CAN A RIVER SING? If you walk under the ramada in Santa Fe’s Railyard Park this month, you can hear the Río Grande belting it out. At separate intervals along the pathway, hidden speakers transmit six distinct and eerily droning voices—each one a musical interpretation of streamflow data from six points along the great river’s 1,800-mile length. The experience is like stepping into an auditory metaphor for climate change. As the melodies dwindle into each other, the mood is both hauntingly beautiful and disconcerting.

The musical installation, There Must Be Other Names for the River, culminates in a live choral performance of the piece at the SITE Santa Fe auditorium on July 29. It’s part of SITE Santa Fe’s group exhibition Going with the Flow: Art, Actions, and Western Waters, which explores the integral role of water in the drought-stricken Southwest, through July.

“If the river wasn’t there, I don’t know if Albuquerque would be there,” says Marisa Demarco, a collaborator on the audio installation. “It’s sustaining us all, and it’s how and why we live here. What issue could be more important for New Mexico, overall, than water?”

The deeply conceptual show, co-curated by SITE’s head curator Brandee Caoba and Galisteo–based art historian Lucy R. Lippard, is not just SITE-specific; it creatively branches into environments beyond Railyard Park and the museum walls. At three spots along the river running through the city, Basia Irland’s whimsical Santa Fe River Contemplation Stations are temporary thrones made with undulating desert willow, elm, and tamarisk branches. They invite river walkers to sit a spell and admire the heavier-than-usual current from this year’s snowpack.

Basia Irland’s Santa Fe River Contemplation Station. Photograph courtesy of Basia Irland (photo by Shayla Blatchford), SITE Santa Fe.

Chacón-based photographer Sharon Stewart’s atmospheric survey of featured images examines the annual life cycles of a Pecos River–fed acequia over the past 30 years. “Acequias speak to the importance of living with the rhythms of nature,” she says. “People have to work together, despite their differences, to ensure that water is delivered to their fields and to their livestock. We can use that as a model for our divisive times.” Beside the older photographs, her new series, Firescapes, reveals the devastation wrought upon the waterways by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, as well as continuing efforts to repair and revive the ecosystem.

That northern New Mexico community spirit is showcased in a much more uplifting off-site feature of Going with the Flow. On June 24, Stewart invites visitors to join a daylong celebration of the elements. Blessings of Life: Water and Land, in Mora, includes a blessing of the waters, a procession from the acequia to the high school, readings, performances, lectures, a seed exchange, an art show, and refreshments. By sunset, the day’s cool confluence of nature and culture should inspire a free-flowing hope for a more sustainable future.

Read more: In 1969, a newcomer began learning a lifetime of lessons from the acequia system.


Through July 31, SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe; 505-989-1199,