The Salmon School

Opens November 18, 2023

Exhibition Overview

The Salmon School is presented as a temporary sculpture consisting of 600 mirrored glass forms, suspended as if a school of fish. The sculpture’s display is concurrent with maritime or riverine environmental DNA projects – the collection of natural water samples and analysis of those samples for shed DNA – conducted with local communities, growing in both number and scale as it generates awareness.

SCHOOL, the Joseph Rossano Salmon Project, was created and first exhibited in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. At the time, the project involved collaboration between Museum of Glass, Bellevue Arts Museum, Hilltop Artists, Schack Art Center, Trout Unlimited, Glacier Peak Institute, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This exhibition, informed by tribal elders from the Upper Skagit Tribe, quantified the diminished state of wild salmon and steelhead populations on the Skagit River.  

This first exhibition highlighted issues confronting wild salmon and natural salmon habitats throughout the range of these fish. SCHOOL proposed the positioning of an entire run of wild Pacific salmon — mirrored glass forms sculpted from molten glass by concerned individuals from around the world — within a known space, such as a basketball court. By placing a seemingly endless resource in a universally understood space, SCHOOL offered a perspective exposing the sustainability issues facing wild salmon today. These fragile forms of mirrored glass reflect not only the environment on which the fish depend, but also the viewer: not only the cause of the problems confronting salmon today, but also the solution. This inaugural exhibition was further contextualized with first-hand video accounts from the committed scientists, artists, and Indigenous peoples of the Salish Sea.

Since its first exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum, April —July of 2019, the project was renamed The Salmon School. The project was a keynote presentation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UN COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. In partnership with the Missing Salmon Alliance, other wild Atlantic salmon NGOs, and the River Clyde Foundation, eDNA workshops took place on the regenerated River Clyde, at the mouth of which Glasgow is situated.

Subsequently, The Salmon School has begun to travel the globe on a circular journey, serving as a symbol of hope — hope that, through awareness and community building, we can foment real change. In the summer of 2022 The Salmon School was exhibited at Balmoral Castle, the private Scottish residence of Queen Elizabeth II, the first work of contemporary sculpture to exhibited at that historic site. With the support of the Balmoral Estate and the River Dee Trust, eDNA collection took place on the River Dee. With the support of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, in winter 2023 The Salmon School was at The Macallan Distillery in Speyside, Scotland. In November 2023, The Salmon School returns to the Pacific Northwest at the Museum of Glass.

More information at

Detail, The Salmon School at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, Glasgow, Scotland (November 2021).

The Salmon School at Balmoral Castle, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, Crathes, Scotland (Summer 2022).

Featured Images

IMAGE credits

  1. SCHOOL at Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA (April 2019).

  2. The Salmon School at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, Glasgow, Scotland (November 2021).

  3. Crathes Elementary School students participating in a citizen science activity at Balmoral Castle, River Dee, Scotland (Summer 2022).

  4. The Salmon School at the Macallan Estate and Distillery, Aberlour, River Spey, Scotland (Winter 2023).


Organized by the artist.