Signal Fire provides opportunities for artists and activists to engage in the natural world. Our projects instill self-reliance, catalyze creative energy, and invite interdisciplinary collaboration. We utilize public lands to advocate for the access to— and protection of— our remaining wild and open places in order to enrich and sustain society. Signal Fire was formed in 2008 in response to the urban demand on working artists. We have hosted filmmakers, writers, visual artists, musicians, and creative agitators. To catch up on our past projects, visit the Archive page.

To be added to the Signal Fire email list for updates, click here.

For general information and questions about supporting Signal Fire, events, and volunteering:
ka'ila farrell-smith

For information about Wide Open Studios, the Outpost Residency, Retreats, Reading-In-Place and exhibitions:
ryan pierce

For information about Leaf Litter:
amy harwood

Mailing Address:
Signal Fire
5205 NE 19th Ave
Portland, OR 97211


Ka'ila Farrell-Smith: Development Coordinator and trip leader

Ka'ila Farrell-Smith is a Klamath/Modoc visual artist based in Portland, Oregon. She works with Journeys in Creativity, a pre-college Native/Indigenous art camp via Oregon College of Arts and Craft and is a Faculty Diversity Intern at Portland Community College, co-teaching in the Painting department. She is a member of the artist collective R.I.S.E: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment and a collaborator with One Flaming Arrow: Inter-tribal Art, Music & Film Festival, which recently was awarded a Precipice Fund Grant through Portland Institute of Contemporary Art. Ka'ila has work in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum and won 'Best In Show' in the 2014 'In The Spirit: Contemporary Native Art' exhibition at the Washington History Museum. She was awarded the Golden Spot award and selected as an Artist-In-Residence for Winter 2015 at Caldera. Ka'ila received a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2004 and an MFA in Contemporary Art Practices Studio from Portland State University in 2014.

Amy Harwood: co-founder, trip leader, Operations Coordinator has been involved in forest conservation and public lands advocacy since 1998. She served as the Program Director at Bark, a watchdog group for Mt. Hood National Forest for five years. She has led hundreds of hikes and backpacking trips, educating people on the threats that face our ancient forests. In addition, she has developed and led trainings for activists to learn how to engage in public land decision-making and continues to help Bark's efforts to hold federal land agencies accountable to environmental laws. She splits her time between Portland, OR and Tucson, AZ. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Ryan Pierce: co-founder, trip leader, Program Coordinator /Director of Wide Open Studios is an artist whose work draws on ecological theories to portray possible futures. He exhibits internationally, and has received recognition from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Art in America, Art Papers, and The Oregonian.
He has completed numerous residencies, including Ucross, Caldera, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, and Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder in Norway. He has taught art at several colleges and universities and lectured as a visiting artist throughout the U.S. 

Ryan is a life-long backpacker, an occasional essayist, and a certified Wilderness First Responder.


Nina Elder

Nina Elder is an artist, adventurer, and arts administrator. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico where she cultivated a curiosity about gravel pits, mines, and military sites. Her work examines the camouflaged evidence of land use in the American West. Through paintings, drawings, and research-driven activities, she endeavors to illuminate that the contemporary landscape is the physical manifestation of modern needs, economies, policies, and powers. Nina’s work is exhibited and collected nationally, and has been featured in publications such as Art in America and New American Paintings.  After earning her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, Nina returned to northern New Mexico where she co-founded an off-the-grid artist residency program called PLAND: Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation.  She now is the Residency Director at the Santa Fe Art Institute.

Wendy Given

Wendy Given is an American artist living and working in Portland, Oregon. With a production of vivid, uncanny contemporary photography, sculpture and drawing, her practice stems from a profound interest guided by nature, myth and magic. Wendy's visual craft conveys an intense yearning to honor and utilize our inherent awareness—to regain the unspoken understanding of the fact that we are all, and always will be (as humans), integral to and dependent on the natural world. Wendy studied fine art and was trained in painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture during her BFA undergraduate work at Atlanta College of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her MFA from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California. She has exhibited internationally and is represented by whitespace in Atlanta, Georgia and Kasher | Potamkin in NYC. Wendy also currently works as a Studio Artist in the Print and Fabrication Department with Wieden + Kennedy in Portland.

Daniela Molnar: trip leader, board member an art director, designer, illustrator, artist, and art educator, Daniela communicates information and makes images concerning the intersection of art and science / culture and nature. She is a full time professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she teaches illustration, drawing, critical theory, and design. She is also art director for The Bear Deluxe Magazine, a journal that explores environmental issues through the arts. Before landing in these roles, she studied scientific illustration and spent years traipsing around several continents and mountain ranges with a backpack, a hand lens and wide eyes.

Nina Montenegro

Nina Montenegro is a visual artist, illustrator, and designer.  Her practice crosses disciplines to advocate for an ecologically-viable and socially-just future. Nina’s work has been featured in Orion, Art in America, The Guardian, Grist, and printed and distributed by publications worldwide. She lives and works on an organic farm outside of Portland.

Kimo Nelson

Kimo is a painter and wilderness enthusiast whose extensive backcountry experiences provide the foundation for his artistic practice. In addition to painting Kimo has worked as a professional river guide in Grand Canyon and Canyonlands National Parks, Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska and the Tatshenshini Wilderness in British Columbia. He received a BA in Environmental Studies at Lewis & Clark College and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in painting at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, OR. He went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design where he received an MFA in painting with honors in 2012. He is the recipient of two graduate fellowships from RISD and was included on the commended scholars list at OCAC. He has exhibited nationally at galleries and non-profit spaces including Disjecta in Portland,OR, Chase Young in Boston, MA, Gallery 532 Thomas Jaeckel in New York, NY and Projekt 722 in Brooklyn, NY. Kimo currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Julie Perini

Julie Perini creates experimental and documentary videos/films, installations, and live events. Her work often explores the areas between fact and fiction, staged and improvised, personal and political. Julie has exhibited and screened internationally at such venues as the Centre Pompidou-Metz (France), Artists' Television Access (San Francisco), Visible Evidence XX (Stockholm), The Horse Hospital (London), Cornell Cinema (Ithaca, NY), Microscope Gallery (New York City), among others. She has been awarded artist residencies at Yaddo, Signal Fire, and Djerassi, and received grants and fellowships in support of her work from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, The Regional Arts and Culture Council, and The Precipice Fund. Her writing has been published by A.K. Press, Incite! The Journal of Experimental Media andAfterimage: The Journal of Media Arts & Culture. She holds an MFA from the University at Buffalo’s Department of Media Study and a BS from Cornell University. Perini is an Assistant Professor of Art at Portland State University.

Kerri Rosenstein

Kerri is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work pertains to an inquiry into the nature of things. She also curates, teaches, facilitates, and mentors for various organizations, has directed several arts venues over the past 15 years, and contributes extensively to arts and outdoors youth programs. Kerri has been a teaching artist with Caldera since 2007, and currently teaches at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon.


Jillian Vento

Jillian Vento was born in Boston, MA and is currently living and working in Portland, OR. She holds her Masters of Fine Arts from Portland State University. 

She has worked in libraries, sewers, fields of organic vegetables, coffee shops, nonprofits, and academia.

Her current work explores contemporary relationships with the land in the contexts of mythology, psychology, philosophy, and biology. She divides her time between metropolises, mountains, forests, deserts, and farmlands, always ending up back at the sea.


Daniela Molnar (profile above)

Jessy Friedt

Jessy has been involved with the arts her whole life in some capacity or another, whether as an arts patron, a performer, secret poet or collage-master extraordinaire. She obtained a Bachelors of Arts in vocal performance at Southern Oregon University and has performed in concerts, musicals, operas and new work premieres. Jessy has been a development professional for over nine years.  She is currently the Development Director at Oregon Children's Theatre and has previously work as the Annual Giving Manager at Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Donor Relations Manager at Portland Center StageShe holds an Advanced Nonprofit Development Certificate from the Institute for Nonprofit Management and is involved with Willamette Valley Development Officers, Theatre Communications Group and Portland Emerging Arts Leaders. And of course, Jessy’s world wouldn’t be complete without her time spent in the woods pondering life by the river.

Sally Garrido-Spencer

Sally is a longtime dancer, performing with Tahni Holt, POV Dance and many others. She also works as a designer and architect. She is the mother of two, Stella and Dagny. Her intrepid family has traveled to wild places throughout the west; canoeing, skiing and hiking.

Abby McGehee

Abby earned her MA and PhD from University of California at Berkeley. Recent projects include studies of Late Gothic architecture in Paris and Normandy. She also co-edited a volume of essays, New Approaches to Medieval Architecture, published in 2011. Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright Program, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Getty.

Vanessa Renwick

Vanessa is a Portland-based artist and filmmaker whose work reflects an interest in place, landscape use and transformation, and relationships between bodies and landscapes. She has been working in experimental and documentary forms, writing, producing films, photography, sculpture and installations, under her production company The Oregon Department of Kick Ass Her work has exhibited internationally at venues including The  Centre Pompidou, Museum of Modern Art, True/False, Kill Your Timid Notion, International Film Festival Rotterdam and The Museum of Jurassic Technology. She is represented by PDX Contemporary Art.  

Christina Rusnak

Christina Rusnak is a multifaceted composer whose work reflects a diversity of styles and points of view. Passionate about Landscape, Geography and Art as an expression of human experience, and has worked with historians, scientists and cultural environmentalists in National Parks, as well as other natural and urban spaces composing works that integrate ecology, history, art and culture. Cloudburst, released in 2007 launched Christina’s musical exploration of place and space. An avid hiker, Christina has explored many of our natural areas. In 2012, she composed Free Land, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. Canyon Voices was commissioned by Oregon State Parks for Cottonwood Canyon. The Life of Ashes was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. In 2014, as Artist in Residence at North Cascades National Park, she composed The Way Through for chamber ensemble. Christina also works with communities and organizations to bring music, culture, and heritage into public spaces. Her recordings are available on ERM and Parma Recordings.

Olivia Schmidt

Schmidt is an environmental and social justice activist. She has worked with communities throughout the Pacific NW to combat proposed fossil fuel developments threatening public forestland, family farms, and fish habitat. She is currently on staff at the Chico Peace & Justice Center in California. Prior to returning to her hometown of Chico, Olivia worked as Bark's community organizer and program director, developing campaigns to protect Mt. Hood National Forest against logging and private development. Olivia holds a BA in Art History from University of Oregon. In her spare time, Olivia can be found in the nearest source of cool, clean, running water.

Marji Vecchio

A barefoot bumpkin, Marji grew up on an island alone with her parents in rural New Jersey, yet also has a heart for urbanity. Having spent most of her adult life in Chicago and Brooklyn, she currently lives in Reno, where she loves to hike, rock climb, ski, cross-country, bike, SUP and swim in any puddle, creek or lake she can find throughout the Wild West. After a twelve year career as an artist and teacher, she made a political decision to become a curator, wanting to provide artists with ethically considered exhibitions in which they had a say in the creation of. Since 1999, she has curated over 40 exhibitions, worked with 250 artists and published numerous authors in catalogues and brochures. From 2006-2012 she was the Director and Curator of Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, where she also taught MFA, BFA and BA students. She has degrees from Mount Holyoke College (BA), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA), Bard College (MFA), and Switzerland's European Graduate School (PhD). Her first book, The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border (IB Tauris, London), will be published in 2013. Marji's website


Greg Dyson, Public Lands Director, Wild Earth Guardians and Founder, Bark
Bill Gilbert, Founder, Land Arts of the American West
Marina McDougall, Arts Project Director, The Exploratorium
Tricia Snell, Executive Director, Caldera