Art and science joined in Fort Worden project
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Deanne Pindell
"The Soil Remembers" is a public art interpretive trail at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

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PORT TOWNSEND — A new public art project and interactive nature trail winds its way through Fort Worden State Park this month.

Blazed by a team of artists and soil scientists — collaborators for more than a year — “The Soil Remembers” takes an up-close look at the history and geology of the area from the perspective of soil and the microbes living within it.

Contributors were public artist Deanna Pindell, Kansas-based soils scientist and artist Rhonda Janke, local painter Dawn Sagar and soils scientist John Fleming.

The team began its work by taking soil samples from a variety of different ecosystems.

In each hole left from the sample, they buried a wadded piece of cotton fabric.

After a month in the ground, the fabric was dug up.

The soil microbes had stained it, leaving subtle colors in beautiful patterns.

Meanwhile, Janke and her students at Kansas State University analyzed the original soil samples for composition, color and organic matter before identifying the soil type of each sample.

The leftover soils from each site were made into thick paints for the sign at that location.

The highly textured “soil paints” were designed for children to touch safely.

Each sign also has a section cutout, with the cotton cloth from that site attached so sunlight illuminates the transparent patterns.

There's no beginning or end to the trail, so visitors can enjoy the sites in any order they choose.

Janke, herself an artist, hopes the science-meets-art helps the community feel a stronger sense of connection and identity.

A website at rounds out the project, featuring educational information on soils and the geology of the fort, instructions on making art paints from soil and advice on working with microbes in your own soil to make delicately imprinted cloths.

“The Soil Remembers” was funded in full by the artists as a gift to the community.

It began two years ago under the Site-Specific Art program at Goddard College and was installed on the fort grounds for three weeks in 2012. This year's installation is independent of the college.

For more information, email Deanna Pindell at

Last modified: September 12. 2013 6:11PM
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