ANIMAL ESTATE regional model homes 5.0: PORTLAND, OREGON
Commissioned by The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College / August 26th - October 5th, 2008 / Tours by curator Stephanie Snyder of other Estates around town for the TBA festival / Downloads: Animal Estates 5.0: PORTLAND FIELD GUIDE / Animal Estates 5.0: POSTCARDS
2010 UPDATE: SEE THE SNAG TOWER INSTALLED IN SAN FRANCISCO'S PRESIDIO THROUGH MAY 2011 (as a part of For Site Foundation's Presidio Habitats)
The Animal Estate - A collective model home to accommodate seven native species is designed, and a prototype installed in the gallery. The structure simulates a a snag, or dead tree. The structure takes the form of a chimney on top, approximately 24" square, and 10' tall, with horizontal supports at the base to accommodate terrestrial species. A local expert on each animal serves as consultant and collaborator, providing information on the animals needs, and advising on the construction and placement of the Estate. A drawing along with a brief is disseminated around town as a pdf flyer, encouraging local residents to make their interpretation of the Animal Estate on their own property.
The Exhibition - Part of the gallery space at Reed College is transformed into an operational headquarters housed in a geodesic tent. This includes books, videos, maps, charts, and other printed materials from previous editions of the project and gathered from local animal experts and wildlife organizations. Evidence of past Animal Estates in New York, Cambridge, and San Francisco is presented. This space serves as the interpretive center for the local edition of the project, indicating on a map where in Portland local residents have constructed their own version of the Animal Estate. Elements in the display include a welcoming, cushioned geodesic tent featuring the Animal Estates reading library on urban wildlife, and a short video by Dan Viens on the local swifts that roost in the chimney at Chapman Elementary, cork walls as bulletin boards displaying locally gathered materials on urban wildlife, and selected Animal Estates from the New York edition at the Whitney Biennial, and the San Francisco edition at SFMOMA.
Printed Material - A 36 page, 2 color field guide is designed by PS New York, and available in time for the October 5th closing. This includes essays by exhibition curator Stephanie Snyder, urban wildlife expert Mike Houck, along with essays on each of the animals by Tierra Curry, Carlotte Corkran, and Christopher Marshall. As with the previous 20 animal clients in other cities, postcards are produced on each of the animal clients. A printed poster and pdf flyer announces the Portland Animal Estate, and provides information on how to make your own.
Closing Event - On Sunday, October 5th, a closing event for the project, includes a panel discussion, the release of the Field Guide, and screening of the new 55 minute documentary by Dan Viens On the Wing, about the Vaux's Swifts at Portland's Chapman Elementary. Visit the gallery website for more information.
5.1: Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi) - snag
5.2: White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) - nestbox
5.3: Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) - perch
5.4: Silver-Haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) - bat house
5.5: Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) - hibernaculum
5.6: Orange-Rumped Bumblebee (Bombus melanopygus) - nesting box –
5.7: Snail-eating Ground Beetle (Scaphinotus angulatus) - board cover
build a better snag*!
A challenge to build your own Portland Animal Estate, a multiple unit vertical dwelling tower for native species. The prototype is on view from August 26 - October 5, 2008 at The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Visit the links for the animal clients and local organizations below below to inform your design. Submit documentation of your Estate to email@example.com for display in the gallery. * A snag is a dead tree!
Charlotte Corkran, Northwest Ecological Research Institute
Mike Houck, Urban Greenspaces Institute
Christopher Marshall, Oregon State Arthropod Collection, Department of Zoology, OSU
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland
Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity
In Livable Cities Is Preservation of the Wild
- by Mike Houck, Executive Director, Urban Greenspaces Institute
The Untended Garden
"The garden, left untended, had taken on a strange charm. Horticulture had left, and nature returned. Nothing in the garden opposed the sacred urge toward life; The trees bent down to the briers, the briers rose to the trees, what runs along the ground had tried to find things in bloom in the air, what floats in the wind had stooped toward plants that trail in the moss; trunks, branches, leaves, twigs, tufts, tendrils, shoots, thorns were mingled, crossed, married, confused; Although the pavement of Paris was all around … (there were) ferns, mulleins, milfoils, the tall weeds, the big flaunting plants with large leaves of pale greenish material, the lizards, beetles, restless, rapid insects. Nature, which frustrates the paltry arrangements of man and always gives its whole self where it gives itself at all, as much in the ant as the eagle, to come and display itself in a poor little Parisian garden with as much asperity and majesty as in a virgin forest of the New World." Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
What resonated most when I unexpectedly came across Hugo's poetic passage describing an untended garden's ability to display a riot of life was that it mirrored my own unexpected urban nature encounters here in Portland. Experiences like being startled by a Green Heron's guttural squawk exploding from a willow thicket; following a Cooper's Hawk's frenzied flight as it chased down a Rock Pigeon, plucked, and ate it in front of fifteen mesmerized cyclists on downtown Portland's Eastbank Esplanade; or watching a group of kayakers gawk awestruck at a young Peregrine Falcon repeatedly strafing a Bald Eagle as we bobbed in the middle of the Willamette River, with the downtown skyline as a backdrop. The fact that nature hangs on so tenaciously, albeit precariously, in the urban landscape makes nature both exhilarating and precious. It's the unexpected, the unintended, that lends poetry and grace to such encounters.
The Last Landscape: The Ecological City
"The belief that the city is an entity apart from nature and even antithetical to it has dominated the way in which the city is perceived and continues to affect how it is built. The city must be recognized as part of nature and designed accordingly. The city, the suburbs, and the countryside must be viewed as a single, evolving system within nature, as must every individual park and building within that larger whole." Anne Whiston Spirn, The Granite Garden
Thoreau's aphorism, "In wildness is the preservation of the world," has inspired spectacular successes in wilderness and wildlands preservation. While we should celebrate those successes, it's time we turned our attention to what may be the most important landscape in the twenty-first century—the city.
Historically, there has been a great dichotomy between "nature" and "city." Nature has been seen as being "out there," beyond the urban fringe. Humans and nature inhabit separate realms. Nowhere is this more vividly demonstrated than in how we build our cities. In the same way that traditional zoning precludes healthy mixed-use communities, the segregation of natural and built environments has created cities where environmental degradation is the norm and the landscape is bland and homogeneous, where nature neither separates one community from another nor interacts with the built environment.
Our motto at the Urban Greenspaces Institute, "In livable cities is preservation of the wild," reflects a philosophy that well-designed, nature-rich cities are more beautiful, equitable, compact, and ecologically sustainable places to live. By creating livable and loveable cities we will reverse what for too long has been the demonization of the city. It's my hope that Animal Estates will help foster a new aesthetic in urban design and catalyze a partnership with urban planners and conservationists that will promote a new reverence for cities through great art and design. We need a new urban ethos, one in which humans have access to nature in their immediate radius of reach in what has been referred to as "the twenty minute neighborhood." In such cities animals will have real "estates" at all scales, from the individual home, office, and streetscape to great swaths of habitat that penetrate into the heart of the city.
Urban Wildlife Is Not An Oxymoron
"What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never known a wren?" Robert Michael Pyle, The Thunder Tree
Recently, the Oregon Natural Heritage Program remapped the Portland area to determine the region's biodiversity index. What had previously appeared to be a biological desert from earlier three-state surveys, when mapped at a finer scale, revealed an astonishingly biologically diverse landscape inside the region's Urban Growth Boundary. These findings are echoed by the Audubon Society of Portland's estimate that we share the region with 289 species of birds. Of these, about 217 species are likely to be seen in any one year if you know which habitats to look in, according to the City of Portland’s fish and wildlife habitat inventories. For example if you want to see White-breasted Nuthatches, go find a grove of Oregon white oak trees. On the other hand, if you want Olive-sided Flycatchers, walk the trails of mixed conifer-deciduous trees in Forest Park.
Both the City of Portland and Metro, the only directly elected regional government in the country, have also conducted inventories of vertebrate species in the region. They have found an astonishing variety of nonavian wildlife, including 17 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 64 mammals, and 39 fish, bringing the total to 353 species of vertebrate wildlife. This list, of course, is exclusive of thousands of species of invertebrates—butterflies, slugs, beetles, spiders, and their kin.
As with human estates, animal estates are all about location, location, location … and habitat, habitat, habitat. Without suitable habitat that meets the cover, feeding, and breeding needs of animals, they would cease to cohabit the urban landscape with us. There is no substitute for protection and, where needed, restoration of wetlands, stream corridors, and forested habitats.
That said, several species have decidedly benefited from artificial structures including nest boxes, nesting platforms, and elements of the build environment. Without nest boxes and nesting gourds, it's highly unlikely we'd still have Western Bluebirds and Purple Martins in our midst. The installation of thousands of bluebird nest boxes on Parrett and Chehalem Mountains has also benefited House Wrens, Violet-green Swallows, Tree Swallows, and White-breasted Nuthatches. While they frequently use natural snags, there's no question that the numerous nesting platforms along the Willamette River are responsible for the explosion of nesting Osprey. And, with the loss of natural roosting sites, Vaux's Swifts, like their East Coast cousins the Chimney Swifts, have benefited from the presence of chimneys at Chapman Elementary, Oregon City, Lafayette, and several other locations around the region.
Wild on the Willamette, Exploring the Lower Willamette River
Nowhere in the region is the diversity of wildlife more visible than along the banks of the Willamette River, right in the heart of downtown Portland. My favorite wildlife viewing is at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and the four-island Ross Island archipelago. At Oaks Bottom alone over the past thirty years I've seen over 110 species of birds and several species of mammals including river otter, sea lions, beaver, deer, bobcat, muskrat, chickaree squirrels, raccoon, mink, and the nonnative nutria.
Recently, from the bluff overlooking the south end of Oaks Bottom, our small group of birders observed several young Bald Eagles chasing one another through the big-leafed maples at the north end of Sellwood Park and a short while later encountered five immature eagles perched in a snag off Sellwood Boulevard. A few days later another band of birders watched in rapt awe as five Ospreys kettled over that same snag. Just before I led these trips to Oaks Bottom, I had returned from a month- long birding expedition in the wetlands and tropical forests of Brazil, but saw nothing as exciting as when we watched a Red-tailed hawk Hawk kiting fifteen feet overhead while an Osprey and a Bald Eeagle fought over a fish in the near distance. Then, there's the constancy of a male Anna's Hummingbird at Sellwood Park. The brilliant red gorget and forehead from the pugnacious, territorial male flashed from the same perch on every single Oaks Bottom visit this spring and summer.
On any given day the two-mile stroll around the Bottoms will yield twenty to over fifty species of birds, depending on time of year. In winter, waterfowl including Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks, and Green-winged Teal seek refuge in the shallow pond. During migration, early spring, and summer warblers, vireos, and grosbeaks can be seen and heard singing along the Springwater on the Willamette trail. A walk along the unpaved path that runs at the base of the bluff will yield Bewick's, Marsh, and Winter Wrens; Black-capped Chickadees and Brown Creepers; Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers; Common Yellowthroats and Song Sparrows.
A three-mile paddle around Ross Island provides an opportunity to see nesting Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons; Double-crested Cormorants; Peregrine Falcons nesting on the Marquam Bridge; Common Mergansers; Belted Kingfishers, which nest in the island's steep banks; and Red-tailed Hawks. The black cottonwood and Oregon white ash forests ring with a cacophony of bird songs in spring, including Black-headed Grosbeaks; Warbling and Cassin's Vireos; Swainson's Thrushes; Yellow, Wilson's, and Orange-crowned Warblers; as well as the occasional beaver, river otter, and sea lion when the salmon are running.
Oaks Bottom and Ross Island represent a fraction of the eighty thousand acres of regionally significant fish and wildlife habitat Metro identified in its recent inventory of the metropolitan region. Recently, Metro, local park providers, and several nonprofit organizations including the Audubon Society of Portland, Trust for Public Land, and Urban Greenspaces Institute launched the Connecting Green Alliance with the objective of creating the greatest regional parks, trails, and natural areas system in the world. I'm hopeful that Animal Estates will assist in achieving that goal by engaging artists, architects, and landscape architects not yet engaged in efforts to protect and restore the city's green infrastructure, but who will bring a new perspective to urban design and interpreting nature in the city.
Our greatest challenges in implementing Connecting Green's ambitious goals are, simultaneously, leaving as much of our urban garden as possible "untended," thereby encouraging integration and interdigitation of the built and natural landscapes; restoring degraded habitats by removing invasive, nonnative plants; and, where appropriate, providing human-made structures to assist in the recovery of those species that might otherwise disappear from the urban environment.
The Last Landscape, William H. Whyte, University of Pennsylvania Press,
The Granite Garden, Urban Nature and Human Design, Anne Whiston Spirn, Basic Books, Inc.1984
Report of the Park Board, Portland, Oregon 1903, With the Report of Messrs. Olmsted Bros., Landscape Architects, Outlining a System of Parkways, Boulevards and Parks for the City of Portland, Portland Parks and Recreation
Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas, M. J. Cody and, Michael C. Houck, editors, Oregon Historical Society Press, 2000. Available in Audubon's Nature Store (www.audubonportland.org).
Wild on the Willamette, Exploring the Lower Willamette River, Michael C. Houck, Audubon Society of Portland and Urban Greenspaces Institute, 2003. Available in Audubon Society of Portland's Nature Store (www.audubonportland.org).
Metro's Riparian Corridor and Wildlife Habitat Inventories, August 8, 2002, Appendix 1 (http://www.urbanfauna.org/files/inventory_nar.pdf).
Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Vertebrate Wildlife Habitat Inventory.
Willamette River Natural Resources Inventory: Riparian Corridors and Wildlife Habitat, City of Portland Planning Bureau, Proposed Draft Report, July, 2008
Ecological Landscapes: Connecting Neighborhood to City and City to Region, Michael C. Houck and Jim Labbe, Portland State University, Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies, Metropolitan Briefing Book, 2007
Connecting Green Vision, Metro (http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=24701)
A Bold Goal: Connecting Green, Leaders for a Regionwise Parks Network, A Call to Action, Metro, 2007.
Greenspaces Policy Advisory Committee: Vision, outcomes, objectives and means, Metro, March, 2005.
Snags and Logs
- by Char Corkran, Northwest Ecological Research Institute
What is a snag? It is just a dead tree. But it is so much more than that, too. A tree does not put out sticky pitch after it dies, and so a snag can be a cozy home for wildlife as well as a source of food.
A woodpecker can chip a hole into the snag with its bill, and then keep on pecking until it has hollowed out a cavity for a nest. After the woodpecker's babies have fledged, the cavity is free to be used by other animals. A little Downy Woodpecker digs out a little cavity that can later be used by chickadees, wrens, and chipmunks. The great big Pileated Woodpecker makes a large cavity that may later house an owl, a duck, or a Pine Marten.
Snags that are hollow inside and have a large opening at the top provide homes for other species. A colony of bees can build its honeycombs in the shelter inside a hollow snag. Vaux's Swifts and several kinds of bats roost and raise their young in these hollows. Or a black bear can squeeze inside to spend the winter and give birth to its young.
The dead branches on a snag (or a partially live tree) are important for wildlife, too. Many species of hawks use them for perches to rest and to scan the region for prey. Flycatchers and other small birds wait there for flying insects to come near. Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks build their huge stick nests on the bare branches of snags and dead-topped trees.
Besides providing homes for wildlife, snags and logs provide the foods many wild animals like to eat. Ants and beetles, bugs and slugs, mushrooms and truffles all live in rotting wood. So for many birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, snags and logs are fully stocked larders as well as bedrooms and nurseries.
Snags may stand for many years, providing important habitat for wildlife. But sooner or later they fall. Some just crumble into great piles of debris, while others blow down in windstorms and become logs on the ground. In either case they make perfect habitat for salamanders and shrews and beetles. Live tree, then snag, then log or debris pile. Scientists who study forest cycles, like Chris Maser and Jerry Franklin, have found out that a conifer tree provides more habitat for more wildlife species for more years after it dies than it did while it was alive!
Where are all the snags? Why don't we see these wildlife apartment houses in Portland? Surely snags and logs used to be a common component of the Douglas Douglas-fir forests that once covered the hills around town? And weren't there snags in the huge stands of cottonwood trees that originally covered the islands and riverbanks? What about snags and gnarly old Oregon White white oOaks in the woodlands that were so common in the Willamette Valley when Euro-Americans arrived? What happened to all these types of snags and logs? The sad truth is that we got rid of most of them. Snags were cut down for firewood, or because they were considered useless, or they were in the way, or they were thought to be dangerous because they might fall on someone. Logs were also burned or pulled out of the way to make room for houses and roads and farm fields. The old-growth forests were logged, and no new trees grew large. People and our developments and cities have displaced forests, particularly old-growth conifers, gallery cottonwoods, and oak woodlands.
But now we can help the animals that need snags and logs. We can provide homes for them in several ways.
First, we can work to save snags and logs wherever they still do occur. In your neighborhood park or open space, or even in your own backyard, snags and logs can be kept. Talk to the park managers. Talk to your neighbors. Tell others how important snags and logs are to wildlife. Show them how beautiful they are. If a snag is too close to a house for safety, cut it lower, or cut it down for a log. But keep these important elements of the ecosystem we live in.
Second, we can create snags and logs from some live trees. If a particular tree is shading the vegetable garden, or its roots interfere with the water line, instead of removing it make it into a snag. Cut a band of the bark off all the way around the tree to kill it. You might need to wrap copper wire around in the stripped band for a year (and then recycle the copper). While it is sad to kill a tree in your yard, it is very satisfying to make a snag. And even more fun to watch a woodpecker drill a hole and nest in it, followed by a chickadee nesting there the next year. If your snag falls or it must be taken down, a tall stump can provide some habitat, and the log can provide both a home for salamanders and a beautiful element of your native wildflower garden.
Third, if you can't save or create a snag, anyone can make an artificial home for wildlife. Although not as valuable to wildlife as natural snags or logs, handmade habitat is friendlier than flat house walls and flat green lawns. A nest box or birdhouse built out of scrap lumber can attract native wildlife. Slabs of bark make dandy homes when just placed on shady the ground in appropriate locations. Whether complicated, ornate, plain, or simple, a habitat structure that imitates a snag or log can be fun to build and helpful to local wild animals.
Sometimes I see my old photo of the giant, hollow cedar, and I think about the little bat. One spring I worked on a contract to mark trees to be left for wildlife in a salvage logging sale. This was in Portland's Bull Run Watershed, after patches of trees had blown down in a windstorm. One unit had immense trees, and we used an entire can of spray paint to mark a gnarly old cedar that took all four of us to hug. The giant was dead at the top and completely hollow, a mere cylinder of barely living tree. Vaux's sSwifts flew around, and we knew they were nesting inside, probably sharing the space with some kind of bats. An Olive-sided Flycatcher called out from the dead branches. Some of the branches were big enough for a Bald Eagle to perch on. We found a hole at eye level that allowed us to peer inside, into the mysterious cavern that was the center of this snaggy giant. Mounded right up to the hole was the impressive nest of a bBushy-tailed wWoodrat, or many generations of them. From the large scratches below the hole and the wavy hairs caught around the edge, it was clear that a black bearan American Black Bear had climbed up and pushed itself through to hibernate on the comfy bed.
A year later, I was contracted to check on the wildlife leave tree program, and I got to revisit this site. Although I had been warned that the fire set to clean up the logging slash had accidentally destroyed this majestic wildlife tree, it was still a shock to see it. The cylinder was wafer thin now, black, and lying on the ground. Yes, it still could provide some kind of shelter, for beetles and salamanders perhaps, but to me it looked more like a wind tunnel. The logging, the burning, the carelessness left me angry and despairing. I pushed away, into the sprouting brush on blackened ground. As I climbed onto a charred log to lean against a leave tree that was still alive, my hand rested on the warm, textured bark. Something moved, and a little dark brown bat slipped out from under the bark and flew away on fragile wings of hope.
Build a Better Snag!
- by Stephanie Snyder, Reed College
Portland, Oregon. The City of Roses—city of bicyclists, farmer’s markets, and the Urban Growth Boundary. Portland’s self-image is a meandering conduit of gentle reflections, rippling across rivers, glistening beneath bridges, washing across creeks and muddy puddles. It is ebullient, ever molding, verdant, and aspiring, and these days, above all else, it is planned. I write these meditations on Animal Estates, and its remarkable investigations into human and animal relationships, as someone who grew up in Portland and claims the license of knowing this place. And because of this I have particularly relished the opportunity to welcome this project to Portland, into this progressive, unfolding city that we treasure as a particular form of community. In its existence at the Cooley Gallery, Animal Estates is part of a larger, ongoing investigation entitled suddenly: where we live now (www.suddenly.org), a project inspired by the work of German urban planner Thomas Sieverts and further instigated by Portland author Matthew Stadler, who enlisted me to join him in thinking and reading through the history and literature of the vast network of natural, built, and symbolic spaces that we have come to call cities. Suddenly is a set of exhibitions, a reader, and a series of events that we hope will reawaken our sensitivity to the imaginative possibilities of place; inspiring us beyond outmoded colonial narratives of permanence and centrality; embracing art, literature, and food as conduits for new social and environmental rituals; reinvigorating culture across socioeconomic and class boundaries. We need these tools for understanding and utilizing the where we live now.
So many Portlanders, whether native or not, have moved here and shaped this place. Animal Estates 5.0: Portland has assembled a passionate group of naturalists and with their expertise devised a “multiplex” dwelling, inspired by the “snag”—simply put, a dead tree—in which seven animal species that have been extirpated to varying degrees might find shelter, cohabitating comfortably. It is an architectural symbiosis, and not only among the animal species themselves. It is emblematic of architecture’s potential to create unlikely communities, to conjoin as opposed to divide. Animal experts, environmental organizations, citizens, school children, artists, and theorists came together to create this project. The Estate that has been created for this edition of the project is an instrument and a metaphor for the possibilities of global coexistence. And it is aesthetic, never purporting to become natural. At its essence, and in a profound respect, it is an assertion of the naturalness of death, of the beauty and problem of decay, both as symbolic representation and as biological process.
The urban and semiurban habitat nurtures a schizophrenic attitude toward death. Within inhabited spaces we cloak death, remove it, sanitizing this most fundamental aspect of our existence as we construct the natural around us, more often than not, as a representation of the natural. The snag is a victim of this schizophrenia: seen as dead, removed from the living like an ailing patient, it is a corpse. But the corpse nurtures, the corpse sustains. When the dead becomes the un-aesthetic, the living becomes historicized into permanence, and the living problems of people—the inequalities of class and education eroding our culture—are increasingly cloaked by our obsession with the preservation of nature, with our fear of the corpse. Though we valiantly preserve habitat, Portland has nurtured and supported the development and preservation of the “park” as a civic virtue without expending the same care and resources toward public education and social rituals. Portland’s parks developed in inverse relationship to the growing un-sustainability of its decimated clear cuts—its “clearings.” The foundation of this city was a clearing, but a permanent one, not the temporary, seasonal clearing, as nurtured for millennia by the Native Americans whose corpses too made our permanence possible. And these permanent clearings were condensations of wealth built into homes and objects that demanded a vast network of dispersal and collection to sustain their viability. Like most cities, Portland descends only so far into its landscape memory.
The snag is the shack, temporary, portable, and both corpses can help us find our way into the future. We don't really know what a city is any more than we know what art is, except that we think we know it when we see it, or buy it. The historic, bureaucratic city, the city that organizes, absorbs, and expends our resources because it has been architected and planned for permanence, that city is only one tiny piece of where we live now. We think it begins and ends, automatically. The snag and the shack interrupt the historic city's nostalgia for permanence. A portable commonality, they reveal origin by nature, cannot be franchised or replicated. They are the humblest, most universal of singular dwellings. They are the future of common space … aesthetic trading posts—sites for the exchange of information and materials on terms of our own making. I will give you three kisses for that bouquet. The snag deconstructs commerce as it crumbles the institution of fixed community, shacking up. It changes direction suddenly, as suddenly as erotic hope. Really look at it, bending in the wind. Find it everywhere. Enlighten your neighbor to the joy, forgiveness, and fiction of the snag.
Until it was changed about a year ago, the Portland Visitors Association presented our city to the world with the slogan “It’s not easy being green.” The phrase was accompanied by an image of a fir tree rendered in a flourish of computer-generated calligraphic brushwork. It’s not easy being green. Kermit the Frog sang it first in a melancholy pop ballad. In the concluding lines of the song, Kermit sings: “When green is all there is to be, it could make you wonder why, but why wonder. I’m green, and it will do fine. It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.” The song was written by Joe Raposo in 1970 and was performed during the inaugural season of Sesame Street. The song was written for the children of dense, inner-city urban habitats, more gray, more sooty than green. Being green meant being black, brown, and whatever else. The civil rights movement ended not with a bang, but with an existential little frog.
Animal Estates wants to get Kermit the fuck out of the class pond. Animal Estates is a flexible, limitless methodology for building community among species, and it is in your hands now. Like portable scaffolding or a lean-to in the mountains, Animal Estates is a transposable field guide for a future-present in which we can turn to other species, and one another, and extend our intelligence into the unfolding semiurban city, temporarily overlooking ownership—thoughtfully, truthfully. Animals don’t lie; our missteps kill them. Given that we have legislated ourselves into the stewards of this planet, this project reminds us in no uncertain terms that it is time to bear witness. If we are courageous enough here in this project to dematerialize the museum into a snag, a shack, a tent, let us meet there are learn together. Let’s build a better snag.
Urban Greenspaces Institute
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Audobon Society of Portland
Northwest Habitat Institute
Center for Biological Diversity
On the Wing
Commissioned by: Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College
Consultants: Charlotte Corkran, Northwest Ecological Research Institute; Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity; Mike Houck, Urban Greenspaces Institute; Christopher Marshall, Oregon State Arthropod Collection, Department of Zoology, OSU; Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland
Presenting a video by: Dan Viens, On the Wing
Curator: Stephanie Snyder, John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director
Graphic design of identity and printed materials by: PS New York
Research assistance: Colin Blodorn
Special Thanks to: Greg McNaughton for his hospitality, to Tierra Curry and Charlotte Corkran for their early support and inspiration,