In 2021, endangered species and social justice artist Britt Freda created collaborative public art installations of painted cedar salmon for the headwaters of Vashon Island’s two major salmon-bearing creeks. The installations raise awareness for protecting and improving watershed habitat. Freda worked with schools and the community to create these two installations. Salmon native to our region are currently classified as threatened or endangered yet more than 137 species depend on salmon, including humans.

School installation: As a VAIS resident, Britt Freda worked with 5th grade teachers and their students at Chautauqua Elementary to create a collaborative installation of painted cedar salmon. Students also participated in a related salmon science unit with Vashon Nature Center. More than 90 students came together in small groups to install the collective artwork in Heron Meadow, on the eastside of the Vashon Center for the Arts campus which is located in the headwaters of Judd Creek.

Community installation: Shortly after the school program, Britt held a public art workshop open to all members of the community. The painted wooden salmon from this workshop are now installed as part of an educational “Salmon walk” at the Vashon Heritage Museum, located in the headwaters of Shinglemill Creek. Visitors are led by the painted salmon to the site of a future rain garden while they learn how to be stewards of watershed health and hear the story of how a 6th grade science program instigated the rain garden. This Salmon Walk is part of the natural history exhibit Natural Wonder: an island shaped by water, curated by Vashon Nature Center.

Some of the wood salmon remain paint-free. Over the coming year, numerous island artists will also participate in this installation by picking a cedar salmon, painting it, and returning it to the “stream”.

This project was made possible with support from Puget Soundkeeper’s Alliance, The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and a Vashon Nature Center Waterworks grant from King County Wastewater Treatment Division.