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Relevance of Place: Cathy Halstead, Francis Kéré, Ronald Rael, & Ben Wynthein

Shannon Jackson moderates a dialogue among local and international luminaries on what it means to honor the history of a landscape such as Tippet Rise and to sustain its future health — artistically, socially, and environmentally. In this episode, Cathy Halstead and Ben Wynthein — co-founder and ranch manager of Tippet Rise — engage in a dialogue with artist-architects Francis Kéré and Ronald Rael, discussing how their early experiences with landscape — in local villages, farms, and ranches — inform their values and creative practice now. Watch to hear them discuss the role of memory in understanding both the social and ecological dynamics of land, as well as how artworks, buildings, and other structures can find inspiration in the local materials of a site and the life patterns of the plants and animals that thrive there.

Filmed in October 2022.


Cathy Halstead

Cathy Halstead is an abstract painter whose work explores the similarities between the infinitesimal and the infinite, between the repetition of invisible but essential patterns in nature.

Together with her husband, Peter Halstead, she co-founded Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana. Tippet Rise is an intersection where art, music, land, sky, and poetry weave together into an algorithm which is greater than the sum of its parts.

She and Peter also founded the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation, which gathers poems from across places, eras, and traditions for audiences worldwide. She and Peter are trustees of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, which makes grants in climate, education, and the arts. Cathy is on the board of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and of Storm King Art Center. Cathy and Peter have two wonderful daughters and two adorable grandchildren.

Francis Kéré

Francis Kéré of Kéré Architecture is an internationally renowned Burkinabè architect and the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is recognized for his pioneering approach to design and sustainable modes of construction. His vocation to become an architect comes from a personal commitment to serve the community he grew up in, and a belief in the transformative potential of beauty.

In 2004, his first building – the Gando Primary School, which he designed, raised funds for and realized in collaboration with the residents of his hometown– was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. In 2005 he founded his architectural practice, Kéré Architecture, as well as the Kéré Foundation, a non-profit organization that pursues projects in Gando.

Since then, Kéré has gone on to become one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary architects, working on projects, exhibitions, and teaching engagements across four continents.

Ronald Rael

Ronald Rael is a designer, activist, trained architect, author, and Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California Berkeley. His research interests connect indigenous and traditional material practices to contemporary technologies and issues, and he is a design activist, author, and thought leader within the topics of additive manufacturing, borderwall studies, and earthen architecture. The London Design Museum awarded his practice, Rael San Fratello, with architect Virginia San Fratello, the Beazley Award in 2021 for the design of the year. Rael is the author of Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (University of California Press 2017) and Earth Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008). He also co-founded Emerging Objects, an independent, creatively driven, 3D Printing MAKE-tank specializing in innovations in 3D printing architecture, building components, environments, and products.

Ben Wynthein

Ben Wynthein oversees ranching operations at Tippet Rise. From May to mid-November, this work includes grazing oversight of 630 yearling cattle of mostly heifers, 145 cows, and 1,000 head of sheep. He works year-round to improve Tippet Rise’s rangeland health as well as its water use and conservation practices. Through these efforts, Ben endeavors to make Tippet Rise an increasingly heathy and viable ranchland, wildlife habitat, and treasured piece of the Montana landscape. In the process, he hopes the art center’s guests can enjoy and experience Montana’s rich ranching heritage. For more than fifteen years, Ben has lived with his family on or next to what is now Tippet Rise.

Shannon Jackson

Shannon Jackson holds the Hadidi Professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, where she currently serves as Chair of the History of Art Department. Jackson is a scholar and educator of cross-media art practice and of socially-engaged art. A Guggenheim fellow and award-winning author, she has published several books and online platforms, including Back Stages (2022), Public Servants (2016), The Builders Association (2015), Social Works (2011) as well as In Terms of Performance and Media Art 21. Jackson serves on the boards of several arts organizations, including Oakland Museum of the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Kramlich Art Foundation. As a guest program advisor to Tippet Rise, Jackson helped create the Relevance of Place series of site-specific dialogues.

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Relevance of Place: Ronald Rael

Designer, artist, and architect Ronald Rael speaks about how an indigenous understanding of land and materials inspires his contemporary innovations in art, design, and new technology, and shares his response to Tippet Rise.