29 March 2016

Toxic Town: Picher, Oklahoma



Less than a 100 years ago the town of Picher in Oklahoma was a mining boomtown producing more than $20 billion in lead and zinc ore from 1917 to 1947. Today, Picher is a hazardous waste site as a result of unregulated mining.

Picher fell to ruins due to toxic waste contaminating the air, soil, and water. What's more, the land is so riddled with tunnels causing sinkholes to swallow up buildings like Godzilla on a rampage.

In 1983, Picher was designated to be part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site by the EPA and identified as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and the environment. Residents who wanted to leave were offered a federal buyout and by 2009, the town's charter was dissolved.

Today the cleanup of Picher is ongoing and expected to take at least 30 years according to Tyler Powell, Deputy Secretary of Environment for the State of Oklahoma.

So far, the federal government has spent approximately $331 million cleaning up the Tar Creek Superfund, making it the largest hazardous-waste site in the nation. The full cleanup is expected to exceed more than $1 billion.

To date, the US government has received repayment settlements from some of the mining companies responsible for the devastation of Picher including ASARCO ($32 million),  Childress Royalty Co. ($810,918) and EaglePicher ($900,000).

In January 2016, a settlement proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice seeks $3.4 million from Doe Run Resources Corp., $6.6 million from NL Industries and $5 million the U.S. Department of Interior. The government is still pursuing cleanup money from the Blue Tee Corp. and the Gold Fields Mining Corp.

Altogether, it is expected that the "responsible parties" will at most contribute $60 million to the cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund. The remainder of the costs will be remediated using taxpayer dollars. That is: the mining companies responsible pay 6.6%, and taxpayers pay 93.4%.

It is interesting to note that in 1950, the Eagle-Picher Mining Co. condemned four square blocks of land that the company owned in Picher's business district due to cave-in dangers that forced out 200 business owners and homeowners.

It's also worth noting that the Tar Creek Superfund is one of several Superfund sites that EaglePicher is linked to including: Eagle Picher Carefree Battery (New Mexico); Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt (Missouri);  Cherokee County (Kansas); Eagle-Picher Waste Disposal Areas (Ohio); Newton County Mine Tailings (Missouri), Eagle-Picher Henryetta (Oklahoma); Eagle Zinc (Illinois); and W 'c' St & Porter St (Missouri).

According to Kevin Bogardus at the Center for Public Integrity, "Eagle-Picher Industries Inc. went bankrupt in the 1990s and settled for liability of $41 million to clean up 25 sites and pollution at the company's smelters in Kansas and Missouri, ultimately paying 37% of that, or about $15 million. Yet the government originally claimed it was owed $77 million for just eight sites. The company's reorganized successor, EaglePicher Holdings Inc., went bankrupt [again in 2005] and has not yet resolved the government's $25 million claim for seven sites."

Unlike the town of Picher, the company EaglePicher is resilient, despite filing twice for bankruptcy. In 2014, the company received a $22 million federal contract from the Department of Defense to produce new lithium-ion batteries.

“This award assures EaglePicher will continue to be the leader in advanced lithium-ion technology for defense applications,” noted Randy Moore, President of EaglePicher.

Moore  also says that the company is dedicated to the "Adherence to the principles of sustainability and environmental stewardship through the conservation of energy and natural resources, risk reduction, pollution prevention, material management and recycling."

More recently, photographer Sabrina Staires, has an opening on Friday, April 1st of her solo show “Echo,” a project consisting of 16 silk pieces with images from Picher.  The exhibit runs through the end of May at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City.





22 March 2016

See Inside the Precious Moments Chapel in Virtual Reality



The Precious Moments Chapel, fondly dubbed "America's Sistine Chapel" by many, was created by Sam Butcher, the artist, and creator of the Precious Moments religious giftware company. The entire complex features artworks that depict stories from the Bible.

This virtual tour focuses on 15 stained glass window panels designed by Butcher that flank the chapel's interior.  On the west side, the panels feature the artist's interpretation of the Beatitudes and on the east, the 23 Psalms. Regarding VR photography, they were a challenge to shoot simply because of the various light sources that affected the color balance of the windows in relation to the ambient and artificial light of the space.  

The Precious Moments Chapel, located in Carthage, Missouri, is open to the public almost daily but be sure to check their website for details as the hours is seasonal.  Admission and tours are free.



15 March 2016

The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts in VR



The setting sun illuminates the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts located on the campus of Pittsburg State University. This clean-lined new facility provides first class performing venues for the university’s theater, music, and dance programs, while also giving the town of Pittsburg a performing arts venue suitable for touring artists.

The heart of the building is an 1,100-seat lyric theater with flytower, orchestra pit, and orchestra shell, able to present Broadway musicals, orchestra, chorus, opera, ballet, jazz, and popular music.  A 250-seat drama theater is the primary performance space for the drama department.

Team



13 March 2016

Death Valley Super Bloom 2016 in #VR

Death Valley "Super Bloom" 2016 in #VR.
Click and drag image above

If you're a close up or macro photographer, the Death Valley Super Bloom for 2016 is amazing. For panoramic photography, it's a bit underwhelming as this sweet but subtle phenomenon is swallowed up by a wide lens.

In this shot, a lovely "carpet" of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) can't quite fill the frame in 360. But look to the horizon and you'll see a the floral equivalent of a Milky Way of yellow flowers. Also, while I never observed a "blanket" of Notch Leaf Phacelias, I did see dozens of sphinx moth caterpillars munching on the flower's leaves which are easier to observe close up.

I went out to experience the super bloom yesterday and apparently the phenomenon is in full effect and expected to be for another week or so, according to the ranger I spoke to at Stovepipe Wells Visitor's Information Center who also advised me on the best places to see the wildflowers.

For me, I recommend taking a nice little loop drive up the Beatty Cutoff Road and down Mud Canyon, then back to Furnace Creek along Highway 190.



10 March 2016

Virtual Tour of Miners Memorial - Immigrant Park, Pittsburg, KS


Miner’s Memorial, dedicated in July 2008 pays tribute to the immigrants who settled in Southeast Kansas and worked in the Weir-Pittsburg Coalfields of Cherokee and Crawford Counties.

The Miner’s Memorial features a large bronze statue of an era miner, large black granite monuments with the names inscribed of the miners who worked in the Weir-Pittsburg Coalfields and stone walking path leading past several information kiosks that tell the story and history of the mining industry in Southeast Kansas.

Sattelite View of Miners Memorial on Google Maps
When I was looking for this location on my smartphone, I was surprised it wasn't on Google Maps or Google Maps Street View. So I submitted it and it was immediately accepted.

To see it on Google Maps Street View app, click here (be sure to download the app for your particular device). The app supports VR mode for use with Google Cardboard.

Miners Memorial is seeking family histories of coal miners in Crawford and Cherokee Counties. An estimated 10,000 men worked as miners in the area. People are encouraged to register their mining ancestors as soon as possible. To submit a story, click here.






07 March 2016

Discover the Pittsburg ArtWalk "Your Downtown" Mural located in Pittsburg, Kansas



The Pittsburg ArtWalk in Pittsburg, Kansas has been a local happening since 2005. For 2015 ArtWalk, in collaboration with SEK Art Fest, a completed public art piece entitled "Your Downtown" located at the northwest corner of 5th Street and Broadway was dedicated.  It was so beautiful that I had to photograph it and share with the world on Roundme. I also put it on Google Maps. Both apps have a VR mode for iOS and Android smartphones so get that Google Cardboard on and take a stroll!

The execution of "Your Downtown" was completed in two stages.  In Stage 1, the Pittsburg ArtWalk commissioned six artists to complete a mural on the side of the 501 N Broadway building. Each artist was provided a panel of wall space to complete the theme.



Pittsburg ArtWalk Downtown Mural
Pittsburg ArtWalk Mural 2015

Blank wall, ripe for a mural! Source: Google Maps Street View 2013


Then in Stage 2, ArtWalk obtained a grant from the SEK Art Fest to help complete the second phase of the mural, which is the black and white lettering above the panels that says:
"Pittsburg is your downtown and your voice. Share. Beauty. Love. Fun. Build. Strength. Unite. Joy. Believe. Create. People. Shop local. Help a neighbor. Tip the band. Be kind. Support. Buy art. Hope for. Vision. Live. Peace. Explore. Connect. Our community is a better place because of you!"
All in all, it took seven artists to complete the mural. One even traveled from Omaha, Nebraska to contribute.

The mural was dedicated with a ribbon cutting ceremony and artists recognition reception on September 11, 2015.

The next Pittsburg ArtWalk for 2016 is slated for April 22. If you're an artist, and you're interested in participating,  ArtWalk is putting out a Call For Artists so be sure to sign up!








Pittsburg ArtWalk would like to thank the following artists, organizers, and sponsors:

ARTISTS:
  • Kelci Cooper
  • Elizabeth Cosby
  • Camillia Fearmonti
  • Heather L Horton (assisted)
  • Holly Kranker
  • Bryan Lewandowski
  • Amanda Smardo
  • Jenna Spencer

ORGANIZERS:
  • Kelci Cooper
  • Kris Hartley
  • Heather L Horton
  • Roger Horton
  • John Kutz

SPONSORS:
  • 3M
  • CDL Electric
  • JS Kutz Rentals & Construction
  • Pittsburg ArtWalk
  • SEK Art Fest
  • Sweet Designs Cakery
  • TJ Lelands


04 March 2016

Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By


Hi, everybody.

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm experiencing extreme technical difficulties with my blog including ghost posts, subsequent Twitter posts (due to integration) and importing my blog to my website.

I use Google's Blogger/Blogspot service to publish. Then I use a plugin to import the feed into my site. Remarkably, for several years this system worked seamlessly but recently Google rolled out a security update, an encryption protocol set forth by the Internet Engineering Task Force ( IETF ) to make the Web a safer place.

In the long run, this is a good thing. But the upshot was the update broke my website's blog integration so now when you click on http://tanjabarnes.com/blog you are unable to scroll down.

The timing of this was less than perfect because unfortunately, the developer of the plugin closed up shop at the end of February after a decade in business, so there is no support.

At this point, I recommend that if you want to see my posts, go directly to https://tanjabarnes.blogspot.com or subscribe via email until a workaround solution can be found or the plugin replaced.



24 February 2016

Put On Your Google Cardboard and Experience Beijing's 798 Art Zone in VR


Once the home of the North China Wireless Joint Equipment Factory, the 798 Art Zone is a vast compound built in the 50s that has been renovated to house dozens of galleries, design studios, art spaces, artists' studios, ateliers, fashion houses, shops, restaurants, and bars.

Today the 798 is also the epicenter of China's street art scene. So in December 2015, I took my camera rig to document what it looked like.

While this virtual tour represents a compilation works seen on the streets and back alleys of the 798, it is by no means complete. The 798 is like a coral reef where the art is as ephemeral as a school of tropical fish darting through a diverse ecosystem of throw-ups, tags, and graffiti as well as more elaborate art pieces like murals and sculptures.



798 Art Zone Beijing

26 September 2015

"RISE UP" - The Street Art of Las Vegas from the Life is Beautiful Festival featuring Works by Alexis Diaz, AWARE, D*Face, Doze Green, Vhils, Zio Zeigler and Many More


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas -- literally! RISE ABOVE is the eclectic, and permanent street art program of Life Is Beautiful Festival curated by JUSTKIDS that turned 15 blocks of Downtown Las Vegas into an art-inspired playground showcasing works by some of the biggest names in international urban art. Line-up: Vhils, D*Face, Doze Green, Interesni Kazki, Ben Eine, Alexis Diaz, Zio Ziegler, Bicicleta Sem Freio, Ana Maria, The Stencil Network, Hot Tea, Aware and many, many more.

The annual Life is Beautiful Festival, backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, is held in Downtown Las Vegas and some street artists was invited to participate in giving the Fremont East Entertainment District a makeover. The festival has long since ended, but the works remain as a testament to art, life, and beauty.

I was recently in Vegas to meet with some cool freaks and geeks at Zappos headquarters to explore and understand the amazingly innovative corporate culture that goes on inside one of my favorite on-line shopping destinations. There's a word for what they do at Zappos; it's called "holacracy" a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers.

While I was there, I learned that Hsieh has pledged over $350 million of his personal fortune to rejuvenate this blighted stretch of Las Vegas and make it a tech mecca for startups.

The Life Is Beautiful Festival takes place every year, so I'm anticipating there'll be more street art images to capture and share in the fall.

To view the tour, simply begin by clicking the image above and either use portals embedded in the image, or scroll through the slide show at the bottom to view an image that appeals to you.





29 July 2015

18b Arts District - Las Vegas Street Art & Murals


The "18b" in Las Vegas, Nevada,  is just a short walk or bus ride from Fremont Street. Also known as the Las Vegas Arts District, the "18b," represents the original Arts District area, which consisted of 18 blocks.

Many international street artists are drawn to the area and the organizers of the "Life is Beautiful" festival held in Downtown Las Vegas, promotes street art by commissioning works for the event.

Included in this virtual tour are pieces by Aware AS, Ana Marietta, Bicicleta Sem Freio and Milk the Bunny. However, it's been sitting in  "draft" mode on Roundme for almost a year now as I awaited to identify some of the artists whose work can be found here.

I think by now the art work in the area may have already changed as street art is so ephemeral.  So I'm publishing it today with the hopes that visitors to this blog can help me identify those pieces. Please leave a comment if you know!

Las Vegas street art
18b Street Art and Murals featuring works by Bicicleta Sem Freio, 
Ana Marietta, Aware AS, Milk the Bunny