Rainbow maker opens art fest

Published on Thu, Jul 12, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Rainbow maker opens art fest

By Jack Kintner

The three-day International Arts Festival at Peace Arch Park begins July 20 with something really unusual: Fred Stern, an internationally recognized artist, will create rainbows in the sky.

With the help of fire district 13 equipment, Stern will spray 12-14,000 gallons of water into the air on Friday evening, simulating a rain shower and creating a rainbow over the field adjacent to the parking lot at the north end of 2nd Street. The following evening, he plans to produce one south of the Semiahmoo marina with a Bellingham fireboat. He will make his rainbows between 6:10 and 7 p.m. on both nights.

Stern has produced rainbows at “40 or so” different locales around the world, including New York City and Amsterdam. “I once thought of myself as a performance artist,” he said, “but since the 1992 United Nations-sponsored Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro I see the rainbows more as a statement about world peace and global unity. Now, I just refer to myself as the Rainbow Maker.”

His experience in Brazil led to what he considers his most important work, putting a rainbow over the United Nations building in New York in 1996. He considers the rainbow to be the most appropriate symbol for a flag that would represent earth, and “in that piece the planet’s flag was flown over the flags of all nations.” He has failed twice. “The first time I tried, in Baltimore,” he said, and in Silver City, New Mexico, which at the time was in a drought.

“It’s a collaboration,” Stern said. “The rainbow is produced cooperatively by the sponsoring organization, the local fire department, those attending and nature.” He feels that Blaine “couldn’t be more supportive.”

Most people know that rainbows happen when sun strikes water droplets such as falling rain or in the spray from a fountain. We see drops because of light reflecting off their surface, but when the triangle between the sun, the drop and your eye is just right then we are able to perceive the light that enters the drop, reflects off the inner surface and back to our eye, the water inside the drop acting like a prism.

“A Peace Park such as this is a natural place,” Stern said. “There won’t be bleachers since rainbow viewing is an active, not a passive, process. If you want to, you can walk right up to the falling water, where if you’re close enough the rainbow shrinks into two concentric circles. By that time, you’re also getting wet,” he grinned.

Stern’s rainbows will lead into three days of art and music in Peace Arch State Park. The International Art Festival will also feature music by the North Cascades Concert Band, the Soul Plumbers, Cherelle Jardine and other local and visiting musicians. Sunshine Coast sculptor Peter Schmidt’s special exhibition, “Wood, Stone and Bone: The Awe of Nature” will invite viewers to touch, even sit on, ancient pieces of natural history. Other exhibits include Peace posters, presented by Lions Club International, a fine arts show and sale, art demonstrations, children’s’ workshops, and tours of the park’s sculpture exhibition.

For more details, contact festival organizers United States/Canada Peace Anniversary, Inc., at 332-7165. Dr. Stern’s website URL is http://www.zianet.com/rainbow.


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