An environmental art exhibit on the Penokee Hills, inspired by the recent controversy over a planned open pit iron ore mine, is moving from its home in Ashland to the city of Milwaukee.
For the past ten months, "Penokee: Explore the Iron Hills" has been on exhibit at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland. Now, the collaboration of 20 individual artists and writers is moving to Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center. Coordinator Terry Dalton says the exhibit is nonpartisan and educational. But Dalton admits the Ecology Center's interest was sparked by the new state law that could bring an iron mine to the region.
"The Penokees were a little known part of the state until this controversy came up. We provided a lot of background on history, the natural resources, and posed questions for people to ponder about what the implications of mining in the area might be. The artists themselves, we gave them free reign to express their opinions in their work."
And some of the artists have opinions. Naturalist John Bates wrote this poem for the exhibit's opening:
"Now little rivulets cascade everywhere throughout the hills, rushing on to Lake Superior, water spilling everywhere, everything running down, down."
Bates said he worries about all that water, and the crushed rock (or tailings) from the proposed mine.
"There's going to be somewhere around 900 million tons of tailings and overburden stashed along the side of this mine. And all this rain and all this snow is going to filter through there, and down will come whatever materials are out of that rock."
"Penokee: Explore the Iron Hills" opens at Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center on April 8. A closing reception will be held at the Great Lakes Visitors Center near Ashland on March 19.