The art of sustainability

If there's a single sign that the sustainability movement has blossomed, it's the sheer volume of terms related to it — more than 1,000, according to one count.

Community supported agriculture, food miles, edible school yards, mob stocking, pasture raised, permaculture: Sustainability buzzwords capture often-complex ideas in short forms, but they can be mystifying to the uninitiated.

To help remedy the situation, filmmaker, writer and photographer Douglas Gayeton and his wife, Laura Howard-Gayeton, began traveling around the country three years ago, gathering information about sustainability terms from people involved in the movement.

The couple, who split their time between California and Italy, planned to create a dictionary of terms with accompanying photos. They called the effort the Lexicon of Sustain Ability.

But with their list of words burgeoning past 1,000, they decided to expand the project to include a traveling art exhibit of photos, short films and a website at

The Ashland Hardwired building at 340 A St. will host an exhibit of the photos from 5 to 9 p.m. during the First Friday Art Walk tonight. People can view the art and are invited to share their prose and poetry about food, farming and other sustainability topics during an open mic session.

"We want to create an opportunity to share and discuss and talk about these ideas," said Wendy Siporen, executive director for Thrive, a nonprofit organization in the Ashland Hardwired building that promotes local food. "We encourage people to come and listen."

The exhibit will showcase 24 photos, with each illuminating one or more sustainability terms.

The photo for "Mob Stocking" shows Virginia farmer Joel Salatin with his herd, or "mob" of cows, which he shifts around on pastureland using a movable electric fence. The cows graze in a certain area, where their manure enriches the soil. When they are shifted to a new spot, the previously grazed area has time to recover.

Some photos could make viewers question how far they would go in the name of sustainability. The "Backyard Pollinators" photo shows a small boy, Elliott Gillespie, with two stacks of beehives he persuaded his parents to let him have in his backyard. His little brother jumps and cavorts just a few feet from the hives.

Writing on the photo states that the Ballard Bee Co. collects 4,000 pounds of locally produced honey each year from Seattle-area hives like those in the Gillespies' backyard.

Other photos seem to tell a whole story. "The Salmon Counters" shows a top image of two Alaska Department of Fish and Game workers counting fish that pass through the slats of weirs for a monitoring project. A bottom photo inside their spartan, isolated cabin shows mosquito netting, a guitar to while away the evening hours and a shotgun — which the men have not had to use — to ward off bears that frequent the remote area.

The photo exhibit will be on display through September at Ashland Hardwired, formerly the Ashland Hardware Store. The building, which has a central common area, is home to several businesses and nonprofit groups.

Ashland Hardwired is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The exhibit of large-format photos will be shown at 100 locations across the nation. Each exhibition site will receive sets of the 24 photos.

Siporen said Thrive will receive two sets of the photos and plans to give one set each to sustainability clubs at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College after the September exhibit in the Ashland Hardwired building.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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