Another Being Creative

By on January 25, 2017

Remembering the life of artist, filmmaker and conservationist Anthony Birkholz.

People across the valley have been mourning the death of Anthony Birkholz. Friend Kelly Halpin created the above image in his honor.

Jackson Hole, WY — “Another being creative in the endeavor of the eternal now.”

That was the tag line of beloved artist and environmental activist Anthony (Tony) Birkholz, who passed away January 18 surrounded by friends and family at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit. Birkholz, 32, had been in a brief coma. His exact cause of death is still unknown.

Birkholz grew up in Minnesota and moved to Jackson in 2006. He worked as a filmmaker and digital editor for a number of local businesses including Circ Video, Teton Gravity Research, and Yoga Today. He was very involved at the Teton Artlab. In recent years he gave much of his heart and time to Buffalo Field Campaign, a nonprofit organization that works to protect bison and their natural habitat.

As friends responded to his sudden passing, many shared stories of his lasting impression in their lives. Resoundingly, people extolled Birkholz’s gentle nature, his ethic of kindness, and his deep spirituality.

“It’s amazing the impact one person can have through the simple act of leading by example,” said artist Mike Parillo, a friend to Birkholz. “Men like Tony stand out like a gold brick on a black sand beach. I was touched by his infectious positivity, and he made me rethink how I could be a more kind and positive influence on the world in which I operate.”

“Tony was of those people whose spirit just comes out of him,” said Wren Fialka, Spread the Love Commission founder. She called Birkholz one of her closest friends. “He was really mellow and quiet, incredibly loving, aware, and present.”

Fialka joined dozens of friends and family in the ICU before Birkholz passed, and described feeling his presence in the room. A massage therapist, Fialka traveled to be by Birkholz’s side so she could put oils on his feet in the hospital bed.

“Even though that day was so hard, Tony made it a special day,” she said. “Every time I was overwhelmed with sadness, I could hear him giggling in my ear. He reminded me about the cosmic giggle, which is a realm where all this pain and suffering and drama that we create doesn’t have that heaviness anymore.”

Twenty-one-year-old Noah Jones remembered Birkholz as a friend and mentor. Jones met Birkholz two years ago when he first moved to the Jackson area. They floated the Snake River together and skated at the Driggs skatepark.

“He was inspiring,” Jones said. “He was so intelligent, much beyond any friends I had at the time. He opened me up to being more outgoing and pursuing dreams no matter the cost.”

Full Circle Frameworks owner and DJ Rocky Vertone remarked on Birkholz’s “gentle soul.”

“He taught me to just mellow out,” Vertone laughed. “He definitely helped me see things in a different light. He’d roll into my shop, and it was like, ‘Hey Tony!’ and we’d talk for a while. He always had positive things to say.”

Both Jones and Vertone noted Birkholz’s skill as a BMX rider. “He was a badass,” Jones said.

Friends also commented on Birkholz’s talent as a cinematographer and editor. Yoga Today executive producer Kim Whitman said Birkholz was a “true artist” who gave of himself to the benefit of his community, wildlife and the planet. “He funded his own documentary projects that spotlighted underrepresented causes from bison conservation to community recycling,” she said.

His colleague at Circ Video and Teton Gravity Research Alden Wood had worked with Birkholz in 2007 and again in 2014, calling him “brilliant.” Working alongside him on a recent project caused her to reflect, “If I could be editing with someone of his talent and creativity I’d better pay attention and soak it all in.”

For many, it was Birkholz’s courage to be his true self and pursue his artistic dreams that inspired similar personal awakenings. Close friend Danielle Hynes said that he taught her “to live with my heart, and to live with love, not fear.”

Hynes said Birkholz would stay up all night working on his digital media creations, beautiful meditative videos blending music, images, and symbolism.

One video, “The Singing Pond Milieu” shows looping footage of gently lapping waves moving over a rock in a clear pond. The rock appears to pulse like a heart, sending ripples and slow waves across the surface of the pond. The viewer is drawn to contemplate spirals originating at the rock then spinning out, the pattern of the sky reflected on the water, and perhaps how the center of the universe might be anywhere, or everywhere. His videos can be viewed here.

A number of Birkholz’s friends said they felt him still with them. Hynes laughed and said she thought he was playing innocent pranks on her from another dimension. “He’s a trickster,” she said. “He and I would laugh so hard together. He has a dry and witty sense of humor.”

But Birkholz also embraced the deeper parts of life, as well as the light. “He wanted people to believe in themselves,” Hynes said, a sentiment echoed by his longtime friend, artist Lyndsay McCandless.

“He inspired us to look within ourselves to see what our higher purpose is, and honor who our true selves are,” McCandless said. “He pushed me to recognize that through art, I was having an impact and bringing people together.”

Now, bringing people together is what his passing has done, a fact many acknowledged. McCandless called it a web that he had woven throughout his life, and the world, connecting the many different individuals and communities he touched.

McCandless is helping to organize a celebration of Birkholz’s life that will take place in June, the month of his birthday as well as the summer solstice. The celebration will include an art exhibit curated by McCandless and a fundraiser for Buffalo Field Campaign.

In the meantime, those wishing to donate to Birkholz’s memorial funds should visit his GoFundMe campaign organized by friend Casey Hardison, who writes on the fundraising page, “Tony embodied the sun and the light of the world. Tony warmed, and will continue to warm, the hearts of everyone he encounters with infectious laughter and thoughtful words of wisdom.” PJH

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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