Meet Artist Brian Holmes

Mapping the Columbia River and the Issues Facing the Region

Artist Brian Holmes Maps the Columbia River and the Issues Facing the Region

Brian Holmes
Brian Holmes

What does a map tell you about a place? Depending on the spatial and geographic data, it can tell you a lot. Chicago-based artist and essayist Brian Holmes is researching the Columbia River for his participatory mapping project, “Learning from Cascadia,” with help from Columbia Riverkeeper. Brian is an art and cultural critic with a taste for philosophy and on-the-ground intervention. 

This interdisciplinary project features mapping technology, art, and social issues displayed in thematic layers. He addresses timely topics like fossil fuel infrastructure, dams, and the Hanford Nuclear Site in an interactive digital map. The Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland will feature Brian’s art as part of the exhibition, “The Earth Will Not Abide,” this fall. He is collaborating with students at PNCA and other community members along the Columbia. 

Riverkeeper is helping Brian with his online multimedia atlas by providing content about clean-water campaigns in the Pacific Northwest and sharing information about our work and staff experiences. Once complete, the public will be able to interact online with the map.

Map by Brian Holmes
Map by Brian Holmes

I act like a writer telling a story, or a painter painting a picture, of an organization,” said Brian. “ ‘Learning from Cascadia’ is an artistic atlas, composed and coordinated by an inquisitive stranger. It is inspired by all those who have created the bioregional identity of the Pacific Northwest …. The atlas also explores current social and political conflicts over environmental issues, such as water quality, toxic waste, land-use change, species survival, and more.

Check out Brian's work in-progress online.

Save the Date: November 01, 2018 – January 12, 2019

Join us at the Opening Reception for “The Earth Will Not Abide,” on Thursday, November 1, 2018, from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit is hosted by the PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, located at 511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR. 

Featuring works by Brian Holmes, Ryan Griffis, Sarah Ross, Alejandro Meitin, Claire Pentecost, Sara Siestreem, and Sarah Lewison with duskin drum. The exhibition poses questions about the ecological and social viability of industrial agriculture and extractive land use. Media for the exhibit includes video, creative mapping, paintings, and installation. For more information, visit


This feature was originally published in
River Currents 2018 Issue 2 Newsletter – Read it Now

The Climate Issue: Why Does Climate Change Matter to the Columbia?; How We Fight–and Win; Talking to Kids about Climate Change; and more.