posted September 17, 2001

Enviro Performance Artist

When Billy Curmano decided to swim the entire length of the Mississippi River, he did not care about setting athletic records. Curmano's swim was not an athletic event, but an artistic performance which he titles "Swimmin' in the River."

During his swim, Curmano encountered everything from sewage barges to alligators. He sees his swim an environmental statement, and has since translated his experiences from the 2,367-mile journey into a performance piece called, "Muck Minnow, the Gill Boy."

Curmano will perform the piece at Hope College on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. in the Knickerbocker Theatre. The public is invited, and admission is free.

The nationally known performance artist's appearance is the first part of Hope College's Critical Issues Symposium, which focuses on the environment this year. Although the symposium itself runs on Tuesday- Wednesday, Oct. 2-3, the issue is being addressed in a number of ways outside of the usual two-day time period. The Holland Area Arts Council will also feature an exhibition of Curmano?s works from Friday, Sept. 28, through Saturday, Oct. 6 There will be an artist's reception on Friday, Sept. 28, from 6-8 p.m.

Curmano's unusual art works have resulted not only in national media attention, but the reception of several prestigious art awards and grants. Besides his swim, Curmano welcomed the year 2000 by fasting for 40 days in Death Valley while videotaping the experience, has been buried alive for three days, and with his musical band has performed for cows.

In describing "Muck Minnow, the Gill Boy," Curmano said, "The obsessiveness of the river project turned me into something other than human." In the piece, Curmano's character Muck Minnow believes he has grown gills and developed webbed feet. This leads him to create carnival posters of himself, announcing that he is the latest sideshow attraction, the Gill Boy.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located in downtown Holland near the Hope College campus at 86 E. 8th St.

The Critical Issues Symposium, "Earth Matters: Daily Decisions, Environmental Echoes" takes place on Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 2-3, on the Hope College campus. The symposium will begin with the keynote address "Designing a Better World" by David Orr of Oberlin College on Tuesday at 7 p.m., and will continue through mid-afternoon Wednesday with an assortment of keynote addresses, panel presentations, focus sessions and related events. The symposium is also welcoming the Tony-award winning San Francisco Mime Troupe on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Additional information about the symposium and related events may be obtained by calling (616) 395-7893.