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Earth Day to feature audiovisual exhibit, puppet show

Image of"Reading the Wrack Lines" digital video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the UConn Avery Point Lighthouse. Photo: Anna Terry

Several special events are planned for Earth Day (April 22) at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus, including audiovisual artwork projected on campus buildings and an original puppet show.

Events will begin at 6:30 p.m. with music recorded by the five-person Connecticut-based group Hitch and Giddyup sponsored by the Avery Point EcoHusky club. At 7 p.m., UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper will perform ISH, an original one-woman puppet show for all ages inspired by Moby-Dick. UConn Dairy Bar Coastal Crunch ice cream will be served after the show.

From 8 to 9 p.m., there will be a performance of the audiovisual work, “Reading the Wrack Lines,” created by Connecticut College Professor Andrea Wollensak. This will feature creative writing responses to climate change by UConn Avery Point and Connecticut College students used as audiovisual source material within a generative multimedia artwork projected onto both the Branford House the Avery Point Lighthouse. Collaborators for “Reading the Wrack Lines” include software developer Bridget Baird and sound artist Brett Terry. The exhibit is being presented in cooperation with The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.

The events are free and open to up to 200 attendees to comply with Gov. Lamont’s Executive Orders for outdoor gatherings during the pandemic. Attendees should bring their own chair or blanket, wear face masks and maintain 6-foot social distancing. Rain date will be Friday April 23 at the same times. No pre-registration is required to attend.

Both “Reading the Wrack Lines” and ISH are supported by funding from Connecticut Sea Grant. UConn Reads and the Avery Point Global Café are co-sponsors.

“As a professor and CT Sea Grant research coordinator, I’m excited to be involved in this project,” said Syma Ebbin, who teaches courses in environmental and marine science and policy. “It seeks to integrate the personal creative reflections of students focused on coastal environments and the

Image of a "Reading the Wrack Lines" digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point.
Example of a “Reading the Wrack Lines” digital audio/video projection on the Branford House at UConn Avery Point. Photo: Anna Terry

human footprint—encompassing climate change, marine debris and plastics, among other topics they’ve explored this semester—within a generative and interactive video.

“I think the project themes resonate with and amplify the meaning of Earth Day and will generate deeper understandings in both students and the larger audience,” Ebbin said.

About the artists and their work:

Andrea Wollensak is a professor of art at Connecticut College whose work spans media from traditional to digital fabrication, to generative-interactive systems. She has collaborated with computer scientists, musicians, poets and scientists on works that explore themes of place-based narratives on environment and community. To learn more about her work, visit: https://www.andreawollensak.com/.

Felicia Cooper created ISH as part of her Master of Fine Arts in the UConn Puppet Arts program and performed it for audiences in downtown Storrs three times in March. Based loosely on Moby-Dick, it retells the story as if Ishmael were an 11-year-old girl and the whale were friendlier. She uses shadow puppets, object performance in a suitcase and original music composed by Juliana Carr in the show.

Image of Felicia Cooper using object performance in a suitcase during portions of her puppet show ISH.
Felicia Cooper uses object performance in a suitcase during portions of ISH. Photo courtesy of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.
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A Guide to Planting Along the Connecticut Coast

monarch butterfly on joe pye weed
A monarch pollinates on blooming Joe Pye weed, as marsh mallow blooms in the background. Juliana Barrett / Connecticut Sea Grant.

Juliana Barrett, Ph.D. and Kiernan Sellars, 2021

This 35-page guide lists native trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and vines that are appropriate for planting in Connecticut’s coastal zone. It includes a map of that ecoregion and characteristics of each species, such as tolerance to salt water and salt spray, light and soil requirements as well as wildlife and pollinator value. 

Download here in PDF.

Publication Number CTSG-21-02

Halloween’s Mascot

Common Garden Spider (Argiope urantica) Note the zig-zag web Photo by Susan Gannon

It lives in dark places. It is creepy. It causes some people to scream and run away. It has bulging eyes and eight legs. It’s a spider!

Spiders have long been associated with all the scary images of Halloween, including white filmy webs that can trap insects and even people who wander through them. How spiders came to be associated with Halloween is based in medieval folklore when festivals noted the change of seasons from summer to autumn and winter. The colors of orange and black also represent this change with orange reflecting the color change in the leaves and black forecasting the increased darkness with winter’s arrival and foliage death of the harvested plants.

Folklore also suggested that the power of witches was at its height during this time of year. Black bats and rats, as well as spiders, were considered companions of witches since they were all generally found in caves, dungeons and other dark, scary places. Spiders were especially associated with witches because of their magical powers to spin webs that could trap victims.  It didn’t help the arachnid’s reputation when movies including Tarantula (1955), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) starring William Shatner, and Walt Disney Studios Arachnophobia (1990) cemented spiders in the world of the creepy and dangerous. Despite EB White’s attempt to demystify spiders in his award-winning children’s book Charlotte’s Web, spiders continue to instill fear in some people.

But spiders don’t deserve a bad reputation since they are as varied in their habits and characteristics as other living groups. Spiders are not insects but belong to a class known as arachnids that also includes scorpions, mites, ticks and others. Features common to most spiders include two body parts connected at a thin waist, eight legs, fangs, two to eight eyes, and no wings or antennae. All spiders are predators but they don’t eat other living animals, and some eat plants. In the US, only three groups of spiders are poisonous and only two are found in Connecticut. The northern black widow, a native, and the brown recluse, a non-native that arrives in produce and containers from other regions, both avoid interaction with people and will bite only if threatened. If bitten, victims should seek immediate medical help.

As temperatures drop and seasons change many spiders, but not all, will seek out new places to call home. Often this is inside houses where warm temperatures provide sources of water, shelter and food, such as other insects and pests. Spiders are found everywhere except in the ocean and on Antarctica.

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