Note: This is a work in progress. With each update, new people, organizations and additions to the library will be added. Use the comment page to suggest people, organizations or books and other media to build this resource.
See Salmon Who's Who
See Directory of Salmon Organizations
See Essential Salmon Library
art, science, culture ... and a touch of humor
Directory of Salmon Organizations...
AlaskansFirst (Anchorage, Alaska)
Ecotrust (Portland, Oregon)
North Olympic Salmon Coalition ( Olympic Peninsula, Washington)
Raincoast Conservation Foundation (Sidney, B.C. Canada)
The Salmon Center and Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (Hood Canal, Washington)
Salmon Defense (Olympia, Washington)
The SeaDoc Society (Orcas Island, San Juan Islands)
Soils For Salmon (Washington State)
Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Iniative (Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington State)
Soul Salmon … Almost 20 Years Later.
Where Have All those Unique and Beautiful Salmon Gone … And Will They Ever Return?
Based on an interview with Sara Mall Johani and Tom Jay, August 3, 2019.
First, The Back Story
It all began with garlic … kind of.
Back in the 1980’s a small group of artists and community activists, largely in the Chimacum & Port Hadlock area south of Port Townsend, realized that the most iconic creature within their home landscape, the wild salmon, had come to be scarce, little appreciated, and in some places threatened with extinction. What to do? People were doing things, in particular, trying to restore chum runs to Chimacum Creek, but not in any organized or coordinated fashion.
One of these people, Sara Mall Johani heard about the Gilroy Garlic festival. She asked her partner, Tom Jay, “What would it be here?” The answer was so obvious: a salmon festival. It was a great idea, but where to begin. A community joined around garlic just didn’t happen overnight.
The answer came a year or so later. Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife was developing ideas for a statewide awareness program called “Centennial Salmon” in conjunction with the State’s 1988-89 Centennial celebrations and activities. Jay, Mall Johani, Ray Lowry and others saw this as their opportunity. People were eager to participate in the Centennial and at the same time help local wild salmon.
Out of this came the annual Salmon Festival and other celebrations, the ever popular “Fin” the 30 ft. slide-through salmon, salmon sculptures, games, trading cards, watershed quest events and myriad other activities. It was a renaissance of sorts, one that seemed to be happening in parallel in other places in the Pacific Northwest. Around 1990, Wild Olympic Salmon (WOS), a non-profit organization whose very foundation was volunteer dependent, locally centered, human scaled was formed, largely centered in the Chimacum area, lead by Mall Johani, Jay, Lowry, and an enthusiastic group of creative families.
At the same time, responding to this wave of support for doing something to save the dwindling numbers of wild salmon in its rivers, the Washington State Legislature created its Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group program (RFEG). The objective was to involve local communities, citizen volunteers and land owners in the State’s salmon recovery efforts. The state was divided into 14 regions, each with an independent non-profit group, led by a Board of Directors and supported by members. The program would be funded by a $1 fee on every individual fishing license and $100 on every commercial license.
Tom Jay and others realized that Wild Olympic Salmon, with its more local focus and strong volunteer orientation, would not meet all the requirements of the State’s RFEG Program so they helped establish the North Olympic Salmon Coalition (NOSC) to represent “Region 7” in 1993.
Now there were two strong voices for salmon restoration and awareness in the North Olympic Peninsula area. For about ten years they worked in parallel; Wild Olympic Salmon continuing its largely volunteer educational activities and projects around Chimacum Creek, while NOSC, with its state funding and broader mandate, built paid staff capability and tried to work throughout the entire North Olympic Peninsula. Still, there was considerable overlap.
Eventually it became clear that It was time for everyone to work under one umbrella. NOSC had regular funding to maintain the needed staff and organizational infrastructure. WOS volunteers were being stretched thin and needing a break. So, in 2005 WOS handed over its successful education/awareness and volunteer portfolios to NOSC, and ceased to exist.
The Birth and Life of Soul Salmon
Wild Olympic Salmon had built a dedicated core group of artists and independent minded people who loved what they had been doing related to salmon. Some of their dreams were outside of the WOS or NOSC vision, in particular creatively using salmon-inspired art to raise funds and awareness. They had observed the way, in the 1990’s, that towns in Switzerland had introduced beautifully painted and sculpted cows into their streetscapes, and how communities all over the world followed suite with not just cows but with imaginatively decorated pigs, sheep, horses, and even fish (catfish in New Orleans).
So, why not salmon here in the Pacific Northwest, Sara Mall Johani and Tom Jay asked themselves?
Thus, in 2000, they established a new umbrella organization under which to do this. Mall Johani, in her research into the history of her western Washington adopted homeland, had discovered the Native American word “Tah’manawis”. One hundered years ago it was commonly understood to embody the ideas of “mystery, spirit, magic and power” throughout the region. Tah’manawis thus became the name of their newly formed non-profit entity, dedicated to merging art, human creativity and community into a force to represent and help wild salmon.
Under the Tah’manawis umbrella they launched the Soul Salmon project, where “Salmon People Nurture and Protect Wild Pacific Salmon”. Here is what they had to say about it in a promotional brochure:
Art can stop you in your tracks like nothing else!
Soul Salmon 2001 is a public art project intended to raise awareness of wild Pacific salmon. It educates, familiarizes and engages the imagination, promoting and stimulating protection of wild salmon.
The project will culminate in a gala art auction in April, 2002 to raise money for local charaties and restoration projects.
Soul Salmon are 8 foot long salmon sculptures made of fiberglass, transformed by local artists, students and other creative spirits, and publicly displayed in communities throughout the Puget Sound.
Sponsors purchase a “blank” sculpture, and commission a local artist to transform it into a piece of public art. Finished sculptures can be donated to communities or used to raise money for charity and restoration projects chosen by the individual sponsors.
Tom Jay sculpted the male and female coho blanks, and his wife Sara Mall Johani did the alevin. Almost one hundred were eventually fabricated and sold. Cites such as Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C. each bought ten, had them decorated, put on public view, used for awareness and auctioned off. Others went to businesses, community organizations and individuals.
By November of 2001, 35 salmon were displayed at the “First Splash” event held at Bellevue Art Museum. Then they were paraded and displayed all over the region until the final gala auction in April, 2002. One even spent six months on display at the Chicago Zoo.
Over $43,000 was generated to support projects and salmon related work throughout the Puget Sound area. Everyone agreed that it was a rousing success, yet, like most original art, not easily replicated. The core group of volunteers were ready to move on to other dreams and reclaim personal and professional lives. Soul Salmon’s visionary founder, Mall Johani was ready to pass the leadership torch to someone else, to build on the dream and reform it in a way they saw fit; yet nobody has stepped forward. The website, soulsalmon.org still tells the story up until mid 2002; go there for photos and lots of inspirational words and images.
So where are the Soul Salmon today? I am launching an effort (with “crowd-sourcing” help) to track as many of them down as possible. Some are in public or easily seen locations, some are in private collections, at least one has been lost due to theft. One is in the process of being restored to its original glory and expected to be publicly displayed once again. And, a few are still for sale. See the gallery below for a status report those displayed in Bellevue and decorated in other places (Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C., independent of the Bellevue show and auction).
And, just maybe, somebody will be inspired to take this great idea and run with it anew. Just as we can never have too many salmon returning to our streams, we can never have too many salmon to feast our eyes on, to make us smile and wonder and stare and think about this beautiful creature. Tom Jay still has the original fiberglass molds, waiting patiently in his Chimacum foundry for the return of the Soul Salmon.
Click Here to See Soul Salmon Gallery showing all (that I have been able to find) soul salmon sculptures, artist names and locations. If you know of any not shown here, as well as any of the missing informtion (shown in red), please go to comments page on this site, or contact Sara Mall Johani at thelateralline.com.
And, the soulsalmon.org site has a gallery with lots more photos of the process, artists and finished pieces.