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Tar Creek through the eyes of artists, scientists

September 24, 2013 2:15PM

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Tar Creek scene from Vaughn Wascovich's A Strange Place to Call Home”

The theme for the 2013 Pittsburg State University Interdisciplinary Lecture Series, set for Sept. 26-28, is one familiar to anyone who has lived and worked in the Four-State area for any length of time. The series, which bridges art, science and politics, will look at the Tar Creek Superfund site as both a major environmental issue and also a place that many still call home.

Art Department Chair Rhona Shand said the department hosts a series of lectures each semester that relate to a theme provided by an art exhibit in the University Gallery. The lectures draw on the expertise of faculty and guests from a wide variety of disciplines.

“It pulls the rich resources of the university community together in a wonderful way,” said Shand.

This year’s series begins with two lectures on Thursday, Sept. 26, in 103 Porter Hall. PSU faculty member Darren Botello-Samson, an expert on the effect of property rights litigation on environmental regulatory agencies, will begin the discussion at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m., artist Vaughn Wascovich will talk about his work, which makes up a new exhibit, “A Strange Place to Call Home,” in the University Gallery.

Wascovich’s images document not only the current environmental problems found at Tar Creek, but also attempt to convey the close relationship that local residents have with the land. His photographs are intended to reflect the social, physical and emotional implications of living in a compromised environment.

Wascovich is an associate professor at Texas A&M University/Commerce. He received is MFA at Columbia College and has more than 20 years experience as a commercial photographer as well as more than a dozen years teaching photography. Wascovich is currently a visiting scholar with the Harvard School of Public Health.

On Friday, Sept. 27, the series will open at 9 a.m. in the Governors Room of the Overman Student Center with introductory remarks from Shand and a welcome from PSU President Steve Scott, who grew up in Baxter Springs, near the Tar Creek site.

From 10-11:30 a.m., PSU archivist Randy Roberts will moderate a panel discussion by Gene Bicknell, a southeast Kansas native with a long career as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and entertainer; Ed Keheley, a nuclear engineer who served on the Oklahoma Tar Creek Task Force-2000; Alicia Mason, assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Communication; and John Sparkman, founder of the Tar Creek Basin Steering Committee and executive director of the Picher Housing Authority.

Artist Vaughn Wascovich will speak from 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. From 1:10 until 4 p.m., there will be a series of short presentations by Jim Triplett, PSU biology professor and an expert in aquatic biology; Morgan McCune, PSU catalog librarian and a poet and artist; Steve Ford, a PSU biology professor and an expert in wildlife ecology and land management; Kyle McKenzie, a Webb City, Mo., artist; and Xiaolu Wu, a PSU assistant professor of biology and an expert in cell and molecular biology.

The event will conclude with open discussion from 4-4:45 p.m. and closing remarks.

For information, contact the PSU Department of Art at 620-235-4302 or visit the department web page at www.pittstate.edu/art.

©2013 Pittsburg State University