Jamie Horter is a rural advocate, community artist, and community coach based in Lyons, NE (pop. 851). She created her first public work when she was commissioned at the age of 10 to paint a mural in the elementary hallway of her hometown school. Then and now, her works are inclusive and community centered, often placing rural citizens in the design process as co-creators. Jamie’s work is multidisciplinary in scope and her work is informed by a personal history of eclectic explorations. She has degrees in art and chemistry and experience in working on Capitol Hill, within grassroots advocacy and non-profit organizations, and serving as editor of a small town newspaper. She now works in rural communities in South Dakota and Nebraska, using art to engage citizens in building the future they wish to see.
The culture of any place is a dynamic, collective reflection of the individuals living there. If you were to take a snapshot look into the people of Green River, what would it look like? What stories would residents uphold as the ones important to tell? My time as a Frontier Fellow was spent engaging youth in an artistic act to discover some of those stories and preserve a moment in time from the senior citizens who call Green River their home.
Teacher Craig Gowans invited me into his classroom to work with his senior creative writing students. With his class of six, we produced a project called Senior Spotlight. Through this project, two generations of citizens, senior students and senior citizens, share an interaction together. Each student spends time with one senior citizen in the community, connecting and interviewing them about their life. The senior citizen they choose is someone who they were not related to, and someone currently living in Green River.
Students captured and edited portraits of each senior citizen. They also wrote a narrative about that person’s life. Each student created one narrative in English and one in Spanish to better serve Green River's bilingual community.
Students raised money to pay for professional quality prints to be made of their portraits and written works. Thanks to the support of two Green River businesses, Chow Hound and Green River Coffee Company, the works were able to be displayed in their windows.
Community members and participating senior citizens joined students for an evening public reception held at Chow Hound and Green River Coffee Company. Students talked about their interactions with the senior citizen they spoke with and gave anecdotes about the things that stuck with them in their conversations. Some of the senior citizens were able to participate in the evening’s events and share a few of their own life stories with the public.
While the exhibit was temporary, work is being done to preserve these portraits and narratives for the people of Green River. The works students created will be archived for the public and made accessible through Epicenter. A book of their work will be published.
Should members of the community decide to do so, this project could continue. Each year could be a new opportunity for youth and senior citizens to connect. Over time, the stories and images collected could continue to grow as a dynamic archive about the individuals and collective culture that make Green River what it is.
Special thanks to Epicenter's Maria Sykes and Jarod Hamm for hosting me and to Craig Gowans for inviting me into his classroom. During my time in Green River, so many of the residents and local business owners extended warm welcomes and hospitality. Thanks to all who supported Senior Spotlight, stopped to have a conversation, welcomed me into their home, or invited me to go on a hike and explore the beautiful desert landscape.