Exploring Cooley Landing with Linda Gass

*This article was published in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of EPA Today.*

Artist Linda Gass hosted a free hands-on art and science event at Cooley Landing this past Saturday in the last day of her “In the Field Residency.”

During the event, adults and children were given the opportunity to participate in various activities that included drawing sketches of the landscape, looking at live creatures through microscopes and participating in a land art project.

In one station, participants– both adults and children–tried to observe small crabs and insects under a microscope. There was lots of laughter as some struggled to see the small creatures in a Petri dish. The small crab ran around, expertly dodging the lens.

“Oh, I see it!” exclaimed those who were finally able to catch a glimpse of its fascinating translucent outer shell.

Gass first presented the idea for her project to the East Palo City Council at the council’s meeting earlier this year on June 2.

Her interest in studying the impact that human activity has had on the land led her to examine various locations, the most recent being East Palo Alto’s Cooley Landing.

Why Cooley Landing? Gass responded, “The rich history of Cooley Landing is all about human marks.”

The participants gathered around Gass. She held up pictures of maps to show to the crowd as she gave a brief history lesson about Cooley Landing.

“The San Francisco Bay was surrounded by lush green wetlands,” she said. “The historic map shows all the beautiful wetlands that used to be around the bay.” Noting that it was unfortunate, she told her listeners, “A lot of the wetlands have disappeared.”

Gass, then, invited all, who were present in the park, to join her in creating land art–a creative project that consists of making temporary physical installations in the land to create art while conveying important messages about ecology.

Participants were given hammers, nails, and “blue survey whiskers” to install in the ground. “This is a land art installation about the changes to the shoreline of the bay,” she explained.

Adults and children, including council member Ruben Abrica, grabbed tools and were more than happy to assist with the project.

The next phase of Gass’ ongoing project will be the “In the-Gallery Residency” that will be held at the Palo Alto Art Center on five Fridays.

These include Friday, September 11 and 25 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; on Friday, October 9 and 23, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Friday, September 18 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visitors can also see Gass’ project on four Saturdays: Saturday, September 12 and 26 and on Saturday, October 10 and 24, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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