ECOSS, Kavage and Kistler brought The Living Barge Project to Duwamish in 2006

In 2006, a unique and innovative project was initiated on the Duwamish River that brought together art, ecology, and community participation – The Living Barge Project. This collaborative effort was introduced by ECOSS (Environmental Coalition of South Seattle), Kavage & Kistler Art and Environmental Design along with several organizations and individuals who came together to contribute to the restoration of the river while engaging the local community in learning about its ecological history. In this blog post, we will explore the project’s background, goals, and impact it had in raising awareness towards a healthier urban environment.


The Duwamish River is a significant part of Seattle’s history, serving as a vital source of water for commerce, transport, and livelihood. Over time, however, various environmental factors such as industrialization have led to pollution and habitat degradation in the river’s surrounding areas. Many species of salmon have been affected due to these deteriorating conditions affecting their ability to survive.

Acknowledging the urgent need for transformation in the relationship between ecological systems and urban growth, The Living Barge Project was conceptualized that aimed to re-establish the native plants along the Duwamish riverbanks and educate people on the importance of urban ecology.

Goals of The Living Barge Project

The primary mission of The Living Barge Project was to create an active public space along with a living sculpture garden that serves as an educational platform about native plants’ significance in restoring river habitats. Through this project, ECOSS, Kavage & Kistler sought:

1. To reintroduce native plants on board a floating barge near South Park’s marina providing a safe space for juvenile salmon during their migration.
2. To engage local community members in plant propagation sessions building a shared sense of responsibility to care for our natural resources.
3. Use public arts platforms to spread awareness on urban ecology and environmental issues affecting Seattle’s rivers.
4. Provide opportunities for local artists to collaborate with ecologists in creating informative installations about native plants and their role in supporting biodiversity.

The Impact

In September 2006 it launched with an amazing eco-art installation by interdisciplinary artists team Kavage & Kistler who created beautiful sculptures inspired by native plants such as salmonberries, cottonwoods situated near South Park marina which further accentuated the environment with more diverse visitors such as birds and humming bees.

Moreover, this project had successfully bridged cultural barriers by involving diverse ethnic communities in plant propagation sessions through workshops facilitated by ECOSS staff such as “Green Home Green Garden” open house during which selected native plants species were propagated on an old dredge barge acquired from Alaska Bering Corporation.

Lastly, The Living Barge Project continues to educate younger generations about native plants playing a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity in our ecosystems supporting other species living within it. It encouraged introspection among community members regarding our capacity both positive or negative impact on our surroundings thereby creating sustainable partnerships committed to environmental stewardship.

While The Living Barge Project was introduced back in 2006, it has left a lasting impact when it comes to environmental awareness in Seattle. By combining art with ecology, its innovative approach demonstrates how creative strategies can bring communities together and inspire a collective sense of responsibility when it comes to preserving our environment. Since then numerous other projects acting similarly have emerged all over Seattle bringing us closer toward reconciling our urban environments with nature. It is now up to us as individuals across different scales from individual actions like planting native shrubs or using pesticide-free insect repellent which directly contributes towards restoring our relation with natural ecosystems making way for healthier urban lives for ourselves future generations too