The Department of Visual Arts at Frostburg State University will present an exhibit at the University’s Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery titled “Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek,” a collaborative installation art project created by 90 artists to commemorate many of the species that have perished in Dunkard Creek, a waterway near the Mason-Dixon line at the Pennsylvania and West Virginia state lines. In September 2009, a fatal combination of chemical mine wastes and low water set off a bloom of a toxic algae, suffocating nearly all aquatic life in the 43-mile-long stream.
Ann Payne, a scientific illustrator who lives in Morgantown, was made aware of the fish kill by a friend who lives on the stream. She began to depict each of the species that had died, a kind of visual litany. By the end of 2010, she had made about 10 paintings. That’s when she began recruiting other artists.
She received support from the Appalachia Program division of The Mountain Institute, a global nonprofit. The institute also funded a 25-page full color catalog that illustrates each artwork and provides background on Dunkard Creek. The catalogs are free to exhibition visitors.
The creatures depicted range from Pittsburgh artist Ron Donoughe’s variegate darter, a fish, to fellow Pittsburgher Sharon Arffa’s pistolgrip, a mussel proposed as endangered in Pennsylvania, to the tiny green stonefly by Nancy Maunz of Clarksburg, W.Va. Media includes paint, graphite, pieced wood, fiber and pencil shavings. All of the artists have a tie to the Monongahela watershed into which Dunkard Creek drains.
The exhibition is “a modern-day cautionary tale for Appalachia’s waters,” Appalachia Program director Brent Bailey wrote in the catalog, “told through the images of 90 species who once called the creek their home. This heartbreaking and true story of a collision between the energy industry and natural resources is also about ‘us’ – all of us who have a stake in our water.”
In a lawsuit following the death of the Creek, Consolidated Coal (Consol) was ordered to pay $500,000 to restore the creek. Consol also agreed to pay $200 million to upgrade its treatment facilities, in addition to $5.5 million in civil penalties. However, the lower five miles of Dunkard Creek have again this year been polluted with high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS). The TDS concentrations were caused by a combination of low stream flow due to drought conditions, abandoned mine discharges and the discharges from mining treatment plants. The Department of Environmental Protection prognosis is that the levels will worsen before they improve.
The exhibition is free and will be open to the public from Aug. 1 to 22. The Roper Gallery is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or by appointment by calling the Department of Visual Arts at FSU at 301-687-4797.
For more information on the exhibit and other locations and dates, go to www.homage-to-dunkard-creek.com or contact Payne at 304-292-7673 or email@example.com.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.
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