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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Art procession ‘evolves’ in Mad-town

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The evolution of man extends far beyond the physical transition to include the expansion of man’s creativity. Man’s ability to express artistically has evolved from primitive cave drawings depicting ceremonies to include great works that grace galleries and museums around the globe. “The Procession of the Species,” a “biodiversity art parade” celebrates both Darwinian and creative evolution through visual performing art.

“The Procession of the Species” began as a yearly event to commemorate Earth Day in Olympia, Washington 15 years ago. The event gained a wide reputation and has since expanded to include spin-off processions around the globe. This year marks the second anniversary of “The Procession of the Species” in Madison. Laurie Rossbach, founder of the Madison Procession of the Species chapter, acknowledges that the “distinct flavor” of Madison’s event results from its connection with the Starkweather Creek Association Summer Solstice Festival.


Rossbach’s personal history as a social artist contributed to her motivation to found a Procession of the Species event in Madison.

“I’m from New Orleans, and in my home city, puppetry, pageantry and celebrations are just kind of in the blood. I’ve always been attracted to those types of things that peak my interest like May Day in Minneapolis,” Rossbach said. “I just thought we could use more of that in Madison.”

Rossbach realized her interpretation of the event through a Blink Grant from the Madison Art Commission. The grant enabled the creation of the initial larger-than-life parade participants, which include a deer, sun, giant owl and Charles Darwin puppet.

“They funded a project where I made some of my large puppets, and I took them around the city of Madison and popped up in unusual places,” Rossbach said of the Blink Grant.

Through increased publicity this year, Rossbach hopes to double the number of participants at the festival, which had 300 last year.

“Last year we did pretty minimal promotion. We did what we could,” Rossbach said. “We relied on things like posters and e-mail lists and flyering. We went up to the farmer’s market, and every time I would bring the puppets out, I would tell people that it was going on.” The increased publicity for this year included a table at the UW-Darwin Days, library programming, an interview on WORT, a Facebook page, a website and the creation of billboard-sized murals advertising the event.

Rossbach anticipates building valuable community connections through collaboration and the creation of art for the parade. Workshops will be held at 2717 Atwood Avenue at the Atwood Community Center to construct the artwork featured in this year’s Procession of the Species. The free workshops will begin on Saturday May 10 and continue every Saturday until the event on June 20.

“I’m going to create a large bison puppet, and I’m also going to be sculpting some frog masks. When people come to the workshops, they can collaborate on some of these large pieces,” Rossbach said. “We’ll need a lot of hands to do things like papier-m?ch? and tear strips of fabric to do the bison’s wooly coat and […] paint banners.”

Rossbach hopes the age variation at the event will be as diverse as the types of species portrayed in the parade.

“I’m aiming to have everyone from toddlers to quite elderly people. It’s really the sort of event that someone of any age can participate in,” Laurie said.

The types of mediums used in the parade ultimately facilitate Rossbach’s goal of community building and intergenerational collaboration.

“There are simple signs that we can have little children paint with tempera paint. There are very elaborate projects that you can do if you have a lot of artistic skill,” Rossbach said. “There’s really something for everyone of every age and every station of life.”

In keeping with the environmental theme under which the event was founded, all of the artwork is created using disposable materials. “All of the puppets, masks and props are made out of recycled and reclaimed materials. So we use cardboard and newspaper and brown paper, house paint,” Rossbach explained.

In addition to creating and celebrating art, the event will raise awareness about the beauty of species diversity and the necessity of conservation.

“One thing that’s really nice to have in the public consciousness is the diversity of species on planet Earth, and to just have in people’s minds species that are here and are no longer here, and to celebrate things like the tiniest little, seemingly insignificant insect,” Rossbach said. “I think it’s just really an important theme to celebrate our natural world and to not take it for granted.”

Looking forward, Rossbach aspires to build the Madison Procession of the Species into a non-profit organization. Thus far, the reception in Madison has been a sunny one.

“I think this is something that Madison really needs, this kind of group creative effort. I think people are kind of hungry for it and really grateful for it,” Rossbach said. “I’ve had a lot of love from people over Procession of the Species so far.”

Procession of the Species will appear at the Kickapoo Valley Earth Day celebration on April 24 and will perform again on June 20 as a part of the Starkweather Creek Summer Solstice Festival. For more information visit

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