A coalition of environmental activists and artists is hoping that the pen isn’t just mightier than the sword, but also more powerful than big bucks, as they try to protect Michigan’s Saugatuck Dunes shoreline from development. The group, which calls itself The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, is planning to raise the money they need to succeed in their endeavor with a book, The Saugatuck Dunes Artists Respond to a Freshwater Landscape, just out in hardcover at $35.
All revenue from sales of the book will go into a legal fund, created by the coastal alliance to support Saugatuck Township. For the past three years, the township has had to defend itself from ongoing lawsuits brought against it by Aubrey McClendon, an Oklahoma billionaire and the co-founder of Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the U.S. McClendon, who in 2006 bought the Michigan land for $39 million, has sued the township repeatedly, disputing the taxable value of his property. According to published reports, McClendon is filing these lawsuits to force the alteration of local zoning ordinances so that he may develop the land into residential subdivisions.
“Independent booksellers are a community of activists. The book is in itself an activist tool, a great communication tool,” declared David Swan, Michigan-based Sleeping Bear Press sales and marketing director, who volunteered his publishing expertise to the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance to produce and market The Saugatuck Dunes. “We’re hoping this book will sway someone to do the right thing.”
The Saugatuck Dunes includes 85 full-color reproductions of photographs and paintings by both well-established and emerging visual artists of the dunes that line the Kalamazoo River as it empties into Lake Michigan. The artwork by the 31 contemporary artists (out of a total of 41 contributors) was juried by Joseph Antenucci Becherer, founding curator of the Sculpture Program at Frederick Meijer Gardens and Scupture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., and E.W. Ross, dean of Special Programs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The book had a 5,000 copy first printing and is being distributed by Partners Distributing. Since it started shipping in late June, Partners v-p Sam Speigel told PW 100 copies have sold out of 500 in the distributor's inventory. "For a book that retails for $35 at this time of the year and in economy, it's selling very well," Speigel said, "It's going to be a strong regional title for the rest of the summer and into Christmas."
Roberta Rubin, the owner of the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, north of Chicago, intends to stock “lots” of copies of The Saugatuck Dunes. “Chicagoland will respond to this book,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of interest, as a lot of people here drive around Lake Michigan; the dunes are magical. I’d like to rally some people myself.”
In addition to be distributed by Partners the book is available at www.saugatuckdunescoastalalliance.com.