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A Floating Revolution

Stay Wild

Portland’s wettest protest party

Story by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison
Photos courtesy of Human Access Project

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There is a revolution floating through Portland Oregon. Some call it a “Riverlution”. Most call it The Big Float. Every summer since 2010 a vibrant rainbow of people and inflatable animals have been gathering on the shores of the Willamette to float on the idea that Portland is actually in love with it’s river and all the life it sustains, including mermaids!

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“I am a sucker for mermaids! We see lots of mermaids at the float,” says Willie Levenson, Ringleader of Human Access Project (HAP) who organizes The Big Float. The HAP mission is to, “transform Portland’s relationship with the Willamette River.” Willie’s goal is to challenge people about how they feel about and relate to the river, and looking to connect them through active recreation, so more people will care for its health. All waterways that flow through a city have the reputation of being filthy for good reason. Urban runoff, sewage overflows, and industrial pollution are real things especially in the Willamette. However, the water is safe to swim in, especially in the summer months when we don’t get much rain. The simple act of jumping onto an inflatable swan and floating with some mermaids down the river is a form of protest against the perception that it’s polluted and not fit for fun.

The Big Float is only one way to change the river’s reputation. HAP does events like the Mayoral Swim, the Portland Beach Bash and Clean Up, the Valentine’s Day Dip, and has helped create access to actual swimming beaches like Poet’s Beach. Willie says, “This year HAP is opening Portland’s second official swimming beach Audrey McCall Beach [Psst...next to the floating dock near the Hawthorne bridge]. Portland’s first official eastside swimming beach. We privately fundraised to pay for the lifeguards - a portion came from proceeds from The Big Float.“

Our city is only as good as our citizens. All this work being done to love our river back to life is only happening because of our volunteer efforts and the funds being donated. Registration for The Big Float is only $5 through July 7th, $15 at the door.. Heck, if you’re experiencing abundance donate more money. Any effort you make goes towards making the river more accessible for people.

Willie and all the other volunteers are working to change the river’s reputation and it’s a hard thing to measure. Yet it’s happening, “After nine years of work I can tangibly feel the conversation changing.”

The Big Float

Saturday, July 13th, 10am-6:30pm

Register today and mark your calendar!

Registration is only $5 through July 7th and $15 at the door. 

Expert floaters hit the Wristband Pickup Party on July 7th 5-7:30pm to save time with entering the float.


Need more reasons to go? Check these out:

March in the parade at: 1pm

Floating Stage Shows by Blitzen Trapper, Redray Frazier, and PERK Portland Grooves

Food carts, beverages

Changing rooms and check-in for valuables

Chair massages

Fun for kids


To help bring more attention to The Big Float we’re releasing our Summer 2019 issue at the event. Swing by the Stay Wild booth to grab new & old issues for free!

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Eco-Beauty Tips

Stay Wild

The Same Chemicals that are Harmful to Your Body are also Harmful to the Environment 

Story by Leah Thomas // @greengirlleah


The skin is the human body’s largest organ and absorbs a shocking five pounds of makeup every year on average. The same chemicals that are harmful to your body are also harmful to the environment. The extraction and manufacturing of these products contributes to carbon dioxide emissions, as well as toxic waste that is hard to dispose of. These tips will help you make purchasing decisions that are good for your face and the planet.

A few ingredients to avoid in everyday and popular products

Parabens are a household name in skincare, haircare, and cosmetics. They’re a commonly-used preservative, but can be easily absorbed through the skin and are harmful in large quantities. You can avoid parabens by looking for “paraben-free” labels. Without preservatives, the cosmetics may have a slightly shorter shelf life, but the pros outweigh the cons when you consider environmental and personal health.

DEA (diethanolamine) is a compound that gives cosmetics their creamy or sudsy nature. It also helps adjust pH and counteract toxicity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, DEA can cause irritation to the nose and throat when inhaled and irritate the skin with rashes when applied directly. These are less common and more easily avoidable with natural products.

Petroleum is another common additive in the cosmetic industry. When you first think of petroleum, you probably think of the oil industry—and you wouldn’t be too far off. The same crude oil used in fuels is a staple in many over-the-counter makeups, lotions, and sunscreens. One of the biggest health deterrents is that it can’t be metabolized, meaning once it enters the body, it’s hard for it to ever leave naturally.

Reduce // Reuse // Recycle // Repeat

Consider the health of the environment and how you have the power to create a healthier world around you with every purchasing decision

Big name brands like M.A.C., Garnier, AVEDA, and Origins all have well-established recycling programs for when you’re done with your cosmetics.

Instead of filling up landfills that release methane, you can mail in your finished items or take them to the specific store on your next shopping trip.

Gravitate toward brands that offer multiple-usage options like refillable eyeshadow palettes versus single-use items with a shorter lifespan. This will give you versatility in the colors you use and allows you to produce less waste from disposing of full, mainly plastic-based palettes.

Investing in good quality products will save you multiple trips to the store over the course of a year. Lastly, look for applicators that are bamboo-based or made from recycled materials. 

All Day. Every Day.

Stay Wild

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Our little magazine is made in an old brick building in Portland Oregon. The North Coast Seed building is located right on the train tracks, so seed could be loaded easily back in the olden days, but today the building is loaded with creative people like artist Blaine Fontana (above with his van). One of our other studio neighbors is The James Brand and they make everyday tools to help with everyday adventure stuff. We love all the goods they make. Check their stuff out >>>

Forgotten Places

Stay Wild

Endangered Folk Art Sites

Photos and Artwork by Souther Salazar // @southersalazar

Story by Monica Choy // @choybot


My partner Souther Salazar and I got a wild hair and created a community art project called The Trading Tortoise which led us all over the U.S. and Canada for six months. Involving a tortoise-shaped tent, special objects, trading, and sharing stories by memory, we wanted to see what would happen if we considered objects to be symbols of memories rather than monetary value. Would people want to trade their objects and stories for ours? 

Maria Cotera and Jason Wright, friends we were staying with in Ypsilanti, Michigan, suggested we visit various folk art sites across the country. We had stopped at roadside attractions before, and I knew about naive art, but I didn’t get their insistence that we must visit folk art sites. I was working on my own weird art, but was used to thinking of art as existing in galleries or museums, apart from day-to-day life. 

Jason decided to drive us to sites around Detroit, showing us why folk art sites are important. Our first stop was a block-long art environment called the Heidelberg Project. In the 1980s, Tyree Guyton transformed abandoned houses where he grew up on Heidelberg Street up into sculptures. With his grandfather Sam and neighborhood children, he used paint and junk from trashed lots and houses, transforming a forgotten place into art and a symbol of resilience for the community. 

We then visited Dmytro Szylak’s backyard, also known as Hamtramck Disneyland. This colorful display of handmade whirligigs, Christmas lights, wooden cut-outs, and found objects towering 30 feet tall can only be seen from the alley behind his house. 

Our last stop that day was Silvio Barile’s Italian American Historical Artistic Museum. Silvio was in the back of his pizza-shop-turned-museum on a sweltering summer day. Seeing visitors, he put on a short-sleeve button-up shirt, which he left unbuttoned, greeted us with a round belly, and happily gave us an impromptu tour. 

Silvio immigrated to the U.S. as an Italian refugee during World War II and opened a pizzeria. To commemorate the beauty and history of his native Italy, and in response to the commercialism and materialism he saw in America, he built his museum. The walls inside the restaurant are plastered with collages, toys, and handwritten signs about morality, Rome’s greatness, the importance of family, and Catholicism. In the patio behind the pizzeria stands his first cement sculptures, 10-12 feet high, painted colorfully, and studded with trinkets and broken tiles. Across the alleyway, Silvio’s sculpture garden holds 50 years of hand-built works three times the size of those at the pizza shop: figures of Athena, Caesar, and remakes of the Roman Colosseum and Statue of Liberty. These stand alongside figures of his family members, American presidents, the Three Stooges, and a monument to Maschio, a pig Silvio raised as a child. Our minds were blown! 

After that day, we found ourselves detouring dozens of miles during our trip to visit folk art sites. The Orange Show in Houston, an ode to creator Jeff McKissack’s favorite fruit, was a personal favorite: a neatly-constructed park with brightly colored mosaic messages and ironwork. He built it from 1956-1979, finishing a year before his death. Maze-like passageways, balconies, and tiered seating surround a stage where a large, steam-powered juicing machine sits. McKissack imagined thousands of visitors would come to see the orange juicing show one day. The day we visited we had the whole park to ourselves. 

You can’t just look at pictures of these places. The magic of these holy places is actually being there: the grounds, surrounding landscape, resourcefulness, vision, will, and perseverance all coming together for creation—art springing forth from nothing. You can see the hand in the work and imagine yourself making it. This art is untrained. This art says that anyone can make art. 

The way the work was made is what makes it special and also endangered. Folk art sites are wild and subject to the elements. After their creators die, they must be maintained or they fall by the wayside. 

Each site we visited was a singular artistic vision come to life, often representing a lifetime of work and self-appointed purpose outside of social norms and capitalism. Sometimes there was help from family, but most of the sites we visited were built in solitude over many, many years in spaces that were also the artists’ home. They lived their art and did things their own way. I believe each artist who created the places we visited envisioned an audience, but the drive to create the work was independent of outside validation. Maybe what makes them the most endangered is living in a world needing constant instant validation. 

These spaces were made to broadcast messages to the world, at times channeling messages directly from the heavens, or as a humble reminder to “look at your trash,” which is a divine message indeed. 

Like our friend Silvio said, “There is…much more than materialismo.” 

Some other folk art sites we’ve visited: 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens // Philadelphia, PA

Porter Sculpture Park  // Montrose, SD

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron  // Sumpter, WI

Prairie Moon // Fountain City, WI

James Tellen Woodland 

Sculpture Garden  // Sheboygan, WI

Thunder Mountain Monument // Imlay, NV

S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden // Lucas, KS

Wonder View Tower // Genoa, CO (under repair)

Nola Tree House // New Orleans, LA (gone)

See and learn about more folk art // John Michael, Kohler Arts Center // Sheboygan, WI // jmkac.org