“I have explored just about every river in Northern Indiana. The Wabash, Eel, Maumee, Mississinewa.”

This past summer, ACRES member and local artist, photographer, and designer Jason Swisher participated in “Dirt in Our Hands,” an exhibit curated by local artists/friends Julie Wall and Daniel Dienelt. The show explored connections between people, plants and animals. Swisher’s artistic statement read like a well developed treatise on local preservation.

How does a self-proclaimed “product of concrete — a city kid,” come to value protecting natural areas? Swisher’s voyage began with the Mongo River. When friends invited him kayaking, his eyes were opened to unexpected wildness in his own backyard. He wanted more.

“We’d get out on the rivers and lose track of time. With each journey, I started realizing there is so much more to Indiana, so much more here. I started paying attention to trees, plants, elevation, how the land was made by glaciation.”

“As my interest in wildflowers grew, I began gaining a direct understanding of the seasons — what sprouts when and where, and an understanding of the importance of
native plants, of biodiversity. I reached out to a dear biologist friend who helped me see differently.”

“Back then, my friend Daniel [Dienelt] told me that he missed hiking and exploring the outdoors like he once had. I told him, ‘I can take you to places you‘ve never seen.’ And off we went on trails. Photography became our connection to exploring these places together. We’d load up our gear and wander off.”

“I joined ACRES because I support what I’m into. ArtLink, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art — all affordable, part of who I am. I used ACRES’ Preserve Guide to find preserves I could rough it in, climb through, get dirty. There’s a notion of Indiana as flat. When I hear this from friends, I take ‘em to Kokiwanee. That preserve blew my mind … an almost spiritual experience.”

“Now I want to share this with my son. I want to take him out in a canoe, expose him to these places. This is Indiana! You don’t have to go far. It’s all right here!”

“Sometimes I like just standing, watching leaves, light, shadows, how things interact. I see things I don’t normally see — the ephemera. Seeking it out. Getting to this very specific spot to see this or get to hear this. I’m so grateful.”

Last spring, Swisher’s journey led him to Shanghai on assignment for Nike. “In China, I discovered a different approach to living with nature. People don’t mind wildness. It’s not tamed. The vines and growth around power lines are meticulously trimmed with care. There’s a wanting to be part of it — nature isn’t kept out, or put ‘over there.’”

When Swisher returned, his experiences, his perspective on preservation, and the “Dirt in Our Hands” show came together. “I joined the show’s collaborators who were hiking together weekly. Listening to other artists, you hear new perspectives, have new conversations. A print maker, photographer, mixed media artist, a painter. All different ways of seeing shadow, color, light, texture.”

“When I’m out in nature, I’m happy to be part of the landscape. It’s humbling. I need to search these places out. The city is chaotic, not in a negative way, but out here, when you listen, you’re really in it. It’s like taking a big drink of water, humbling, therapeutic. I’m glad it’s here. Glad I found it.”

“ACRES gets that. ACRES understands the significance of the woods, trees, natural places in Indiana. ACRES helps to keep it around.”