State of Wonder

Where Art And Science Collide – Visiting PLAYA At Summer Lake

By April Baer (OPB)
April 18, 2015 3:51 p.m.

In 1961, William Stafford wrote:


"The earth says have a place, be what that place
requires; hear the sound the birds imply
and see as deep as ridges go behind
each other…"

He might as well have been writing it for this place.

Our destination this week: Summer Lake - a remote part of Lake County in southern Oregon.


It’s about two hours south of Bend, an hour from Lakeview, in a region so wild and so rugged, it's known as the Oregon Outback. Its landscapes are full of contrasts: towering mountains giving way to gentle prairies, skies that can yield sunshine and snow simultaneously, and a lake so changeable it disappears for a few months every year. Really, it's the perfect place to consider those occasional allies: art and science.

PLAYA is a residency program that invites artists and scientists to stay, from two to eight weeks. During that time, they're encouraged to work on a special project that needs attention, study the land, collaborate with other residents, or simply reflect in a setting nearly free of phone and online contact with the outside world.

We met some of PLAYA's April residents, talked with them about their projects, and took in some of the jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenery of Summer Lake. Click the links below for more info on the residents.

The Residents:

  • Mike Venarsky - Biologist, Fort Collins CO
  • Morgan Ford - Biologist, Fort Collins CO
  • Sandy Tilcock -  Publisher/writer, bookbinder, Lone Goose Press Eugene OR
  • Margot Voorhies Thompson - Calligrapher, printmaker, painter, Portland OR
  • Chin-Sun Lee - Writer, designer CA/NY
  • Suzanne Lee- metal & glass fabrication, public art, Portland OR
  • Bea Nettles - photographer, painter, bookbinder, and writer, Champaign-Urbana IL
  • Philip Zimmermann - Photographer, bookbinder, publisher, Tucson AZ
  • Catherine Woodard - poet and editor, New York NY

Want to hear a longer excerpt of Chin-Sun Lee's short story, set in Summer Lake? Click the soundfile at the bottom of the page.