Humanity on the Fence
A new public art installation, called Fencelines, redefines the only barrier separating Richmond’s residential neighborhoods from the Chevron oil refinery: a wire fence.
“It is a participatory project meant to engage folks and get a message to Chevron, but also gather visions that offer a future that is different and will hopefully transform this situation,” says Graham Laird Prentice, one of the co-creators of the installation.
Fencelines incorporates community-painted slats along the fence, which is also decorated with ribbons intended to indicate which way the wind is blowing. Pollution from the Chevron Richmond Refinery, also the largest greenhouse gas emitter in California, doesn’t confine itself to the refinery’s side of the fence.
In addition to transforming the actual fence, Fencelines also occupies space at the Richmond Art Center, where visitors can find a sculptural fence with more painted slats. During free community events held at the center, people can come and decorate their own slats with messages regarding their feelings around Chevron, the Richmond community, and climate justice to place on the fence.
This past April, photographer Lonny Meyer attended Spring Family Day to document how a community coming together for a day of art, positivity, and love can also be an act of resilience against environmental injustice.
The event produced an incredibly positive turnout according to Laird Prentice, but he has been mostly moved by what the voices of the community have had to say. “The messages have been incredible. They’re about climate justice, but they’re more specifically about community care, self care, and love. The way they’ve all been woven together–there’s a deep humanity in it. We could have never predicted how powerful it would be to give over the microphone.”