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Empty Night Skies – Artists Unite to Help Dying Bat Population

Empty Night Skies - Art Show Benefit For Bats - Grindcore HouseHibernating bats in the northeastern United States are dying at an alarming pace due to the onset of White-nose Syndrome. Named for the white fungus evident on the muzzles and wings of the affected, this fungus thrives in cave temperatures. Apart from the physical ailments, afflicted bats awake early out of hibernation in an attempt to cleanse themselves of the fungus. This early awakening inadvertently leads to death from freezing temperatures as these animals attempt to find food to replenish their stored winter fats. White-nose Syndrome has already killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America and has spread rapidly across the United States and into Canada since it was first detected in 2006. The mortality rate has reached 95-98% in some populations who are on the brink of extinction. White-nose Syndrome is not matched by any infectious disease in vertebrates with this sharp of a decline in population in such a short amount of time according to USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

Philadelphia artists and partners Michael Bukowski and Jeanne D’Angelo had heard about White-nose Syndrome, but did not realize the devastating impact until they recently visited Canoe Creek State Park. This colony was home to more than 3,000 bats just a few years ago, but the couple arrived to find the majority of the population decimated by this ongoing plague. The pair then decided they wanted to do a benefit for the bats and contacted fellow artist and friend Ryann Casey, whom they knew had experience curating events to support Oceana and Sea Shepherd. The group continued to educate themselves on the situation after securing The Empty Night Skies exhibit at popular South Philly vegan eatery Grindcore House through owner and fellow animal enthusiast, Mike Barone. The organizers recently attended a seminar at the The Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia, entitled, The Sky is Falling: White-Nose Syndrome in Bats by Dr. Hazel Barton. Dr. Barton is an expert on microbial life within caves, a veteran spelunker, and is currently one of the world’s leading authorities on White-nose Syndrome.

The outlook is not so good. Barton noted that we will loose some species to this fungus saying, “Even if we found a cure today.. it would be too late.” Nine hibernating species have been affected by White-nose Syndrome thus far. It should be noted that bats are considered one of the most beneficial animals in America, responsible for eating vast quantities of insects including mosquitoes, moths, and crop destroying beetles every year. We will feel the impact of their loss.

Empty Night Skies - Jeanne D'Angelo, Michael Bukowski, Ryann CaseyBukowski, D’Angelo, and Casey would rally over 60 artists who contributed works to benefit bats and efforts to combat this killer fungus. The event was a success by all measures, great turnout, and many donations with 100% of the proceeds going to Bat Conservation International, which is also a great online resource with additional information.

Installations will continue to display at Grindcore House for two months with additional documentary screenings and social meetings concerning White-nose Syndrome. Casey also plans to curate another conservation charity show for the World Wildlife Fund in November 2012, with artist and fellow animal advocate Josh Robeson.

The organizers stressed the many ways people can become involved and help save what bats are left through research and outreach. The prevailing hope is that these series of charities will raise awareness and money for these bats to help enact local conservation efforts and federal funding for more research into cures.

An impassioned set of bat-themed artworks from a large pool of intriguing artists was met by an eclectic gathering of supporters. Attendees brought an inspired sense of urgency to match that of the contributing artists for an evening that resonated on many levels. It’s a surreal notion that an animal such as the bat, with such a large cultural impact on American life, is disappearing right before our eyes. It’s nice to see a group of people from Philly’s many walks come together for an ecological emergency in our backyard.

Photos of the event by Bora Chung of Bora Chung Photography and Joshua T. Cohen.
Words by Joshua T. Cohen

Empty Night Skies show organizers can be reached at via email batconshow{at}gmail.com

Additional Artist Info:
Michael Bukowski Official Website
Jeanne D’Angelo on Blogspot
Ryann’s Casey Online

Bat Conservation International


Set 1 by Joshua T. Cohen

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Set 2 by Bora Chung

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Contributing artists for Empty Night Skies Includes:

Heather Gargon
Kat Gun
Kate Collins
Sam Heimer
Eleanor Grosch
Jack Barfield
Vanessa Lucas
Alex McWatt
Jeremy Hush
Avalon Clare
Kirsten Teel
Joe Boruchow
Anthony Pedro
Phil Sloan
Ken Miller
Halsey Swain
Derek Reeverts
Ryan Slegel
Adriane Dalton
David Cook
Amanda Moore
Patt Whelan
Dilek Baykara
Alina Josan
Amy Duncan
Alan Brown
Ketch Wehr
Jeff Pfeil
Kathryn Moran
Emily Kohl-Mattingley
Chris Shockley
Doug LaRocca
John Mitchell
Mary Price
Stephanie Dimiskovski
Kristin Scholz
Jonathan Schoonover
Dylan Smith
Eric Clark
Joseph Hasenauer
Bonsky
Justin Gray
Alicia Neal,
Paul Romano,
Elizabeth Siegel
Tamara Waite-Santibanez
Kyle Miller
Greg Kamerdze
Justin Quinlan
Matt DeFillipo
Josh Robeson
Darla Jackson
Alex Eckman-Lawn
Zachary Baez
Nick T Demakes
Alana Reichfeld
Adrian Alexander
Jeanne D’Angelo
Mike Bukowski
Ryann Casey

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