WASHBURN – “Beyond Words,” a project involving kids, art, culture and environmental awareness in the Lake Superior region, returns for a second year with a series of all-new, place-based workshops.
Janet Moore, a watercolorist and teacher, continues as project director with round two of “Beyond Words,” a program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “Imagine Your Parks.” Moore wrote and was awarded this grant in 2016 to support 25 Bad River youth, Tribal Youth Media (TYM), and non-tribal members in a series of workshops in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (AINL) and the greater Lake Superior watershed. The program culminates in November with an art exhibit at the Washburn Cultural Center featuring works by the participants and a short video documenting the project.
“One of the overlying goals of ‘Beyond Words’ is to develop a level of new understanding between cultures – people from different ages and different walks of life,” said Moore on April 4 who added that in 2016 there were over two-dozen participants, including kids from Bad River, Red Cliff and Ashland, as well as some adults, such as former Senator Bob Jauch.
Another goal of the project is to inspire artists to create work that communicates the beauty of Bad River, the Apostle Islands, and the Chequamegon Bay area. Similar to last year, Moore has invited several guest artists and speakers to inspire students. These include artists Biskakone Greg Johnson, Jeff Rennicke, Diane Canfield Bywaters, Terry Daulton, Moore, and Paulette Moore; speakers include Joe Rose, Tim Fitz and Edith Leoso. The artist instructors will share tips on how to make art from their unique perspectives while the guest speakers provide a context for this art by highlighting the culture, history, and ecology of the area. New this year, students will be able to earn high school credit.
The first two gatherings take place indoors at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center (NGLVC) starting with an organizational meeting on April 23. The focus for this workshop is on how to effectively capture the story of culture and place. The guest artist/speaker is award-winning filmmaker Paulette Moore who’ll talk about telling a story from the indigenous perspective. The other Moore, the watercolorist, will demonstrate working methods for gathering and using field sketches as well as photos to inspire a finished piece of work.
The second workshop is on May 7 at NGLVC with Johnson, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
“As an instructor of Native Arts it is my mission to share my knowledge without being condescending,” he said. “I wanted to make the knowledge more accessible for my students. I was one of those ‘starving artists’ once and I learned how to provide for my people using my talents.”
His talents include creating art from natural materials, such as birch bark and cedar.
The first field trip takes place on June 9 to Copper Falls State Park with two guides: Rose, a Bad River elder and longtime educator, and Fitz, a Northland College geology professor. Students will observe where Bad River and Tyler Forks collide; they’ll follow the journey water makes on its way to Lake Superior; and they’ll learn about the unique geology, ecology, and cultural importance of Copper Falls. In addition, Paulette Moore and some of her Northland College filmmaking students will capture this part of the story on film.
To give students an overview of the area, on June 19 participants will take a grand tour of the Apostle Islands by cruise boat.
“I took a job at the end of the season on the cruise service,” Project Director Moore said. “I was out there on the water all day long. It was the best thing I could have done to help me understand this place. I’m new here. It’s been two years that I’ve lived up here full-time. Getting out there and seeing 21 of those Apostles three times a day in different light was amazing. I was an artist disguised as a deckhand doing visual research.”
On June 29 Leoso, Bad River’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, will lead a trip to Madeline Island, where she’ll introduce a different way of viewing the island from the Native perspective. She will also lead a trip to Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs on Aug. 18, the last field trip for the project. Following this adventure participants will have until November to complete a final piece for the show.
One lesson learned from last year, Moore said, is to not be so focused on creating finished artwork in the field.
“It’s more about absorbing and really taking everything in, rather than producing something in a workshop. It’s more important to gain knowledge and experience the place first,” she said.
Moore is currently teaching art at Washburn High School for a semester, filling in for Kristin Tetzner, who had a baby on March 20. Yes, Moore raised her own two kids, earned a B.A. in art and environmental studies at UW–Madison and a M.A. in environmental education at UW-Stevens Point where she conducted a research project drawing trees with over 400 kids. Plus she led many students in “Beyond Words” in 2016. But nothing prepared her for the everyday contact with young people she’s having now.
“It’s really great to have the experience of working with students throughout a whole quarter in one place with specific projects. I’m really getting my feet wet,” she said.
Wet is the way Moore likes it. Water is at the heart of everything she paints these days: birch trees hugging the Lake Superior shoreline, waves lapping on whatever Apostle Island she happens to be visiting.
“Water is essential to life,” she said.
When distilled down to its essence “Beyond Words” is about water too, about observing and respecting Lake Superior in all of her nuances.
“When you’re painting plants, orchids, or trees, it’s static. It’s living, but it’s not moving and changing like lake, water and sky. One of the things up here is when you’re working outside and interacting with the landscape you start seeing it in a whole new way,” Moore said. “It makes you slow down. You start seeing little shapes in the birch trees; you see eyes everywhere. The world becomes more of an animated place when you look closely.”
When Moore first dreamed up the idea for “Beyond Words” she approached Mike Wiggins, the Bad River Tribal Chairman at the time. He told her, “Old Indians and artists see the world the same way.” That way means seeing nature in a more holistic way, as a living being with a mind of its own yet forever offering gifts of wisdom, renewal and nourishment.
To find out more about Beyond Words and/or to sign up for the program go to: http://www.beyondwordsproject.org/.