DEVELOPING THE ART
Developed and realised by artist Joseph Rossano, the Salmon School installation consists of a school of mirrored salmon-like forms, hand-blown from molten glass by artists and makers from around the world, all of whom are concerned by the plight of wild salmon. Working with the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, the initial forms were created and a method was developed to easily replicate versions of a salmon-like shape using blown glass.
The first exhibition of Salmon School took place at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington State. Displayed at eye level, it reflected the population of native wild salmon in the Skagit River, flowing into Puget Sound, North of Seattle. Following this exhibition, Rossano was approached by The Missing Salmon Alliance to work with a consortium of NGOs from around the world to bring Salmon School to the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26). After COP26, the art will be displayed in locations around the UK before returning to the Pacific Northwest – the place of its birth - where it will be part of the 2022 United Nations International Year of Glass at the Museum of Glass.
NOVEMBER 17, 2023
BRINGING SALMON HOME
The Salmon School project grew out of the crisis around declining wild salmon and steelhead in the state of Washington; artist Joseph Rossano, a fisherman himself, saw fewer and fewer fish returning to his home waters on the Skagit River. But one of the subtle geniuses of Rossano’s sculpture is that we’re called to see not only the fragility of the species but the individual and unique beauty of each fish. No two are the same.
There are a multitude of Tribes, agencies, and organizations around Washington and the Northwest doing the titanic work of upholding the spirit of these fish in the face of climate change and population growth.
But one unique effort on the Olympic Peninsula focuses on rebuilding the diversity of wild steelhead within populations – those expressions of wildness that Rossano captures. It turns out that wildness is one of the species’ best hedges against climate change. Because from that diversity emerges a range of survival strategies for salmon and steelhead in their journey from river to ocean and back.
On the coast, to restore that life history diversity (as we call it) we are reopening river systems that are blocked by old culverts and failed roads, so fish can access cold water creeks to hold in and spawn in over different parts of the year. We are more conservatively managing recreational and commercial fishing to allow more steelhead to return to spawn over a longer time span. The effort is steadily making headway. And in the process, Tribes, local governments, state and federal wildlife officials, conservation groups, fishing guides, former timber fellers, and everyday citizens are restoring trust in each other and bringing new energy to coastal communities. You can learn more and support that work here.
Restoration takes all of us. It is hard, generational change. But it has one clear sign of success: when fishing folks of all shapes and sizes are back on rivers, where they belong, alongside the living breathing salmon whose epic migration makes us whole. We hope you’ll join us on the journey towards that goal.
-Wild Salmon Center
Since its inaugural exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum in April 2019, the project has been renamed The SALMON SCHOOL. Under this new title, the project was a keynote presentation at the COP26 conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland, in November of 2021. Subsequently, The SALMON SCHOOL has begun to travel the globe on a circular journey, serving as a symbol of hope — hope that, through awareness and community building, we can foment real change.