A healthy orca was seen on the east end of Jackson Beach on March 19, but not the kind that you’d expect. This one was made up of people donning black and white shirts, forming a human orca mural.
The Backbone Campaign and Alchemy Arts Center teamed up together to make this event happen with the intention of raising awareness about saving wild salmon and nourishing the Southern Resident Orcas. The Backbone Campaign, which was co-founded by Bill Moyer in 2003, is advocating for the breaching of the Snake River dams in an effort to save the wild salmon population. The Alchemy Art Center is involved in the mural as part of their program called art and environment geared toward middle school-aged children.
“I proposed that part of the best way to learn is to do and so I suggested the human mural as a way of inviting people to come together and celebrate their shared sense of place and commitment to the Orca and the salmon that define this place,” Moyer said. “The mural is an action where nobody can do it by themselves. It absolutely requires the collaboration of a community or a large group of people. It’s a great metaphor for how change happens and it also connects us to these creatures that are important and also endangered.”
The brainstorming for this event was in early January. The last time the two organizations partnered together was four years ago.
“Bill was excited to come out and just be a guest instructor,” said Maria Michaelson, director of Alchemy Arts. “But he wanted to go bigger and further and do an artistic action.”
Moyer has been protesting since he was in eighth grade. After 9/11, he and his friends felt wary of the direction the country was heading, spurring him to take more action with the current issues of the time. In 2003, he created the Backbone project. It took off with the construction of a 70-foot-long spinal cord puppet. Policy slogans were written across each vertebra.
“The point being was that all the issues we care about are connected,” he said. “And the backbone is a metaphor for courage.”
That puppet has been used in protests for 19 years, including those against the pebble mines and Shell oil drilling. Moyer is currently focused on the breaching of river dams and worries that the Chinook salmon will go extinct if the Snake and Columbia river dams are not breached soon.
“Youth voices are powerful,” he said. “Sometimes as adults, we get increasingly more cynical and lose touch with our aspirations and our values and a sense of this incredible journey that and the opportunity to make a difference. I think it’s important to be encouraged to be powerful and stand up for your future. The tools used by the Backbone campaign are grounded in positive values and aspirations for the future, to protect what we love.”