The Superfund Art Project

Posted by Henry Taksier, February 8, 2011

Wes Lindberg, director of multimedia production for the Superfund Art Project, stands at the edge of his studio and photographs the "wish tree," a symbol of hope for residents living under the shadow of Superfund sites.

In 2010, UF Professor Anthony Castronovo taught an interdisciplinary class called Art and Ecology. During a class discussion of local issues, someone inevitably mentioned the Superfund site, which began to dominate their conversations.

To make a long story short, a company called Koppers, Inc. operated a wood treatment facility from 1916 to 2009, releasing a wide range of industrial toxins into Gainesville’s air, water and soil. The area was granted Superfund status 28 years ago. The US Environmental Protection Agency finally released their Record of Decision — which details their plans for cleaning the site — on Feb. 2.

Protect Gainesville’s Citizens, an organization that aims to spread awareness, contends that the Superfund process requires relentless grassroots involvement. Otherwise, communities living in the shadow of Superfund sites are likely to be overlooked by public officials.

Castronovo’s class collaborated and eventually organized a Koppers-themed art show last Spring, hosted by Wild Iris Books, where Protect Gainesville’s Citizens held bi-monthly meetings. Kim Popejoy, one of the organization’s founding members, noticed a lot more people were coming to their meetings after the show.

Protect Gainesville’s Citizens decided to create a task force to engage artists around town. They called it the Superfund Art Project, headed by Popejoy.

“When I went to Wild Iris and saw the first Koppers art show, I felt we were finally getting somewhere,” said Tia Ma, one of the project’s directors. “There are artists everywhere and Superfund sites everywhere. If we can connect the two, there will be more money, media and inspiration. We want to document everything we’re doing so it could be used as a template in other areas.”

Read the rest at: http://www.thefineprintuf.org/2011/02/05/the-superfund-art-project/