September 14, 2008 in City

Gallery highlights rights activists

Artist defines exhibit’s style as ‘graffiti meets fine art’
Kathy Plonka photo

Artist and educator Rachel Dolezal talkes about her upcoming exhibit, “Advocates for Peace,” at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene. The exhibit features paintings of people who have fought for human rights around the globe.
(Full-size photo)

Powerful faces look out at visitors to the gallery at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene.

Some smile. Some look stern. All have made their marks on the world.

Each of the 12-foot-tall portraits depicts a fighter for peace and human rights across the world. Painted on the walls, the images will be on display through October.

The exhibit is the brainchild of artist Rachel Dolezal.

“My 6-year-old came down here,” Dolezal said. “I said, ‘These aren’t superheroes like Superman and Batman. These are real heroes.’ ”

Some are well-known – civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., nonviolent resistance leader Mahatma Gandhi and farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez.

Others may be less familiar to the general public.

Aung San Suu Kyi fought for democracy in Burma, also known as Myanmar, beginning in the 1980s. She was imprisoned for seven years for running for office before being released in 1995. She still cannot travel freely.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980 as he celebrated Mass in El Salvador. He was a vocal advocate for human rights.

Carly Zalenski is a young American who began collecting food and other goods for the needy and before age 14 raised enough money to build a school in Vietnam.

“We’re trying to expand the education beyond the typical names,” said Dolezal.

She added that with so many social justice advocates to choose from, she had a hard time paring her list to 15. She worked hard to represent people across cultures.

Quotes and information are displayed beside each portrait.

“It’s kind of graffiti meets fine art,” Dolezal said.

And even after they are painted over, the portraits will remain, Dolezal said. “These faces will become a part of this building.”

Amy Cannata

Trash activist scores a win

It’s not too often that the average citizen takes on City Hall and wins.

Gina McKenzie, a real estate agent living near Spokane’s Corbin Park, and her neighbors launched an aggressive effort a year ago to combat a decision to switch garbage pickups from the alleys behind their homes to their front curbs.

The change was implemented for thousands of residents across the city whose alleys were too narrow to accommodate large new automated garbage trucks.

McKenzie and her neighbors fought the change with a tenacity that couldn’t be ignored.

Earlier this week, City Hall announced it is reversing the policy adopted in 2007 to require about 2,500-plus households to haul their trash to the street for weekly pickups. The city is purchasing smaller trucks that can safely maneuver in alleys, including in historic areas such as Corbin Park.

In an interview this week, McKenzie was conciliatory. “It’s nice to try to find a win-win situation, and that’s what happened here,” she said.

“The neighborhood was aroused, deployed,” she added. “It affected them at a basic level.”

Mike Prager

Neighbors fight mine proposal

Until recently, Michelle and Donald McVey only spent summers on their property north of Athol.

“We would come camp on the property and say, ‘One day we’ll be able to afford to put a house on here and retire here,’ ” Michelle McVey said. “It’s our own little piece of paradise.”

That day is here, but McVey says retirement isn’t as relaxing as she hoped. Instead of gardening, she has become an activist, joining neighbors in opposing a proposed gravel mine and rock crushing operation.

They fear mining would spoil views, drive down property values, and bring dust and noise to an area where the loudest sounds come from a train passing miles away and the bleating of a neighbor’s sheep.

David Haman, of Hayden Lake, is proposing the operation for 160 acres he owns off Anglin-Roberts Road in Bonner County, bordering Kootenai County.

About 70 people attended an August meeting of Bonner County’s Planning and Zoning Commission and about 45 people signed up to speak.

“The people who testified, with the exception of the applicant and his representative, were 100 percent in opposition,” said Bonner County Planning Director Clare Marley.

Although a county planner recommended approving Haman’s application for a conditional-use permit for mining in an area zoned rural residential, the Planning and Zoning Commission has questions.

A hearing was set for Sept. 23, but Haman is asking for more time to research the stability of the soil, how mining could affect the stability of homes perched on the ridge Haman wanted to dig into and the effect on the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

Planning commissioners also are asking for a revised site plan, an aerial photo showing the proximity of houses to the property and information about a gas pipeline just east of the site.

Taryn Hecker

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