Last week Jesse Etelson invited me to come to south Florida and spend time looking at possible projects in his area. We met with Mary Jo Aagerstoun of EcoArt South Florida, went to talk about eco-art at two Earth Day weekend festivals, had kids help us build a branch pile sculpture (see Get Involved: DIY page on my website and http://www.facebook.com/ecoart4wildlife. Jesse showed me some small project sites where he has worked with Audubon and Florida Oceanographic.
I gave a talk on environmental art at the Martin County building which they put on their website for anyone to watch. You might catch it at http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=357,2119332&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL. At the end of the program a young girl came up to me, showed me her wildlife drawings and gave me one. The young EcoArt interns contributed information about their training and their ongoing art work.
I was amazed and delighted at the MJ’s organization, EcoArt South Florida. Mary Jo Aagerstoun’s dedication to creating an orginization for the development of public appreciation of ecoart, and training young artists to work on the environmental restoration challenges in south Florida are astounding, and I don’t know of any other organization like it, but would love to have one in every state of every country since the whole planet needs our help! more at http://ecoartsofla.org/
We went to Torry Island, at the edge of Lake Okeechobee near Belle Glade and had a meeting with a great turnout of people– educators, agency people, city officials, water engineers, wildlife people, and Ashley, a young woman who owns a part of the island. The Island needs some restoration work, and Ashley wants to see some eco-tourism development including eco-art to help create points of interest. She arranged for us to go into the lake on a jet boat (my ears rang for 48 hours, even with ear protection, but I have to admit it was fun to go right out into the marsh. One of their species of concern in the area is the Snail Kite, a beautiful raptor (like a falcon) who only eats Apple Snails. The Apple Snail is at risk due to an invasion of French Apple Snails, which have a closing gasket too hard for the Kite to get through, but is more aggressive than the native Apple snail at breeding. So Jesse is working on a proposal to address the whole food web with a spiraling bio-swale. The snails would have a safe place to breed and spread into the marsh and there would be a roost for the Kites to hunt more easily. Visitors can see the snails breeding and egg laying and an increased chance of seeing the Snail Kite. Then there will be a nesting sculpture for the Kites a safe distance from the visitor area. He will have a team of young students available to help excavate and create sculptures thanks to a summer work training program in the area. It’s a win-win-win model for conservation, work training for disadvantaged youth, life support for the snail, the birds, Jesse and Eco-art South Florida, who are trying to create another ecoart node in Palm Beach County.
Our second big excursion was a hike into Big Cypress N.P. with Matt “Panther” Schwartz. I thought he was a wildlife biologist, but he is a non-scientist who is dedicating his life to saving the Florida Panther (very similar to our western Mountain Lion). He had recently been busy suing the National Park Service who had decided to begin allow deer and pig hunting in the endangered panther’s territory. Why would a respectable federal agency allow hunting in a national preserve, let alone in habitat where the hunters compete for prey needed by an endangered species? Unbelievably, the panther man and his small organization lost the case. Anyone interested in helping him, or learning more, can sign up for his e-mail list at SouthFloridaWild@yahoo.com.
Jim Moir took us out into the Indian River Estuary/Lagoon in his boat. We survived two squalls and saw oyster reefs and learned about worm reefs, some in need of conservation.
We spent more time during the week looking at sites in need of restoration, sites which could be potential eco-art project sites, and what kind of team we would need to put together to work on the sites. I’m very interested in being the artist on an interdisciplinary team, since I feel the need to be working at a larger scale than I can handle on my own. One of our ideas will probably require three artists, a water engineer, a landscape architect, a marine biologist, and representatives from the county, local homeowners and nearby environmental organizations. Sounds like a team to me!
I’d love to hear from other artists who work with interdisciplinary teams. Please email me at Lynne.Hull@eco-art.org about your experiences.