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Soul Salmon Makes a Splash

By Martha Worthley
(reprinted here with permission)

Port Townsend Leader, November 21, 2001

The Bellevue Art Museum is transformed into a streambed for Soul Salmon 2001, with other salmon sculptures on view in adjoining galleries. Jefferson County volunteer Michelle Kelley designed the installation for "The First Splash," a reception at the museum on Nov. 17 that celebrated the project designed to raise awareness about salmon and their habitat.

The First Splash! brought 35 Soul Salmon and a school of Jefferson County residents to the Bellevue Art Museum on Nov. 17 for a celebration of the sculpture project designed to raise awareness about salmon and their habitat.

The museum was transformed into a stream bed, with fish swimming down the middle and leading up the stairs to more gallery space containing the dazzling 8-foot sculptures. The evening culminated with a winner drawn for the raffle of "First Salmon," sponsored by Soul Salmon Project 2001 and created by Loren White, Lane Quine and Steve Brown. The event was hosted by William and Jill Ruckelsaus.

Jefferson County residents have seen the fish popping up in places like Brothers Printing in Chimacum, Carlson Chiropractic on Lawrence Street in Port Townsend, and at the Wooden Boat Festival in Point Hudson. The most recent county fish was just unveiled last week for the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation division of Public Works. It was created by local artist Larry Eifert. Jefferson County was represented by 13 Soul Salmon at the Bellevue Art Museum.

Sara Mall Johani, a sculptor from Chimacum, first conceived of the project after hearing about a similar one called "Cows on Parade." Intrigued by the idea of creating art to benefit charity, Johani took the notion one step further - she wanted to raise awareness about salmon and their habitat. Calling the project Soul Salmon, Johani worked with volunteers to develop a multi-faceted approach.

The core team of volunteers includes Johani, dubbed the "Godmother" of the project; Tom Jay, sculptor and head of the technical committee; Shelby Smith, who worked on outreach, liaison with sponsors, and printed materials; Michelle Kelley, "jack of all trades" and designer of the museum installation; and Candy Gohn, secretary, treasurer and graphic designer.

A school curriculum for educators was put on the Soul Salmon website: www.soulsalmon.org. Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team sponsored local educator Julie Marston to act as a facilitator for teachers wanting to implement the curriculum. The Soul Salmon project spread to communities throughout Puget Sound. In addition to those from Jefferson County, Soul Salmon displayed at the Bellevue Art Museum represented Mount Vernon, Seattle, Orcas Island, Tacoma, Underwood, Shoreline, Sequim, Belfair, Langley, Bainbridge Island, Olympia and Vancouver, B.C.

Sponsoring organizations purchased a fish "blank" created from an original by Chimacum sculptor Tom Jay. Another artist or group of artists was the next link in the life cycle of the Soul Salmon, hired to decorate the fiberglass blank. When completed, the fish were displayed in their communities or traveled with educational exhibits. Some are being raffled to raise money for their sponsors and some will take part in an auction on April 13, 2002.

Sponsors who were willing to transport a Soul Salmon brought their fish to the Bellevue Art Museum on Nov. 17 to be displayed for a celebration of the project and for the raffle drawing of "First Salmon." Edensaw Woods of Port Townsend helped to bring five fish across the water from Jefferson County.

Port Townsend photographer Frank Ross took pictures as they were brought in the museum. By noon, installation designer Michelle Kelley began setting up the exhibit with the help of volunteers. The reception began at 7 p.m. "We had a finite time that we were allowed to use the space," explained Candy Gohn. "It all had to be dismantled Saturday night following the splash." Gohn noted that the team of volunteers was unstoppable when obstacles arose.

All the Jefferson County salmon returned home by Monday except for the one created by Max Grover for the Port Townsend Main Street Program. That fish is on display along with Grover's paintings at the Fountainhead Gallery in Seattle through Dec. 1. Jefferson County is also gaining a few extra Soul Salmon that are scheduled to be on display until the auction in April.

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