From the heart of Riverside, a water spirit emerges

For more than two decades, artist and Florida Master Naturalist Sarah Crooks Flaire’s work has orbited the themes of the natural world. Exploring themes of the river, its surrounding ecology, and our interactions with nature, Crooks Flaire’s current project strives to draw the viewer in to become part of the creative process, introducing people to the river environment and its ecology along the way.

In the Mouth, the Oyster and I is interactive both in creation and performance. Supported in part by a Florida Blue-funded Spark Grant from the Cultural Council of Jacksonville, the yearlong project kicked off with a series of public workshops in downtown’s Spark District to piece together various components of a “playful celebration of estuary life” on the St. Johns River.

Sarah Crooks Flaire Studio Spark Grant Water Spirit Project

Crooks Flaire crowdsources recycled materials and enlists children and their families to contribute their time and hands-on creativity to transforming discarded items into everything from plastic recreations of microscopic plankton and crab larvae to upcycled-fiber oyster beds.

The piece de résistance, a snakelike “water spirit” 30 feet long and counting, is comprised almost entirely of plastic drink bottles woven with the Japanese kumihimo method, traditionally used for samurai armor and jewelry-making.

Sarah Crooks Flaire Studio Spark Grant Water Spirit ProjectAt a recent Downtown Art Walk, her latest workshop, “How to Build a Waterspirit,” taught participants Crooks Flaire’s method of weaving collected plastic bottles into a Chinese dragon-inspired parade puppet. Rather than overwhelming youngsters with an overload of information about pollution, imperiled waterways, and the long-term effects of dredging and other manmade influences on the river, these workshops introduce children to the inhabitants of the river and its tributaries, while teaching small steps they can take to preserve clean water and wild spaces, starting with the simple concepts of recycling and reducing reliance on disposable containers.

Children ages 6-15 are invited to enter an estuary-themed haiku contest. Details and worksheets are available at www.crooksflaire.com under the Downloads tab. The deadline is April 1, and entries may be delivered to the children’s or teen’s departments at the Jacksonville Main Library, or mailed to Evervess Art Studio at 2701 Rosselle Street, Jacksonville, FL 32205.

Join the next fun community activity on Culture Day, Sat., May 2 in Hemming Park. The Water Spirit will make its public debut, emerging for an interactive parade accompanied by music and celebration. The project culminates at Community First Saturday on June 6 on the Northbank Riverwalk with a celebration of life in the estuary, with appearances by the Water Spirit and youth-created characters based on inhabitants of the river.

Crooks Flaire’s workspace, Evervess Studio, has served as home base for the past 18 years as the CoRK Arts District grew up around it.

Sarah Crooks Flaire Studio Spark Grant Water Spirit Project

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