Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vashon's Gravel Pit: Artists Fight Back

This is the cover and last image from Ann Leda Shapiro's beautiful small book about Vashon Island. She celebrates its natural beauties, its eccentric inhabitants, but she also calls attention to the dreadful gravel quarry on Maury Island.
There are efforts to stop its expansion by the new Lands Commissioner, but it is an uphill battle. Historically Maury Island was a rich fishing ground for native groups. Today it is still a key spawning area for young salmon and eels, a primary source of food for some orcas, a delicate ecosystem that nourishes the entire Puget Sound. The gravel pit has already damaged it, it should be removed, not expanded. What is the gravel for ? a road, a tunnel, Oh! Can't we get it? We HAVE to start thinking differently.
Backbone Campaign is running a one week environmental workshop called "Localize this!" to develop activist strategies to protes the expansion of the Maury Island gravel pit. ( Ideally it should be shut down. ) They have made giant puppets, orca trumpets made of recycled material, pvc pipe and plastic bottlesthat children can blow into to make whale sounds, and mosquitoes puppets making reference to the mosquito fleet of boats that used to serve Vashon, as well as a giant puppet with a recycled Rumsfeld mask as a corporate greedy capitalist!

The whale structure is seen here of bamboo. I got a glimpse of the art in progress.
Here is the finished whale, now called Morrie the Orca.

They have an amazing artist named Chris Lutter of Puppet Farm Arts helping them create imagery. You can barely see him in the background, planning how to image the issue with a group of artists. Here he is holding a drawing of another puppet Count Bleed ya Dry, under construction.

They are also collaborating with The Ruckus Society, the well known activist group. Here Ruckus is training people to climb on a scaffolding in order to release a banner. In another place people were learning activist kayaking. They are being trained to go out on Puget sound to block the further development of the gravel pit. Here is a report posted on the Backbone website local paper and King 5 news. This is a great idea. Not just sports, but sports for a purpose. It can appeal to all those outdoorsy types who are politically liberal but don't know how to get involved.
These type of collaborations with specific issues are exciting and effective.
Backbone created the Procession for the Future which went to 16 cities and conducted 8 workshops, providing activist material like freeway banners, puppets and silkscreens. A lot of the focus for Backbone ( Backbone for the Democratic Party that is) is environmental these days. Goodness knows, that is really crucial. They list on the video of the Procession for the Future, how much we could do to save the planet with all the money wasted on wars.
This anniversary of the Moon walk today, just makes it all the more obvious that we have a precious, special planet and we need to stop, stop, stop being fools about how we live here.

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