Kim A. Popejoy: Healing an ecological disaster can begin with art
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.
Human transit, human habitation, even human progress has been bedeviled by rotting wood!
In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to “ ... make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shall thy make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and pitch it without with pitch.”
Opening for business in 1911, just as the Industrial Age flourished, Gainesville's Cabot-Koppers dipped railroad crossties and telephone poles in pine tar, creosote and chemical preservatives. In the beginning, this site was an asset in humankind's battle with rotting wood.
In the 100 years that Gainesville has lived with, benefitted from and been burdened by the Cabot-Koppers site, our awareness of our individual and collective impact on our local environment has grown. Today, the site sits economically dormant and is an environmental liability that Gainesville struggles to turn back into a community asset.
We have begun a phase of healing.
Protect Gainesville's Citizens Superfund Art Project, in collaboration with the city of Gainesville's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, is hosting of an innovative and powerful new art exhibition, “Region4: Transformation Through Imagination.”
These works of art document the science and emotions of dealing with a Superfund site and are creations of the artists' minds, hearts and hands with the aim of contributing to this healing.
The exhibition features works by 18 local and regional artists that seek to transform the reality of the Cabot-Koppers EPA Superfund site into images that convey both the history of the problem and the possibilities for restoration. The artists have used scientific data from the site to create their art works, often forming partnerships with scientists who served as consultants.
The artists have also worked to portray the concerns, hopes, beliefs and experiences of the people whose lives have been affected by the site over the past 30 years.
The goal of the exhibition is to inform and explore, while offering strategies for healing the community and the environment.
To heal this place of poison within our community's midst, we must engage geology, hydrology, pedology, immunology, epidemiology and many more disciplines of the mind. We must also engage our hearts as we make concerned, considered and caring decisions that affect our land, our waters, our air and our neighbors.
Our artists have reached into their talents to increase our awareness and challlenge our imaginations.
Henceforth, we hope to combine this awareness with our imagination and our due diligence to transform the site into a place of pride.
There is still much work to be done. There are still many decisions to be made. This exhibition provides our community with a unique opportunity to experience the site in a way that will challenge traditional ways of viewing a technical problem.
An informed and engaged community is essential to Gainesville getting the best and highest use for this parcel and a healthy and vibrant community surrounding it.
The exhibit opens in the Main Gallery of the Thomas Center on Friday at 5 p.m. It will continue to be available for viewing through April 28th. Following its stay in the Thomas Center Gallery, a digital version of the exhibit will be made available to communities throughout Florida.
The volunteers of Protect Gainesville's Citizens invite you to join us in viewing this remarkable exhibit and participating to the extent possible in moving the healing process forward.
Kim A. Popejoy is president of Protect Gainesville's Citizens.