Endangered Planet Gallery owner Charles Michael Murray’s attempts to schedule a series of events to commemorate Earth Day and its 91-year-old founder, John McConnell, have brought a surfeit of additional honors and connections — from a city proclamation to an appointment by a United Nations representative.
“The concept here is actually very big, and everything else falls under that,” Murray said. “That’s what John is all about. His concepts are global, connecting people, eliminating the boundaries that we’ve had.”
McConnell worked with then-United Nations Secretary General U Thant to establish the first International Earth Day in 1971.
Today, celebrations are held worldwide; although many people celebrate Earth Day in April, Murray said that he is sticking to McConnell’s original intent to align the commemoration with the vernal equinox.
A “Peace and Earth” pole by Paul Vauchelet will be placed in the sand, in honor of the United Nations Peace Prayer Societies Peace Pole Project.
In addition to the customary “May Peace Prevail on Earth” wording, the pole will also say “Una Vita Terra” (or “One Life Earth”) in honor of the gallery and its Earth Day commemoration.
The stainless steel pole contains cutouts that will “sing” when the wind blows through them.
More than 200,000 similar poles have been installed in at least 180 countries throughout the world. Murray is currently trying to find a permanent home for Laguna’s new one; he said that one has stood outside Laguna Leather for more than 20 years.
“This is not a festival,” Murray said. “This is not a carnival. This is about a concept, and getting back to the basics of the Earth.”
A reception for the McConnells will be held at Endangered Planet Gallery, 384 Forest Ave., Suite 13, at 3 p.m. on March 20. At 4:45 p.m., the gathering moves to Main Beach (or will stay at the gallery in case of bad weather), to mark the official time of the equinox, which occurs this year at 5:07 PST. The gathering will then proceed to City Hall at 5:45 p.m. in time for the 6 p.m. council meeting.
At 6 p.m., McConnell and the gallery will present a proclamation to Mayor Toni Iseman and the city council, designating the city as an “Earth Trustee City,” which is a concept developed by McConnell.
Murray hopes that the proclamation, written by Jon Ellowitz with concept direction by Murray, will inspire the city to become an example for others.
“Are we going to wave the banner that we’re going to be an environmental town? Time’s going to tell,” he said.
At 6:30 p.m. March 21, a panel discussion about the goals and future actions of the new “Earth Trustee City” will be held at the Forum Theatre on the Festival of Arts grounds.
“We’re hoping that the environmental community will take up the flag and run with it,” Murray said. “We’ll be there to support if needed.”
An environmental film — “Altered Oceans,” by Los Angeles Times staff — and an appearance by flute prodigy Evren Ozan are also scheduled. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and tickets are required; they are available at Endangered Planet Gallery and Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, 354 No. Coast Highway, and a maximum of four tickets will be given out per request.
Doors open at 6 p.m.; attendees are asked to arrive by 6:20 p.m. Those without tickets will be let in on a space-available basis after 6:25 p.m.
The panel will be introduced by Mayor Toni Iseman and moderated by Harry Huggins of the Endangered Planet Foundation.
Joining McConnell on the panel are Greg O’Loughlin, of the Environmental Committee of Laguna Beach; electrical and energy engineer Richard Henrikson; Charles A. White, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Western Area of Waste Management; and Joanne Tawfilis, executive director of the United Nations Assn. of the USA’s San Diego chapter.
Tawfilis heads the chapter’s Art Miles Mural Project, which aims to facilitate global harmony through art by the creation of the world’s longest painting.
To date, Tawfilis said, more than 1,500 murals have been painted by more than 50,000 people from 100 countries.
The final project is to be 12 miles long, with a different theme for each mile.
Murray has recently been appointed the director of the project’s Environment mural mile. The project is in support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence Among Children of the World.
It will culminate at a gala event on the 2010 International Day of Peace.
Back at home, students at the Montessori School of Laguna Beach will create a 5-foot by 12-foot painted mural on March 14, which they will present to McConnell on Earth Day.
Volunteers who wish to assist the children are welcome. In addition, Endangered Planet will host an exhibit of murals from around the world later this summer.
The gallery will also offer limited-edition prints of a design that artist Laurel Burch made for the mural project. And that’s just the beginning for Murray, who has many other surprise tricks up his sleeve for the future.
“The concepts have just been flowing, like a stream of fresh water,” Murray said. “It’s all flowing with positive energy. And when you share that with others, it’s contagious.”
For more information, visit www.endangered planet.org or call (949) 497-5690.