Due to sizing, this print does not come with a framing option.
A SMALL NORTHERN TOWN AND OUR COMMON CRISIS
What I see happening in Churchill, Manitoba is frighteningly similar to what was
happening in Michigan in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and through the present. You had the
livelihoods of millions of people in Michigan tethered on life support to one
industry. When that industry fled and shut down, the rest of the economy followed
slowly, like a body’s delayed reaction before it realizes that the head is gone.
Instead of millions of people like in Michigan, this time in Churchill there are less
people, less companies, and less variables; hundreds of people, a single port that’s
now closed, and a single rail line, now washed out.
And just like in Michigan when the life line was cut the people here ask the company,
how could you do this? What will you do to support us? The company asserts that those
responsibilities are not theirs’, that they cannot be expected to be accountable for
the town’s fate. And the company, under a model to which we are all complicit, and
through the collective values of this new half century, is perfectly correct. And
that opens the scope of this crisis to something more fundamental like bones,
something more deep-rooted to take issue with.
Following the decline of one economy, just like in Michigan, an idea takes hold in
Churchill that tourism will now be the bedrock economy that will sustain the town. So
then, a dozen artists are brought here to make the town their muse and to beautify
it, but just before that happens, unprecedented flooding washes out the rail line,
cutting the flow of goods, essentials, and seasonal visitors. Prices soar, and dogs
begin starving. So what are the artists to do? Choice A: Paint jovial works that
bring some brief yet genuine psychological respite to the village. Choice B:
Cautiously bracket choice A, and instead tell the truth.
Because at the same time as people in the town of Churchill MB speak of Omnitrax, the
railroad corporation’s, indifference to the life of their town, the boots of
extractive energy companies across North America march forward in a precisely similar
step and fashion. November 2016: An expansion project for Enbridge’s Line 3 is
approved to pump almost double the amount of Tar Sands oil out of Alberta, through
Southern Manitoba and down to Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge is the same company whose
line 6 pipeline ruptured into the Kalamazoo river in Michigan in 2010, causing one of
the largest on land oil spills in US history. The company’s line 5 still pumps
500,000 barrels of oil beneath the straits of Mackinac, and under the Great Lakes,
June 1st, 2017: the same day the United States pulls out of the Paris Climate
Agreement, oil starts flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline against the wishes
of the Standing Rock Sioux, breaking the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
But with these companies, instead of threatening an 800 person village, or the state
of Michigan, those projects named form the spearhead of a crisis so large in scope
and reach, that it’s possible destructiveness is unfathomable, to polar bears, to
caribou, and to humans alike. And as the failures of this current direction have
proven to be numerous and profound, we know that the sources of our peril are common.
and at the bottom of it all, we are left knowing they must be addressed. We must
change course. Which, brings me back to my point of telling the truth and
To not proliferate a myth; I believe my greatest service to the people here is to
acknowledge what’s happened; what’s happening in this town, what’s happening across
this continent, and what’s happening around this world. Post-9/11, post-Inauguration
Day 2017, post-every-treaty-broken, post-start of new extinction period,
post-normalization of decline, equivocation now is intolerable. One way or another,
in the end, we will all be facing this together, and in my heart I know it would be
wrong to look away from the crash course we are on.
It is with my utmost humility that I ask for understanding and grace from the people
of Churchill as to why I couldn’t make something more cheery on the beloved Miss
Piggy plane wreck, and it is my greatest wish that you find a sincere expression of
solidarity in the artwork I’ve made.
June 26th, 2017
This September 21st through the 28th, Murals In The Market makes a triumphant return to Detroit’s Historic Eastern Market as more than 50+ local and international artists will be painting live throughout the district over the course of eight days in the third year of the city’s only international mural festival. Adding to Detroit’s unique history of place making and public art, we are proud to announce our new partnership with the William Davidson Foundation and welcome back the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Eastern Market Corporation for this magnificent public arts festival.
Pat Perry is an artist from Michigan who writes and makes pictures through careful and cautious observation. He works itinerantly, and is currently based in Detroit.