This past Saturday ten high school students, an illustrator and a NOLS instructor returned from a week of isolation on the island—the first ever Rabbit Island School. We are excited to share the experience and ethics of Rabbit Island with the next generation of artists and conservationists. More on this to come, including art, writing and the harrowing tale of the island’s first kidney stone. Stay tuned!
We couldn’t be more excited about our collaboration with LOVELAND and WhyDontWeOwnThis.com. Imagine if Kickstarter, The Nature Conservancy, and Google Maps had a baby. We will use the graphic mapping technology that LOVELAND has developed in urban Detroit to crowdsource conservation in northern Michigan. Our beta test will evolve amidst the forested lands of the Keweenaw Peninsula, four miles west of Rabbit Island.
On the island we think a lot about wilderness in the context of art, civilization and sustainability. In Detroit LOVELAND is thinking hard about how to make land-based change happen in ways never before possible. We can’t wait to see what happens.
+ essay on culture + land use: there is no antonym for subdivision
Storms, biology, swimming, plein-air painting, sauna building and lots of documentation… Catch up with some scenes from the summer so far on our Instagram where many of this years visitors have been sharing their research and views.
The progress on the tree-based studio I’ve been building on the south-southeast side of the island. This art installation / usable architecture will enable artists-in-residence to pursue their practices in a unique environment of the island.
I’ve hit a wall and don’t have enough funds to finish the cedar decking, however. Roughly $500 is needed to finish the structure. You can help me finish the installation this year so it can be used by the artists, architects, chefs, scientists and researchers who are arriving in the second half July.
Please support my Indiegogo crowdfunding effort which will only run for a few days. Every bit helps. Thanks.
Images and notes from the last two weeks on the island by Andrew Ranville.
I’ve been out on the island opening camp, preparing tools, equipment and materials for the artists visiting this year. They will start arriving in two weeks.
+ I’ve been working on completing the tree-based studio/platform installation which is along the prominent SW to SE ridge line.
+ Fireweed salads, a new forage experiment this year, have been great, but the plants are starting to flower and the leaves are becoming bit tough and bitter as the season shifts. I might have to start using the stems. Regardless, they have been a good source of greens on island, with many times the iron as spinach.
+ Scientists we’ve been collaborating with recently, John, Linda, and Tim, dropped by the island on the 5th of July. We explored the center of the island along the ridge to the highest point and then wrapped back around to the SW point. We observed primeval plants with significant variation across changes in elevation. There was quite a bit of lycopodium and some interesting areas of sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens. We also encountered evidence of rabbits in the high area of the island—popular consensus among the group was that we have rabbits living on the island now, or had them within the last couple years. (An obvious topic of conversation, given the name of the island.) We also scouted potential locations for live-trapping grids that will be used in an upcoming study of red-backed vole. Tim took samples of the algae along the coast.
+ Algae is quite pronounced this year along the entire coastline. Contributing factors could be the record-high lake temperature of the last few summers, a wet spring, or a very late spring snowfall which has left the island interior quite damp and leeching to the shoreline through the sandstone strata. Curious.
+ We have a noticeable and annoying presence of mosquitos this year, the first time in four years.
+ I stumbled across the remains of another log cabin a few days ago a few steps in from the lake along the NE shoreline. There were timber beams interlocked on the ground, nails and some various metal objects—all obviously placed a very long time ago. Oral history from the Lahti family of Rabbit Bay speaks of a simple fishing cabin built on the island sometime between 1900 - 1920. I figure this must be it.
+ More young eagle remains have been found. Over the last few years there have been signs of occasional eagle-on-eagle violence. The story seems to get more curious as I’ve found even more remains around the northern coastline, especially under the popular feeding/perching white pines. This year no young eagles have been seen in or around the nest and the female does not appear to have a mate. Maybe this report can shed some insight? If you study eagles please get in touch. This is potentially a good opportunity for research on the island.
The wind has picked up today making getting back to the island a bit dodgy so I plan on staying on the mainland and heading back to the island tomorrow.
+ Artists in Residence: 2013
Emilie Lee - A landscape painter who’s work is influenced by 19th century painting methods and inspired by an adventurous life in the mountains. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and is a graduate of the Water Street Atelier. She is also a senior fellow at the Hudson River Fellowship. Currently she lives in Brooklyn, NY, and teaches at the Grand Central Academy of Art. Before moving to NY she spent 11 years pursuing rock climbing, traveling extensively in North America and Europe. She is interested in exploring the role painting played in the success of the early American conservation movement, and how this relates to the contemporary context.
Andrew Ranville - Founding Artist in Residence, Rabbit Island. Originally from the United States, Andrew has been based in London since 2006, having completed his MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2008. His work has been exhibited internationally, with installations – several which remain in situ – in countries including Australia, China, Finland, Morocco, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He is currently on the island.
Jonny Waldman - Writer from Boulder, Colorado. Jonny studied environmental science at Dartmouth and then science journalism at Boston University. More recently he was a Scripps Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism. This month he completed his first book, about rust, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013, and is represented by Janklow & Nesbit in NYC.
Alex Redgrave - Nova Scotia-born writer and editor Alexandra Redgrave is an islander for life: She spent her childhood summers in the LaHave islands, later moving to Montreal, and is now based in New York. Her next project examines island utopias real and imagined.
Ben Moon - Self-taught adventure, lifestyle, and music photographer and video artist. Surviving cancer at a a young age instilled a deep appreciation for every moment and has given Ben a strong connection with the inspiring individuals he documents and the beauty of the environment around him. Ben is based in Portland, OR, and enjoys its bike-friendly creative culture, access to incredible surf and rock climbing, and the variety of gorgeous locations the Pacific Northwest offers. Ben was born and raised on the shores of Lake Michigan and is no stranger to the Great Lakes.
Jono Sturt + Thomas Afeldt - Thomas and Jono are recent graduates of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and aspiring architects living and working in Metro Detroit. As a continuation of their winning entry to the 2012 Rabbit Island Architecture Competition, Jono and Thomas will be coming out this July to build a site-specific intervention on Rabbit Island’s eastern edge.
Lucy Engelman - Lucy Engelman is a freelance illustrator based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her personal work often focuses on expressing location graphically as well as illustration of culinary concepts. She has previously collaborated with the Cabin Time roaming creative residency. Her commercial work is currently featured on the spine of each 2013 newsstand edition of Bon Appetit magazine.
Eva Dwyer - Wildlife Biologist, Outdoor Educator and Guide. Eva works as primary educator and guide for groups of middle and high-school students on one-to-five-day trips in California, the southwest, and Alaska. She has extensive experience educating students, leading expeditions, kayaking, supervising climbing and ropes courses, and facilitating creative activities. Her academic interest is in conservation biology. On Rabbit Island she will be collaborating with illustrator Lucy Engelman to study and catalog the Island’s virgin ecosystem.
Kelly Geary - A graduate of Manhattan’s renowned Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, Kelly has put years of culinary exploration into practice at Sweet Deliverance. She started out working in a brasserie in Gainesville, and then managed the kitchen at the Wildflower Café and Bakery in Northern California. After moving to New York, Kelly honed her craft at Blue Hill at Stone Barns Restaurant and Center for Agriculture under chef Dan Barber, where she began as an intern and finished as chef in the garde manger. Kelly also worked as a sous chef at Little Giant, one of Lower Manhattan’s shrines to seasonal cuisine. In 2012 she prepared several remarkable meals on Rabbit Island and will be returning to work on a cookbook in 2013.
Jessica Kilroy - Jessica Kilroy is a musician with a colorful background which includes careers as a hotshot firefighter, rock climbing instructor, wind turbine rope access technician and wilderness therapy instructor. She has toured extensively in the US and Europe with her folk music and experimental project Pterodactyl Plains. Jessica has also scored numerous films and compositions for theater productions. She has received numerous awards including the NW string summit band competition award and the Horse and Writer Invitational Scholarship. Jessica is currently writing music inspired by Rabbit Island and gathering field recordings to create a film score for Ben Moon’s documentary about the island.
Leonidas Trampoukis + Eleni Petaloti - Together Leo and Eleni comprise LoT Architecture. Leonidasholds a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University. His work has been exhibited at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale and the Biennale for Young Greek Architects. He practices in New York. Eleni also holds a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University. She has extensive experience working at BSC Architecture and collaborating with Storefront for Art and Architecture and the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. Eleni currently works as Studio Director for artist Mariko Mori.
Leif Hedendal - Cook and artist who’s work focuses on eating design, social practices, underground dining, pedagogy, health, agriculture, and food politics. Having trained at noma, Chez Panisse, and numerous Barcelona restaurants, his cuisine focuses on micro-seasonality, humanely raised meat, under–utilized vegetables, urban ag, and wild forage. Leif is based in San Francisco, CA.
Emily Julka - Photographer and videographer from Madison, WI. She currently works as V.P. of Creatives at the Underground Food Collective. This will be her second visit to Rabbit Island. Earlier in the year she was selected as a finalist in the People’s Choice award in the Saveur Magazine Video Festival.
Sara Maynard - Born in Boise, Idaho, in 1985, artist Sara started lake swimming during yearly camping trips to Baker Lake in the Cascade Mountain range of Western Washington. She graduated from California College of the Arts in 2008 with an interdisciplinary BFA in Photography & Sculpture. She joined the US Masters Swim Team in Oakland in 2003 and has completed numerous open water swim competitions, the longest to date being 5 miles. She spent two months during the summer of 2012 driving 12,000 miles across 27 states & Canada swimming in as many lakes as possible, including Lake Superior. Sara is the first person ever to swim to Rabbit Island.
Marlin Ledin - A musician, Marlin sailed nearly 3,000 miles on Lake Superior last summer while writing, making music, taking photos and video, and recording sounds. He is writing a series of small, handmade books about his journey and other adventures involving Lake Superior and the Minnesconsigan region. Currently his album “Inland Sea” is available in digital formats. His journey was partially funded through Kickstarter.
Charlotte X.C. Sullivan - Artist who has been living and working in western Massachusetts for the last six years until recently moving to Brooklyn. Her work involves designing experiences to help her better understand her place in the world. She has completed residencies and site-specific work in Yosemite National Park and Green River Utah at the Epicenter. On Rabbit Island she plans on researching non-digital tools for navigation and hopes to create a visual response to this.
Evan Strusinski - Professional forager harvesting wild plants and fungi mostly around Vermont and Maine for NYC restaurants such as Momofuku Ko, Atera, Gramercy Tavern, Acme, Aska, Del Posto, and Franny’s.
Audrey Synder - Artist exploring notions of site-specificity and storytelling through an interdisciplinary practice. Her projects involve performance, sculpture, and printmaking to tease out psychic and economic arrangements of the built environment. She recently biked on abandoned railroads in California and built ceramic water filters for New York City-dwellers. She lives in Brooklyn and is a recent graduate of Cooper Union.
Page Stephenson - A cinematographer living in Portland, OR, he is a crack pilot of the Quadcopter and will be assisting Ben Moon in the creation of a short “Wes Anderson-esque” documentary about artists on the island in late July.
Mark Andrew Gravel - Mark Andrew Gravel is an independent cook and designer working at the intersection of food and art. He is the founder of Good Farm, an art and agriculture blog turned foraging collective, and Bean-In, a yearlong series of food happenings that culminated with an all day temporary free restaurant at California College of the Arts. Currently, Mark runs Good Farm, freelances, and continues to share his love for the culture and diversity of beans through both self-propelled and collaborative projects. bouwerie.com / goodfarmmovement.com.
Ben Lavely - The right hand man at Best Made Co, Ben will be on the island for several days exploring potential trails, helping out with sauna building, teaching sharpening skills, and organizing the first ever Sisu Hawkins Dance, a hybrid of the traditional Sadie Hawkins concept and Sisu… on a remote island in Lake Superior.
David Drennan - Born and raised in Oklahoma City, David studied fine art at Oklahoma City University. He is currently lead guitarist in folk-western group Porch Mice and his art work has appeared in many local and group shows throughout Oklahoma City and Tulsa. “I spend most of my free time building furniture, gardening, painting, and playing music. This will be my first trip to Rabbit Island and my most Northern adventure to date.”
Liz Clark - A sailor and surfer, Liz has spent the last 6 years sailing solo around French Polynesia on her 40 foot boat, Swell. She’ll be spending time on Rabbit Island for a writing residency later this year, or possibly next—her dates are still up in the air. Rabbit Island, after all, is not an easy commute from a boatyard in the South Pacific. Good luck sanding that deck, Liz.
June 17th, 2013. 10:25am
With the summer upon us, I thought I’d send you a brief update. About 10 days ago I stopped out at your island along with Nathan from the Keweenaw Land Trust. The Lake could not have been calmer, making for a smooth ride. We traversed the island, stopping at the heron rookery, which unfortunately showed no signs of nesting. Algal growth along the shore line is also more pronounced. We did find two little brown bats.
I wanted to confirm that it is still O.K. to pursue two of the projects we discussed last fall. First would be population genetics of the southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi). This would include Rabbit Island, the Keweenaw mainland, and possibly Manitou Island. We’ll send you a copy of the proposal. I’m currently at the meeting for the American Society of Mammalogists in Philadelphia and talking with colleagues about this. We would probably use microsatellites or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP array or “Snips”).
The second project would be establishing one, or preferably two, live trapping grids on the island. These grids would be trapped for one week, once a year in late summer or early fall and compared to a similar trap effort on the mainland. This would be a long-term effort, hopefully carried out for many years. I would propose placing one grid on the ridge in the area dominated by maples and one grid on the east-central part of the island—off the ridge—in an area with a notable balsam fir component.
Thanks for your input. Hopefully our paths will cross this summer.
All sounds excellent. Thanks for the update. There will be several illustrators, painters and photographers on the island this summer. Possible collaboration?
I have been worried the rookery has been on decline for a while now. The number of nests appears to be decreasing. Neighbors in Rabbit Bay and say they haven’t seen much “flyover” activity in the last several years. I speculate it might have something to do with the return of the eagles, though I can’t be certain.
The algae is also interesting. We’ve definitely been noticing an uptick every year except the first. I assumed it was due to water temperatures, which were at record highs for the past two summers, but again, there is uncertainty here. Any insight?
Lucy, here are a few details from John’s recent visit to this island. He’ll be studying small mammal genetics this summer.
Please pass this on to Eva as an FYI. Possible collaboration?
Thanks for the support and very prompt reply. Most of our scientific graphs are data generated and are generally clean and to the point, using software available in our labs. That said, I’m not very good at bridging the gap between the sciences and the arts. I’ve cc’d one of my colleagues, Deborah James, in communications, with experience in this area. She recently procured a small grant to initiate a media-based effort. We’ll send you a copy of the proposal. Because I’m in Philadelphia and Debbi is in London, it may be a week or so before sending you a copy.
As for the increase in shoreline algae, my direct response is that I don’t know. Although global warming is a possible contributor, it is an easy fall-back explanation. I have not seen extensive development of filamentous algae in rocky areas along the mainland; this probably warrants more careful observation. I’ve cc’d another colleague, Tim Gsell, who is a microbiologist. Field samples and plating for E. coli or other fecal coliform bacteria might be a starting point, but I would bow to Tim’s decision on the best initial approach.
June 20th, 2013. 12:30pm
This is Tim, the microbiologist John mentioned in the last message. I like the idea looking at the various microbial populations from these sites to get a baseline, with future test dates allowing for identifying changes in these microbes numbers and diversity. It would be relatively easy to do some water monitoring for total bacteria, E. coli and fungi, etc., via the petrifilm platform. We potentially can complete some chemical analysis as well.
June 27th, 2013, 915pm
Hi Rob and John,
As discussed below, I am sending along the approved grant proposal for my cross discipline undergraduate research course. While it is visual media focused (and, I truly hope an outcome is to engage more people outdoors), my long-term interest in this project is to produce both media art and research (manuscript for publication) outcomes. Working between the social sciences and media arts, I produce both of these outcomes in my research work. I am open and enthusiastic to explore cross discipline collaborations. This includes working with video + quantitative/qualitative data. Exploring ways to visualize this data that may provide an opportunity for crossing the arts and sciences.
In terms of the project I am working towards, it would be ideal to visualize scientific research using live video feed along with the visualization of additional relevant data to map rich and live data to an existing area of study. In the future, we might consider using Wii gaming technology to trace the gestures of animals/movement in the wild (more on this later). With a graphic design and multimedia background, I believe this is an opportunity. To give you an idea of how I am thinking, here is a link to project by Richard Saul Wurman: The Urbanization of Planet Earth.
That would be the best combo I can think of. The next best thing relates to having a better anchor point, which basically means more weight on your iron rims.