Freeing the Waters

Madrona Arts staff and board members chose rivers and watersheds as our primary focus. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle frequently puts it, “No blue, no green.” Shortages of clean freshwater are acute crises in far too many parts of our country and the world. We started our Freeing the Waters Program with the Klamath River that flows from near Crater Lake down through national wildlife refuges, high desert, and the coastal redwoods to the mouth of the river at Requa, California. This river is an important one to the Pacific wild salmon and the largest Native Tribes in Oregon and California. The Rogue River has also been listed among the most endangered rivers by the organization American Rivers.

Freeing the Klamath River

The Klamath or “swift” River Basin extends over 265 miles in Southern Oregon and Northern California. The river and its tributaries course through one of the most bio-diverse regions in North America. Ecological restoration efforts are centered on four dams that foster growth of toxic blue-green algae and impede salmon and steelhead from reaching spawning grounds. For the First Nations living along the river for over 10000 years, loss of native fisheries beginning early in the 20th century has been disastrous. See the article by Madrona Arts director Diana Hartel with cover photo by David Lorenz Winston in High Country News: Doctor’s Orders: Undam the Klamath.

Restoration of this river is likely to occur in this decade and the next in a unique collaboration of tribes, farmers, ranchers, environmental scientists, and others who care for it. The process is still controversial, places to catch updates:

Klamath Restoration Website and also Alternet Dan Bacher article,the Klamath Riverkeeper website , and Klamblog written by Felice Pace. River renewal is integral to the tribes living on the Klamath. Three tribes are signers and participants in The Settlement: The Karuk Tribe, The Yurok Tribe, and The Klamath Tribes. Other tribes on the river are not signers: Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Resighini Rancheria, and the Quartz Valley Community. Each tribe’s position on the river restoration are available on their websites.

Under Madrona Arts sponsorship, a group of artists and environmental groups created an exhibit exhibited expressing the Klamath River in a series of visual arts shows with original music performance and a screening of Stephen Most’s award-winning film, River of Renewal in collaboration with Red Earth Descendants. Studio 5 in Ashland hosted the photography, painting, sculpture, and fiber art shows. Some of the most active environmental groups working on Klamath River issues provided information, literature, and ways to actively participate in saving and restoring the Klamath River Basin. The film Upstream Battle also came to Ashland at this time and filmmaker Ben Kempas featured Merv George Jr and other tribal activists in this film that has garnered many awards worldwide.

Klamath River Project Gallery

Freeing the Waters of Our Region

The second phase of our Freeing the Waters Program aims to continue to raise awareness on the many diverse dimensions and issues of the the watersheds in our area.

  • 1. River Circles Community Fiber Art Project
  • 2. Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center Collaboration
  • 3. Rogue River Walking Wildlands, Adopt a Botanical Area

1. River Circles Community Fiber Art Project

The River Circles group met each week with the aim of producing a set of 52 fiber art circles, one for each 5 miles of the Klamath River shown in an exhibit at Ilahe Gallery. River Circles are created from recycled fabrics and gathered natural fibers. Examples and photos from the River Circles group may be viewed here. River Circles.

2. Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center Collaboration

This project began in January 2009, led by Susan Cross of the Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center. There are now two on-going projects: art and ecology assistance in lower income schools in the Ashland-Medford area, and a series of art events called Shifting Patterns. Shifting Patterns is a series of four readings/display events featuring interpretation of regional climate change predictions by local artists and writers. The project connects groups doing research on local climate change with a selected group of regional artists/writers. Artists will respond to what they learn from the scientists by creating art/literature pieces. This project is funded by the Oregon Arts Commission through the Arts Builds Community Grants Program. Jefferson Nature Center past arts projects include Nature, Art, and Creating Culture, as well as Marking Our Place. For information see the Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center.

3. Walking Rogue Wildlands

As a project with KS Wildlands, Madrona artists will adopt a botanical area in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. Only the Great Smokey Mountains rival the Siskiyou Mountains in plant diversity. The old and complex geology, the global position and transverse orientation of the Siskiyou Mountain Range, which connects the Cascade and Coast Ranges, are responsible for creating this myriad of species. Geologic parent rocks range in age from 200 million years old to the recent ice-age alluviums that are about 50,000 years old. We will document changes in our Botanical Area, create art to draw attention to this treasure of habitat.

Please contact for information or to volunteer for our projects: Diana Hartel, 541-552-0703 or send an email if you have an idea for a show, works of art, or a community-based project relevant to the issues of the Klamath River Basin. We are happy to work with you to make it happen.