top of page

What is a creek? What does it mean? How was it made and who is it for? Let's find out together.

FROM SOURCE TO MOUTH: a creative survey of Monument Creek, 2021-2023

Monument Creek, Colorado Springs, CO

Monument Creek is a 27.2 mile stream that flows along Colorado’s Front Range. Cutting through the heart of Colorado Springs, this small but essential waterway is a source of local drinking water and a habitat for many plants and animals. It is also a highly engineered public resource, a site of much restoration and repair, a place of recreation, and home to a growing population of unhoused people.


Developed by artist and curator Erin Elder, From Source to Mouth is a community-informed creative research project that engages elements of geology, hydrology, ecology, land use, and history, as well as personal memory and sensory awareness to explore the multiple, overlapping, and sometimes contradictory perspectives about Monument Creek. 

From Source to Mouth is made possible by Creativity & Innovation at Colorado College, where Erin is an Innovator in Residence (2021–2023), and by the Colorado College Cultural Attractions Fund. To date, the project includes a body of research, a collection of oral histories, a number of student and faculty collaborations, a set of community-led public programs, and an exhibition at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Contributing to the project are individuals from Colorado Springs Utilities, Pikes Peak Waterways, US Fish and Wildlife, Fountain Creek Watershed District, Friends of Monument Valley Park, Palmer Lake Historical Society, Air Force Academy Cultural and Natural Resources Divisions, Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, Westside Cares, Catholic Charities, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs City Council, as well as the Colorado College community.


The research began with looking and walking and reading. Supported by Creativity & Innovation at Colorado College to work with students in and out of the classroom, a large body of research was amassed. 


Fifteen oral histories were recorded by Erin Elder between March and July 2023. The unedited recordings and transcribed oral histories will be archived at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and with the Pikes Peak Library District. Text excerpts from the oral histories are presented in the FAC exhibition. By placing diverse voices in dialog, the project considers how this often-overlooked landscape has been constructed, restored, shaped, used, revered, protected, and made public.


Oral histories contributed by: 

  • Corey Almond, VP Adult Services, Catholic Charities of Colorado 

  • Jack Anthony, member, Palmer Lake Historical Society 

  • Annie Berlemann, Fountain Creek Watershed Project Manager, Colorado Springs Utilities 

  • Jeff Besse, Water Quality Program Manager, City of Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise 

  • John Harner, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, UCCS 

  • Nancy Henjum, Councilmember District 5, City of Colorado Springs 

  • Myra L. Jackson, UN Representative and Focal Point on Climate Change and Rights of Nature for Earth Law Center; Diplomat of the Biosphere, Stockholm Resilience Center, Planetary Boundaries 

  • Jan Martin, Board President, Pikes Peak Waterways 

  • Brian Mihlbachler, PhD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

  • Kristy Milligan, Chief Executive Officer, Westside CARES 

  • Erwin Roemer, Registered Professional Archaeologist, currently at US Air Force Academy 

  • Tim Scanlon, Historic Preservation Alliance 

  • Alli Schuch, Executive Director, Fountain Creek Watershed District 

  • Richard Skorman, co-owner, Poor Richard’s; four-term Colorado Springs City Councilor 

  • Debbie Stilen, former creek dweller 

  • Leah Davis Witherow, Curator of History, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum 


All fifty-three field drawings are made by Erin Elder. They are based on photos taken during her field work throughout 2021-2023. They depict actual places along Monument Creek and reference different moments and seasons. All are gouache on paper and painted in 2023.


As part of her residency with C&I, Erin worked with students of Colorado College’s course Environment and Sound (Block 8 2023): Lucy Chant, Grace Gassel, Hayley Heinecken, Walt Jones, Katie Kamio, Alana King, Will Landgraf, Hannah O’Leary, Luke Ortiz-Grabe, Forrest Tucker, Rhett Turner, Carmen Villalba, Wes Vorley, Andie Will, and Vivian Zander 

Later, she collaborated with Iddo Aharony (Assistant Professor of Music Technology, Colorado College) to produce a soundscape for the exhibition.  The soundscape is made entirely of field recordings of different locations within the Monument Creek ecosystem. Most of these recordings were captured by Erin Elder in July 2023 which were interwoven with the student created field recordings. All editing, mixing, and production by Iddo Aharony. The 16 minute soundscape is presented within the exhibition at the FAC.


*Please be warned that because the creek originates within a shooting range, gunshots can be heard in the first few seconds of the track.

Listen to the soundscape

In collaboration with the GIS Lab at Colorado College, various maps were produced to conceptualize Monument Creek as a whole. Aspects of this mapping were translated into cut vinyl and installed in the FAC exhibition -- they were conceived of by Erin Elder and produced in collaboration with Matt Cooney (Director of GIS Center, Colorado College) and CC student, Mia Matteucci, with support from Madeline Brooks (Creativity & Innovation, Colorado College) and printed by Pinnacle Graphics in Colorado Springs. This collaboration with the GIS Lab lays the groundwork for an interactive story map website, yet to come.