“We ended up closing off a street to traffic, improving the quality and safety of the pedestrian experience,” Rogers said. “Now it’s the heart of a developing neighborhood. I just left my office a few days ago and there was a guy out there sweeping. He told me he lives in a halfway house, but that he grew up in the country, and that this was the closest he had come to finding something that felt like that. He loves it and feels compelled to care for it.”
Rogers grew up in Seattle, spending as much time in museums (his mother was a docent at the Seattle Art Museum) as in the forests and on the water. He studied art history and Italian at Bowdoin, while being sure to get away to the Maine coast as often as he could. After graduation he returned to Seattle, sensing he was bound for a career in landscape architecture. “But I knew I was a generalist. I worked at a plant nursery. I helped curate a retrospective on [the painter] Jacob Lawrence. I was definitely searching.”
s he prepared to apply for graduate schools, he realized that just about every book or article he liked was written by somebody with affiliations to F&ES. “It ended up being the only place I could imagine going.”
Between his first and second years at F&ES, he went to Puerto Rico, landing a summer internship with a small town fighting a proposed Club Med resort adjacent to the town’s most popular fishing beach and a UNESCO-designated Guanica dry forest. He helped draw up an alternative vision for the site and helped the town realize how to position itself against future development that offered little to the local community. He then moved to Baltimore, and was hired by the Trust for Public Lands [TPL] to lead a conservation project that became the Gwynns Falls Trail
, a 14-mile linear park connecting protected and unprotected lands through a huge, demographically-diverse swath of the city.
“In both Puerto Rico and Baltimore, it was never just about land conservation,” Rogers says. “It was about strengthening and building community, creating a stronger connection to the natural world and the systems that support us.”
But for all the fun he had creating and realizing visions, something was missing. It wasn’t home. So when a Seattle-based position overseeing TPL’s work in Alaska and Washington became available he took it. There, Rogers was thrown into the effort to acquire land and funding for the Seattle Art Museum’s proposed sculpture park, for which he secured a nine-acre brownfield in the heart of the city. He and his employers quickly realized that a project of that scale and complexity required his complete attention, and he migrated from TPL to the Museum.