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 Nov 15 - 21, 2012 
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Culture Shock

The Hive Minds

Political art group draws up the cost of coal

By Marisa Demarco

For two years, members of The Beehive Collective interviewed hundreds of people about how mountaintop removal and coal mining affected their lives. After those conversations, the hive's illustrators drew up visual metaphors and scenes from the stories they'd been told. Images were fused to create a long, intricate banner. The painstaking process resulted in the kind of art you can look at for a long time, forever gleaning more meaning and noticing new details.

If Americans could see the full effects of the devastation, there would be a revolution.

Robert Kennedy Jr.

The "True Cost of Coal" art campaign focuses on environmental and human struggles in Appalachia. There, companies are scraping forests off mountains, toppling vast quantities of soil into valleys and then hacking off the rock to expose coal seams. Environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. said if Americans could see the full effects of the devastation, there would be a revolution.

The hive is getting the word out and telling the story—visually, powerfully—of the people who've been hurt by this extreme mining. The collective is touring other parts of the country coping with fossil fuel extraction. Final poster in tow, volunteers are aiming to spark a conversation.

They'll be swarming Albuquerque, likely because of its proximity to coal plants and hydro-fracking. There are four coal-fired plants in the Land of Enchantment. And New Mexico has been home to fracking for decades with 60,000 oil and gas wells in the state, according to a KUNM News report. Nearly all of them are hydro-fracked.

As part of a national tour, the Beehive Collective will be at Small Engine Gallery (1413 Fourth Street SW) on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m. The talk is free. For more on the event, go to bit.ly/BeeMind. For more on the nonprofit, all-volunteer, political art organization, check out beehivecollective.org. The poster is available for purchase there, along with imagery from other projects throughout the collective's 12-year history. The bees tackled the war on drugs, corporate colonization, destructive U.S. foreign policy and a host of other issues.

More than 75,000 gorgeous political posters have been distributed through grassroots means. The work is anti-copyright—members encourage people to reproduce and distribute their graphics to get the word out.

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