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Call to Artists: Ross Island Design Project

Orlo is a Portland-based nonprofit organization using the creative arts to explore environmental themes. This fall the Orlo Exhibition Space Gallery will present a gallery exhibit showcasing design concepts and artist contributions to this project: Ross Island Design Project.

The restoration of Ross Island offers a unique opportunity to explore how natural and cultural values can be powerfully linked together through the integration of art, ecology, and design.

ORLO invites artists and creative designers to offer proposals for imaginative engagement with Ross Island as it is restored and brought back into the city's natural and cultural life.
Orlo is a Portland-based nonprofit organization using the creative arts to explore environmental themes. Since 1992, Orlo has been an innovative voice in the ongoing cultural dialogue about the environment through provocative outreach, education and media productions.

Final DRAFT March 24, 2004
Orlo's Design Project for Ross Island
Outline:
1. Intro- describe R.I. and the opportunity for art/nature/culture.
2. Call to Artists and Designers
3. Goals, Criteria, Format, Duedate, Mailing
4. Outcomes
5. For further information

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One-sentence version:
The restoration of Ross Island offers a unique opportunity to explore how natural and cultural values can be powerfully linked together through the integration of art, ecology, and design.
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1. Introduction: The Opportunity
Ross Island, in the midst of the Willamette River and within sight of downtown, will be handed over to the City of Portland after 75 years of industrial use. After a ten year restoration process, Ross Island will become the next important addition to Portland's urban wildlife refuge system.

The island is 1 1/4-miles long and over 1/2-mile wide. It is ecologically connected to 160-acre Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge by the narrow Holgate Channel. On the west bank side it faces Portland's South Waterfront district, currently being designed as an important new urban development complex with a 100 to 150-foot greenway along the river.

When restored, the Island will include a large lagoon with both deep and shallow water, forested berms or uplands, and extensive shoreline. Its ecological functions include offering refugia for migrating salmon and nesting sites for great blue herons and bald eagles, and represents the only remaining relatively natural island in the Portland harbor. Ross Island will become one of the premier wildlife habitats in Portland Park and Recreation's 10,000 acre park system and one of the most ecologically important elements of the interconnected regional greenspace system.

The restored Ross Island will thus be a unique opportunity to explore how natural and cultural values can be powerfully linked together through art and design. Seeing people and nature as "opposites" has been a destructive thought-pattern for a long time. Ross Island is a place where Portland can evolve beyond that separation toward original ways of co-existence.

Artists and designers are presented with a multi-dimensional problem: the differing yet overlapping needs/pressures of culture and nature; the different physical locales of Ross Island, Oaks Bottom, South Waterfront; the larger contexts of metropolis and urban ecosystem, past, present, future. How to experience, explore, and create in the spaces thus defined--with all their practical and ecological limits--and their corresponding opportunities for creative solution?

2. Call to Artists and Designers
ORLO invites artists and creative designers to offer proposals for imaginative engagement with Ross Island as it is restored and brought back into the city's natural and cultural life.

All media and approaches are welcome: traditional, nontraditional, conceptual, etc.

Proposals could be creative responses to any of the following questions:
How could the public be brought to understand, support, and participate in the restoration process?
What ultimate result for the Island itself can artists envision that would both respect the natural values, and imaginatively engage people who live and work nearby?
How could art or design help reveal the real although sometimes invisible connectedness of Island, river, ecology, and people?
How could we see the various histories inscribed here--Native American and settler, and also natural?
What contradictions, complications, dangers, or challenges are implied?

3. Goals, Criteria, Format, Duedate:
Orlo's goals are three:
1) To awaken public awareness and support for the Ross Island restoration through the proposed or actual artworks/designs.
2) To generate imaginative and possibly new ways for people to enjoy a natural area in their midst, from any perspective or vantage (Island, riverbanks, elsewhere).
3) To re-conceptualize and explore more deeply the human/natural interaction, via the various discourses of gallery show, catalog, essays, and public dialogue.

Criteria:
-The ecological integrity of Ross Island is an essential value for all work. (Bald eagle and great blue heron nesting areas, in particular, are extremely sensitive to human encroachment.) But this value need not rule out wildly imagined designs.
-sites for art/design could include Island, east riverbank, west riverbank, gallery.
-temporary or permanent okay
-any medium of art, urban design, or landscape design

Format and duedate for submissions:
-Conceptual ideas and sketches, works on paper, small-scale architectural models
-No larger than 36 inches in any dimension.
-The artist will be responsible for shipping costs both directions.
-Must be received at ORLO by August 6, 2004. Mail or deliver to:
ORLO Ross Island Art/Ecology Design Project
PO Box 10342
2516 NW 29th
Portland, OR 97296

4. Outcomes:
A gallery show (August 28- October 9, 2004) will present designs. These will be either finished works, or graphic presentations of proposed designs.
All artists/designers will receive a certificate of participation in Orlo's Design Project for Ross Island and a membership in Orlo.
A symposium panel will discuss art, ecology, and restoration
A catalog with critical essay(s) will document the show and symposium.
Orlo's Bear Deluxe magazine (46,000 readers) will provide the medium for continuing discussion and (with other media) will make the announcements and results available to a broad public.
Longer-term outcomes: Orlo hopes that some of the proposals will be so wonderful that a public agency or private foundation will provide funding and support for actual installation. But we have no control over that!

5. For Further Information:
Orlo website www.orlo.org

Virtual tour of Willamette River, Ross Island, South Waterfront, Oaks Bottom:
 http://www.river.ci.portland.or.us/tour/vt.htm#

South Waterfront Greenway Development Plan (March 2003 report from River Renaissance):  http://www.portlandparks.org/Planning/PDFfiles/swfg_Exhibit%20A%20SoWa%20GDP.pdf

Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas, Eds. Mike Houck and M J Cody, (Oregon Historical Society Press, 2000) for detailed discussion of Oaks Bottom, Ross Island, ecological context.

Wild on the Willamette, Exploring the Lower Willamette River, a Portland Audubon Society map of the lower Willamette between the Willamette Narrows and the Columbia River.

homepage: homepage: http://www.orlo.org