Giant Pacific Octopus Made by DOC Specialist To Appear in Olympia’s Procession of the Species
March 17, 2016
OLYMPIA – A 25-foot-long giant Pacific octopus with dangling tentacles will take part in this year’s Procession of the Species, thanks to Kris Geringer, a long-time Department of Corrections employee.
Geringer, a corrections specialist who’s worked at DOC for 26 years, and two other local artists put in more than 400 hours during the past month to sew, paint and assemble the octopus inside a studio on Water Street. For the past nine years, Geringer’s been a volunteer with Earthbound Productions, the non-profit organization that hosts the event. She’s served as a board member for the organization for the past five years.
The event takes place the weekend of April 22 and 23 in downtown Olympia. It starts with a luminary procession at 9:30 p.m. on the 22nd, followed by the Procession of the Species at 5 p.m. the next day – though Geringer’s octopus can only be seen during the procession on the 23rd. The annual event, which began in 1995, is a tradition in which participants don colorful handmade animal costumes and march among a sea of batik banners, windsocks and giant puppets through the streets.
Geringer’s DOC career has spanned many jobs, including working as a community corrections officer and as mutual reentry and violator coordinator. Her current position requires her to do risk assessments on sex offenders to help the department prioritize their treatment and assist in determining custody levels. Geringer says that art is a great way to relive stress that often comes with working in the field of corrections.
“Glitter heals the soul,” Geringer said. “Going in and working in an art studio is very rewarding.”
The Tacoma Sustainability Commission commissioned Geringer and local artists Laurie Rasmussen and Linda Dupertuis to design and construct the octopus. They are donating their earnings from the project to Earthbound Productions.
The octopus was also displayed inside the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center during and after the South Sound Sustainability expo earlier this month. The commission also plans to display the octopus atop a tent at dozens of future fairs and community events.
Geringer notes that the Procession of the Species offers volunteer opportunities for everyone, including those who have been incarcerated. For example, a number of residents from “A Beginning Alliance” work release in Olympia have volunteered their time to help move and organize two art studios in the past few years. (Event organizers invite the public to create costumes in various art studios in Olympia during the weeks leading up to The Procession of the Species each year). Geringer used to work at the work release, which houses male and female offenders, runs a chemical dependency program and provides job search support with an on-site WorkSource representative. The residents are eligible for earning community service credit through their efforts. The experience they get from volunteering helps them transition back into their communities while getting a lot of prep work done for the event, according to Geringer.
“It’s amazing how hard they work and we really appreciate the help,” Geringer said.
In her spare time Geringer dabbles in arts and crafts, having recently completed an art welding course at South Puget Sound Community College. She also enjoys batik, papier-mâché and making luminaries and terrariums.
“I’ve always enjoyed arts and crafts but the Procession has expanded my ability to be creative,” Geringer said. “My favorite part is the collaboration that occurs between artists to make something amazing.”
For more information on the Procession of the Species or how to volunteer, visit http://www.procession.org/