Environmental artist creates aerial message | ParkRecord.com

Environmental artist creates aerial message

Close to 1,000 students from two Park City schools helped environmental artist John Quigley send a giant postcard to the world, an aerial photograph of students lying and sitting end to end, spelling out the message "step it up," a message of both concern and hope to the people of the world that they must work together to stop effects of global warming.

Hundreds of Treasure Mountain International Middle School and McPolin Elementary School students assembled on the snow-covered field between the schools to show their support for a cause, which potentially could impact their lives in a community that depends on snow for its economy. John Quigley told students, "you are going to become messengers. We’re going to provide a giant art piece with our bodies."

The images formed by students were photographed by both a hot-air balloon and a helicopter, as students held their position for more than 20 minutes.

Treasure Mountain eighth-grade student Kya Palomaki saw the environmental happening as something far more effective in getting a message out than having students write essays. "Anyone who doesn’t believe in global warming has his head in the ground and needs to pull it out," she said.

One hot movie in this year’s Sundance Film Festival is "Everything’s Cool," a documentary by Dan Gold and Judith Helfand, detailing the effects of global warming, following individuals in various locations in the world whose lives and incomes are directly affected by the environment. The documentary took shape as Gold and Helfand, attending the 2003 Sundance festival, met a local worker who was unable to work, and possibly pay his rent, because it was too warm to make snow at the ski resorts.

In 2005, the filmmakers ventured to the Canadian Arctic, working with Quigley, who created a similar Arial message, "Listen," spelled out in the Inuit language, along with an Inuit drum dancer, all spelled out with the help of local villagers. Today’s reply, written in Inuit, was, "I’ve heard you." In English step it up, plea to reduce emissions 80 percent by the year 2050.

Park City mayor Dana Williams spoke to two school assemblies before the event. He said he has seen changes in Park City’s climate in the 30 years he has lived there. "Prior to last year, we had seven years of drought. That appears to be enough of a trend," he said. "About 80 percent of our business is based on snow."

Lacee Harris, an Elder from the Northern Ute tribe, welcomed the visitors. He designed bear paw prints on a drum, which he said represents a symbol of healing, the drum also depicted by students in the aerial photo. "Without you," he said to the students, "this healing won’t happen."

When asked how the temperatures of Park City compare with her Canadian Arctic home, Sheila Watt-Clouter said Park City’s weather’s balmy. When she left home last week, she left a land hovering at minus 39 degrees. No global warming problems there? To the contrary, according to Watt-Clouter, the former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, who said consistently warming temperatures and early spring thaws are changing the land. "Streams that hunters used to cross are now raging rivers," she said. "In my world, snow represents our hunting culture. No where else do ice and snow represent mobility to a people. The ice breaks up sooner in the spring, and that is affecting hunting."

"The first 10 years of my life we traveled by dog team. We depend on the cold, ice and snow," she said. We’re having monumental changes. Glaciers are melting. These things are very real for us in the Arctic. What’s happening in the Arctic is an early warning of what’s happening in the rest of the world."

Students took positions, holding them for extended periods of time to make the photo successful. Several students were brought into the Treasure mountain office to warm up. But once they warmed their cold toes and wet feet by a heater, they seemed happy they were able to help the cause.

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