School, an exhibition spearheaded and conceptualized by artist Joseph Rossano, casts light on the diminished state of global salmon and steelhead populations. The installation features a life-size school of mirrored salmon, sculpted from molten glass by concerned glassmakers from around the world. Participating makers send their contributions to a central location where the glass fish are silvered by Joseph Rossano and then sent to join the exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum.
Rossano's project is inspired by the Skagit River, the fourth largest outflow to the Pacific Ocean in the continental United States, and its dwindling run of salmon and steelhead. Once numbering in the millions, the Skagit’s salmon stocks now number barely in the tens of thousands. Whereas the river's steelhead population, which historically numbered in the tens of thousands, now numbers only in the hundreds. Because the steelhead return to the Skagit in the late winter when cupboards were bare, they once served as an important food supply to indigenous peoples. The stories of the region’s people and their use of its land over thousands of years offers captivating and actionable insights that Rossano hopes will bring disparate groups together for the benefit of these fish and those dependent on them.
To kick off the project, the Museum of Glass hosted a makers event on October 12, 13, and 14. During that long weekend, the MOG team worked with Rossano and a range of other glass artists to create fish for the exhibition. Trout Unlimited, an organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of wild fish populations co-hosted the event, making it a celebration of the fish with films and talks from scientists, indigenous peoples, and sportsmen.