Over the last two months select images from Fair Shake’s By Foot Project were on exhibition at the Huntingdon Arts Council in Huntingdon, PA. The Project sought to place our advocates in the places we serve by traveling them by foot and, oftentimes, across an entire state or portions of several states. The second trip in this Project, from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, was photographed by Sarah Anne Wharton with contributions by Josh Eisenfeld. The entire 5-day, 334 mile journey along the Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal came to life in the Huntingdon Arts Council exhibit.
Walking into the closing reception and making my way through the exhibit, I was reminded of the people I met and the harsh solitude between meetings, the legacy mining pollution and more recent oil & gas and pipeline development challenges, and the inviting nature of local commerce appearing along the protected trail. A cluster of photos depicted people we met who later became clients. It was during that run that I realized we needed to do more for the people in these regions. Helping an individual or group through an acute environmental need during desperate circumstances doesn't necessarily prevent those desperate circumstances from reoccurring. And it also doesn't help impacted communities build wealth in the midst of environmental devastation. Yet, we're capable of achieving both of those things by walking alongside our clients to help them determine their environmental future.
The reception question and answer session highlighted the desperate need felt in Central Pennsylvania, the lack of available information about environmental impacts, and an understandable level of doubt that a long run can establish the necessary connection to fully advocate for these communities. The goal is not just to go on a long run, but to be present with people in the places we hope to serve and realize the difficulty that exist in trying to move forward when environmental decisions are being made for communities without their input. We hope to bring the exhibit to many more places throughout our service area to continue the discussion. Please contact Sarah Anne Wharton at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas and exhibit opportunities.