The “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival” is set for Sept. 20-22, hosted by the Cannon Beach Gallery Group in partnership with five local ecological, nonprofit organizations.  

This celebration of art and the pristine beauty of the north Oregon coast will encompass the performing and visual arts, with many beach, theater and gallery activities.

 Voices of Earth & Ocean is a series of interviews presenting the festival through the eyes of participating artists, performers and environmental advocates. Here are the voices of Lynn Neuman and Melisa Kroening-Colvin:

(Lynn Neuman, Creative Director for the New York-based Artichoke Dance Company, will perform at the festival with six company members. They are art activists raising environmental awareness and positive change through performance art.)

Eeva:  Lynn, please share with us how you began in dance.

Lynn:  I began dancing at age 16, late for a female, but I was a competitive gymnast into my teens, and already possessed a high degree of physical coordination and strength. A need to move and express myself physically drove me to dance as a career. I process information better when I’m moving, so often in meetings, at conferences, or even when I’m reading, I’m moving around. When I was growing up, there was no ADHD diagnosis, and thank-goodness. I probably would’ve been medicated and ended up behind a microscope. Not that that’s a bad thing to do, we certainly need scientific researchers,

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but we often self-select into what we excel at, and for me this was movement.  

Eeva:  How did Artichoke Dance Company come to use performance art to raise awareness about pollution and its environmental impact?

Lynn:  I had adopted an older dog that scavenged on the street and that brought my awareness to all the litter around me and how much of it was plastic. I’ve been going down a rabbit hole of research ever since, which has brought me to focus on specific materials, such as plastic bags, for art making and for political action. It’s also led me to work in specific environments, such as the Los Angeles River and the Gowanus Canal, both undergoing revitalizations, which bring with them a host of political, social and economic issues. Ultimately, this work has led me to understand the interrelatedness of everything, and how each and every action we take, or choose not to take, has an impact one way or another. In a society that has developed to hold the self as uber-important, reframing to focus on the whole is critical. I’m now trying to shift the conversation from me to we, using a lens of environmental justice.

Eeva:  How has the public responded to the work of Artichoke?

At performances, mostly people are delighted and grateful for the work we’re doing. We get thanked a lot. For me, it’s a great conversation starter and a way to approach an often-difficult subject to discuss without controversy. People are much more open to ideas when they are curious.

Eeva:  What impact do you foresee having on the audience at the “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival”?  

Lynn: I’m choreographically modeling interdependence, cause and effect, and the power of collective action. I hope this provides some inspiration for people to view themselves as a part of a larger whole, both in terms of society and in terms of our relationship with, and impact on, the earth. We are not just responsible for ourselves; we are beholden to each other. We are not only stewards of the earth; we are reliant upon it. I hope people see the beauty in what we have the power to create and in what’s around us.

(Melisa Kroening-Colvin is an artist, the manager of Bronze Coast Gallery, and president of the board of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.)

Eeva:  Tell us a bit about your background, Melisa, and how and when you landed in CB.

Melisa:  I was born and raised in western New York and got my degree there in studio photography. After college, I spent some time traveling and came through the north coast and decided to live here for a year. That was 16 years ago.

Eeva:  How has living here on the north Oregon coast affected your work and vision as an artist?

Melisa:  Natural elements have always played a prominent role in the images I make, but living in this beautiful landscape has kept nature as a strong focus. There is something to be said for having all the props I need for a set just outside my door.

Eeva:  How and when did you start volunteering at WCNC?  What impact has this conservation work had on you? On your artistry?

Melisa:  I began my involvement at WCNC in 2011 as an animal-care volunteer. I can’t say enough about how this work has changed me, in subtle ways that I didn’t see happening. One day, I watched a gull fly overhead and realized that I wasn’t just seeing it visually - I knew the weight of it in my hands and the texture of its feathers. It’s an entirely different way of experiencing the world around me and recognizing myself as a part of the natural world, rather than just an observer of it. As for the effect it has had on my art, well, there are certainly more feathers showing up in images! My interpretation of the images is also more heavily focused on recognition of the struggle of all life, and the beauty and pain in that.

Eeva:  What are your hopes for the impact the “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival” will have on the community, visitors and the Wildlife Center itself, which is one of the nonprofit organizations partnering with the Gallery Group for this event?

Melisa:  My hope is that the coming together of like-minded individuals and organizations will help our community keep focused on caring for this tremendous place and all that inhabit it. We all know how easy it is to get caught up in day-to-day life, even when you live in a place like this. The festival sets the stage for remembering why we’ve chosen to be here. From my work at Bronze Coast Gallery, I also know how many visitors feel a strong connection to this place. Having this opportunity for them to learn about what we, as a community, are doing to protect it, is a wonderful thing. Many of our nonprofits are largely unknown, especially to visitors, and my hope is that learning more about the work that is being done every day will help inspire others to join in.

To read the full unedited version of these interviews visit the blog on dragonfiregallery.com

For festival schedule details and ticket purchases, please visit cbgallerygroup.com.

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