I’m excited to share that I was awarded a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant to make lanterns of the 13 state listed endangered or threatened bird in Vermont. I’m planning to work towards making lanterns of all 52 species of endangered species in the state, birds and all.
How can visual artists help to overcome apathy about the well-being of other species? We hear more and more about the accelerating extinctions of plants and animals which we humans are responsible for, and coming to terms with the grief and fear that attend these losses is a monumental challenge. With one million species now at risk of extinction, can a focus on the plants and animals we share our local home with provide a pathway to contemplating our impacts? We have learned in recent years that simply providing facts and statistics about environmental issues is not enough to motivate change, and this project aims to use art to foster a sense of deep connectedness with the nonhuman kin who share our landscape with us. As artist Todd McGrain has said, art “can touch each of us in a way that ideas and intellect alone cannot. At their highest levels, the performing arts and the visual arts have the power to ignite an awareness of deep connectedness”. My project, titled ‘Ghosts of Extinction Yet to Come’, would be the beginnings of a large installation of illuminated sculptural lanterns representing all of the species who are endangered in Vermont.
When complete, this project will include at least 52 illuminated sculptures - one for each of the 52 endangered species of animal here in Vermont. The list currently includes 6 fish, 6 reptiles, 17 invertebrates, 8 mammals, 2 frogs, and 13 birds. While I plan to make lanterns for all of these species, this creation grant would fund the completion of all 13 species of birds currently endangered with extinction in the state of Vermont: Spruce Grouse, Bald Eagle, Upland Sandpiper, Red Knot, Black Tern, Common Tern, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Common Nighthawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Sedge Wren, Rusty Blackbird, Henslow's Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Each lantern will be life-sized or larger, and will be created using a method I have been developing over the past years to create robust, weatherproof lanterns from cloth and resin. The birds will be shown in flight, so as to be installed indoors or outdoors above viewers, creating an immersive experience within the glow cast by the light of the birds.
This project draws from a long history of using public art, especially lantern and light festivals, to bring communities together to inspire collective action, contemplation, and conversation. For example, the River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island, evokes discussion and generates community by creating a “celebratory and inspirational rather than didactic or polemical” way to consider our environmental impacts.