This is a guest blog by Chandra Brown, Director of the Freeflow Institute.
On a beach deep within the ancient canyons of Utah’s Green River, a group of aspiring writers read their words aloud to one another. The rawness of the place inspires both vulnerability and bravery within the group. After the morning’s discussion, the writers pack away their notebooks and pens and continue downstream, toward new adventures and fresh stories. Imagine yourself in a Freeflow Institute writing workshop, where students and instructors gather on the river, learning, exploring, and creating outside, in some of the most compelling landscapes in the west.
We built Freeflow Institute around the act of sharing rivers with people. We collaborate with universities to build accredited courses that teach various forms of storytelling, creative writing, journalism, and, most recently, water and Indian law. We curate creative and educational experiences in important places, on rivers and in wilderness, to bring people closer to the spaces deserving of protection and reverence. We build deeper connections to landscapes, to ideas, and to one another when we learn together, outside, bonded by sun and sand. Ultimately, we strive to inspire our students to consider their own place within the system, finding themselves a part of the system, rather than apart from it. We hope they awaken their capacity to speak for the landscape, write about it, and thrive within it.
As a river guide in the Grand Canyon with family roots that extend into the northern Arizona desert, I am committed to creating opportunities that allow writers, artists, and leaders to experience the rivers that define their homeplaces. This year, Freeflow Institute will offer six unique courses throughout the West. Each program features an established leader, a creative expert in the field of journalism, creative writing, law and policy, or communication.
In 2020 we created The Freeflow Foundation, which exists solely to offer scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition and travel expenses on Freeflow workshops for deserving students, as well as provide extra guidance, gear, and resources for those unfamiliar with wilderness or river travel. This year, in partnership with American Rivers, we will offer two scholarships with Indigenous students in mind – one in the Northern Rockies, and another in the Southwest, specifically intended to support members of BIPOC communities in their pursuit of innovative educational experiences.
If you or someone you know could benefit from a course with Freeflow Institute, please share our scholarship opportunities. Journalists, educators, nonprofit communicators, university writing students, science writers, creative writers, and environmental writers will also find Freeflow workshops valuable. Established and emerging writers and artists of all backgrounds, genres, and skill levels are encouraged to apply. There is NO prerequisite of prior publication or formal education. Students should be simply compelled to learn about writing as a means of educating, expression, activism, or fostering connection to places and people.
For the 2021 season, the following locations and dates include:
- Green River Field Institute, with Heather Hansman / Desolation Canyon, Green River, UT / June 2021
- Blackfoot River Workshop, with Chris La Tray / Blackfoot River, MT / June 2021
- The Ecology of Wisdom, with CMarie Fuhrman / South Fork Salmon River drainage, ID / July 2021
- The Law of People and Place: the Crown of the Continent / Flathead and Two Medicine Rivers, MT / July 2021
- Gates of Lodore Workshop, with William deBuys / Green River, UT / September 2021
- Rio Grande Workshop, with Francisco Cantú / Rio Grande, TX / October 2021