Marketing the Common Merganser

Migrating magnets broaden scope of knowledge of local biodiversity

Local artist Rhiannon Snaith is trying to broaden the scope of Victorians' knowledge of local biodiversity.

Local artist Rhiannon Snaith is trying to broaden the scope of Victorians' knowledge of local biodiversity.

 

When local artist Rhiannon Snaith heard the shocking statistic that people recognize more corporate logos than natural species, she was  inspired to do something about it.

She’s hoping to broaden the scope of the public’s knowledge of local biodiversity through an interactive art installation, called Migrating Magnets, featuring three species of birds that can be found locally — the Belted Kingfisher, the Red-Breasted Nuthatch and the Common Merganser.

“Victoria is famous for its birds,” says Snaith. “It’s even become a destination for bird watching.”

In partnership with the Sierra Club B.C., her project Scope is a public art initiative promoting species recognition by the same means that commercial enterprises create brand recognition — by creating  eye-catching logos featuring each species and using the urban environment as the billboard.

“Every species has its own visual characteristics, known as field marks. These actually function a lot like logos when you come to know them. A big orange square might say hardware store in the same way a long slender neck might say heron to a casual passerby,” says Snaith.

She created three different magnets, each featuring different artistic style and a species easily found locally, and is handing them out to the public in hopes that they put them up around town. She’s also hoping that when someone comes across one of her magnets that they’ll peel it off and move it to a new location.

“They’re non-polluting, non-destructive and will have a good life-span outdoors,” says Snaith. “Some people will put them on their bumpers and drive across the country, some people might put it on their fridge so their guests can see it, some store owner might put it on their cash till where it will stay for 20 years. The idea is that the magnet has a life, just like a living creature.”

With help from a friend, Snaith was able to secure an Idea Grant from the CRD Arts Development Service to make the project a reality. She used the money to build a website and to print the 300 magnets she’ll be doling out Saturday, June 16 at the Bastion Square Public Market (11 a.m. To 5 p.m.).

“The magnets act like wild animals as well as like commercial advertising. They can appear anywhere, they have a particular identity, and they move around and take you by surprise,” says Snaith.

Each magnet includes the url of her website, Naturallybranded.info, where people can visit if they’re seeking more information about the project, the species on the magnet or how to identify it.

Snaith is hoping that the framework, which could be used to promote other species in other regions, will catch on and spread to other areas. She’s also hoping that other artists will want to draw, paint, photograph or illustrate other species to be included in future versions of the project.

“This is all about the proliferation of our brand, and the fun of scoping out the natural species, live or drawn, that pop up randomly in the urban environment,” says Snaith. M

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