor. So please be patient while I recharge my fund.

Everything that happens in producing this project is also part of the project - unexpected obstacles included.
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$425 of $500 goal

Raised by 14 people in 15 months
Created January 8, 2017
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13 months ago
Katee McClure
14 months ago

Good Luck Michael!


We appreciate all that you do for the arts in our community. Northwest New Mexico Arts Council

15 months ago
Mimi Roberts
15 months ago

Good luck with your project, sounds great!

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