Highlights of 2023....
TEACHING AT CENTRUM
This year I started teaching at through Centrum, a multidisciplinary center for the arts based in Port Townsend, WA. I worked with two youth camps, teaching illustration and sculpture. Teaching groups of adolescents is challenging, exhausting, and deeply fulfilling. I’m happy to be teaching a classroom again, part-time, and also humbled by the people who do it day-after-day, full-speed-ahead.
Working at Centrum is amazing. The staff is spectacular, programs are innovative, and a perk of teaching is a one-week residency in their studios in Fort Worden State Park. I spent one week there in early January, getting back to work on my unfinished book about pavement paintings (aka street murals).
Writing for me feels a lot like this…
STREET ART & SOLIDARITY WORK
As always, I continue to make visual art for environmental and social justice movements.
Billy Frank Jr. (Nisqually) was a Native American environmental leader and activist who was arrested over 50 times for fishing on his traditional waters. Multiple Tribal Nations eventually became involved in the Fish Wars, culminating in the 1974 Boldt decision which forced Washington State to honor treaties that promised the right to fish “in their usual and accustomed places”. Yay Billy Frank Jr. and his legacy!
We made banners for forest protection both near and far: to speak up for legacy forests cut down by WA state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as well as against the Cop City being built in the South Atlanta Forest (aka the Weelaunee Forest). Haven’t heard of Cop City? Learn more from local people organizing against it. Live in WA state? Why not join the fight to protect our public Forests?
NEW OLD TIME CHAUTAUQUA
This year, my son Raul and I had the extraordinary pleasure of joining the New Old Time Chautauqua for Chautauqua week in Port Townsend AND 2023 Blackfoot Confederacy Tour. The New Old Time Chautauqua is a old-time variety show, mixing education, entertainment, and laughter. Each year skilled performers volunteer their time to tour underserved communities, including Native Nations, rural communities, and institutional settings, sparking joy and imagination wherever they go.
What does this look like? A caravan of jugglers, clowns, aerialists, musicians, builders, teachers, and healers transported inside an ancient bus, going campsite to campsite, supported by miraculous people who keep everyone fed, sheltered, organized, and (mostly) on-time for shows.
This year we had the honor of working with the Blackfoot tribes on both sides of the US-Canada border, and witness their dedication to revitalizing their culture and health, despite continuing challenges stemming from long-term trauma of colonization. We connected with amazing Blackfoot community workers in harm reduction centers, tribal education, service groups, and Tipi camps, who work everyday to heal and strengthen their communities from the long shadow of traumas caused by residential boarding schools, forced resettlement, and laws that undermine their sovereignty. We learned so much! And were so blessed to be welcomed on the reservations, as well as in the rural communities of Sandpoint, Idaho and Trejo, Montana.
Along the way, I got to design and painted a mural with Chautauqua friends at the Pale Horse Tipi Camp, in the Piikani Nation, Alberta, Canada. If you ever travel through the area, you can check out the mural while staying in a Tipi.
Also on Chautauqua, I started to experiment with performance art. With the encouragement of the amazing clown/teacher Kristin Spaeth Crowley, I debuted as Angela the Bear, to the delight of old hippies and toddlers in Trejo, Montana. Fear not, locals: my family tells me I’m not allowed to dress like this at home.
GRIEVING THE FOREST
In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting out the first issue of a zine I’ve spent the last year working on: FOREST FOR THE TREES.
Living in the shadow of the Olympic mountains, I’ve become more aware than ever of how we all depend on natural ecosystems for our continued survival on planet Earth. Sandwiched between the great Rain Forest of the Pacific Northwest and the vast Pacific Ocean, I can feel the pull of the Rain, the Forest, the Fish, and the Seas. I know I live on colonized land, as I’ve made friends whose great-grandparents once lived near our house at the mouth of Chimacum Creek, in a Chemakum village that cared for and nurtured the Forest and Fish for countless generations into history. Yes, Native peoples are still here, and no, it wasn't that long ago that their land was taken.
Between the Forest, the Sea, the Creek, and the displaced Chemakum People, there is a visceral feeling that we are all connected. An injury to one is an injury to all, and those injuries compound over time. We have spent generations injuring the Forest, the Sea, our Waterways, and our Neighbors. We are still doing it. How do we reckon with these injuries and stop destroying our Earth and communities?
I left California amidst cataclysmic wildfires in 2021, to come north and witness the clear-cutting of Forest older than my great-grandparents. I felt drained and foggy-headed for months, and sometimes still do. It was more than midlife burnout. I struggle with mind-numbing Grief over the Forest, clean Air, Salmon, and Habitat lost, both in my old home and in my new one. As more people relocate due to shifting climatic and economic tides, we will inevitably create new traumas of colonization and resource extraction on land and human communities. Can we do things differently this time? Can we find a way to be more respectful, to honor Land, Water, and People?
I believe grief is a critical step in the building of a more humane society, in our learning to respect each other and the sacredness of Life. I want to learn to lean into our Grief, to not to look away from our losses, and to find new ways to witness, honor, acknowledge, and listen to what has been lost. In an attempt to lean into that work, I organized a loose collective, the “Forest Dreamers”, to put on walks to the Penny Wise Timber Sale, a Forest Salon for grieving artists, and this soon-to-be-published zine, entitled, “Forest for the Trees”.
FOREST FOR THE TREES, A ZINE
I started out with a clear vision for a collaborative zine about Forest Grief, but nothing is clear about Grief. Everything seemed to fall apart on this project, from the very beginning. Feelings were raw, and misunderstandings between people ran rampant. There were also moments of unexpected and sincere connection and solace. I suppose it’s the nature of Grief. At each intersection, I picked up the pieces with whichever artists and community members were nearby, and carried on, until things fell apart again. Repeat. Repeat. Still trying to get to the finish line, but I’ve got a near-final layout on my computer and I’m getting quotes from printers in the coming days.
We are currently fundraising to cover the costs of printing and distribution, for the first issue of FOREST FOR THE TREES. I’m expecting the total costs will be at least $1000. So far we’ve raised $ 50. Any amount helps!! You can support this project by sending money to me via Paypal (email@example.com memo: ForestZine) or Venmo @danfodor (memo: ForestZine). Yes, I am running the project out of my personal venmo/paypal, as the Forest Dreamers are not an official organization.
I’m also looking for help distributing the zine — email me your address and I’ll send you some zines!