Pacific Science Center summer exhibit focuses on wildfire, smoke

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Are smoky August skies the new normal? In addition to winter, spring, summer and fall, will the Pacific Northwest have a fifth season – a wildfire season? What are the causes behind the recent catastrophic blazes?

These are questions the Pacific Science Center (PacSci) and its collaborative partners hope to answer with its newest exhibit: The Smoke Season – a three-month museum display and art installation about wildfire and smoke. In collaboration with Washington Forest Protection Association, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Allied Arts Foundation, Seattle Center and Big Power Project, the PacSci exhibit delves into the science of wildfire smoke and how it impacts human health, public safety and the environment.

In advance of the exhibit launch, PacSci will host a panel discussion about smoke and wildfire moderated by KUOW. This pre-event and panel discussion is 7-8 pm this Friday, June 14th at the Pacific Science Center PACCAR Theater200 Second Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109. Get tickets for the event here.

In addition to the PacSci programming, the Seattle Center campus will house artwork made from burned trees from the 2017 Jolly Mountain Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Local artist Ted Youngs will display three art installations, including one piece entitled “Lone Fir” – a solo blackened Douglas fir that will stand in the PacSci courtyard June 15 through September 15.

According to Youngs:

We’re bringing these burned trees to the city to create a haven for dialogue about the fifth season that has entered the lives of the citizens of Puget Sound: The Smoke Season. It frightens me to write this, but it seems important to be clear: if this summer is like the previous two, there is more smoke to come.

In addition to “Lone Fir”, Youngs’ other statement art includes “Distress Signal,” which is a giant SOS written from carbonized logs in 52,000-point font and “Future Shadow,” which is comprised of four burnt Douglas fir laid at the base of four living London plane trees.

Said Youngs:

Smoke is a wily substance. It cannot be touched. It provides no reaction if you strike out at it or raise your voice. It burns your eyes and lungs. It suffocates. And then it disappears. You almost forget that it was there. You almost forget that it never used to be there. The trees, though, they remember. They couldn’t move when the fire swirled around in their canopies and consumed the bark on their trunks.

The installations and exhibition will run from June 15th to September 15th. Youngs will be writing regularly on topics of smoke and wildfire throughout the exhibit’s run. Follow Youngs’ blog by clicking here and learn more about The Smoke Season exhibition here.