Catalysts

Call for participants/presenters in a panel presentation and round table discussion, with possible breakout sessions at Scenofest, PQ2011

Roundtable Information

10am  21st June

Considering Sustainable Design: expanding the possible by rethinking the way we create

In their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue that we will never sell sustainable practice by pitching cutting back, but rather through creating products that are beneficial to the earth. As Braungart points out, ants have a greater biomass than humans, and have been industrious for millions of years, yet unlike humans, their industry nourishes the planet. This panel will consider the benefits of sustainable design practice beyond the ‘it feels right’ motivation. By Rethinking the Way We Create Things, might we be opening up to a whole new and exciting world of design possibilities?

If you are planning to attend PQ2011, are interested in this aspect of design, and feel you would be interested/available to participate, please send your proposed presentation topic (abstract), and a short bio to William Mackwood:  mackwood@yorku.ca

2pm 21st June

Sites of Performance – Theatre out of frames

This years Scenofest sees two major performance projects happening outside of a theatre building, so what is it that this form of theatre achieves that cannot be achieved through other means ? Over the last ten years there has been a real surge in the interest in making work in unorthodox spaces from garages, botanical gardens, intimate apartments to massive industrial units.  Increasingly this work seeks out intersection with other collaborators, historians, cultural geographers, urban planners as the work seeks to map hidden histories. Street theatre performance too has developed in sophistication and scale and artists are employed as a catalysts to re-imagine their futures. Work by pioneering artists like Meredith Monk, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brooks and companies like Dogtroep, Skewed Vision, Wilson+Wilson, La Machine all shaped the form, but what does the future hold ?

This roundtable considers the unique opportunities offered through this work and explore sites of performance potential for spectacle / community engagement / regeneration / as text / scenographic material.

If you are planning to attend PQ2011, are interested in this aspect of performance, and feel you would be interested/available to participate, please send your proposed presentation topic (abstract), and a short bio to Peter Reed at peter.scenofest@gmail.com

The Art of Sustainability

Visual Arts Organizations and the Modern Environmental Movement

by Jessica Broderick Lewis

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us!  http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

‘The Green Museum,’ sited in this essay, is available at our bookstore!

The goal of this study is to assess the visual arts community‘s status in the process of becoming more environmentally friendly. If visual arts organizations use the strategies presented here and choose to walk a greener path they may be able to better engage existing audiences and attract new ones, cut operating costs, generate positive public relations, increase funding opportunities, expand programming and contribute to the world’s environmental wellness.

There are five main arguments for why visual arts organizations should do their part to save the planet: impact on the  environment, role as community leaders and catalysts for change, public funding for art, saving money, and the parallels between art conservation and environmental conservation.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT (General)

 There are general operations utilized in most, if not all, organizations that can be assessed as having an environmental impact. The most common source of waste in businesses is the overuse of paper products, not purchasing recyclable  materials, and the improper disposal of recyclables. Moreover, materials such as ink cartridges and batteries are bought new, used and then tossed in the garbage, while the alternatives of recycled ink cartridges and rechargeable batteries are ignored. Toxic materials, which can include cleaners, paints, copy toner, printing materials and more, pose another problem for businesses and can be harmful to employees.

The most obvious impact organizations have on the environment, and often the most difficult to change, is the consumption of energy, water and electricity.  In 2008, the Environmental Information Administration estimated that “buildings represented 38.9% of U.S. primary energy use and account for 38% of all CO2 emissions”.  Additionally, it found that buildings consume 72% of U.S. electricity and 14% of all potable water per year (United States Green Building Council 4). This can be a result of the certain needs of an organization such as heating, cooling and equipment, but is often made worse by wasteful practices such as leaving lights and computers turned on, using outdated equipment, and poor insulation.

Finally, the transportation of employees, customers and audiences is important to examine for any organization. Many businesses encourage people to carpool, ride a bike or use public transportation. Others take it a more proactive approach by explaining the advantages of green transportation on their websites and offering incentives, such as metro passes for taking public transportation or alternative transportation stipends that can be used for the purchase and maintenance of Smart Cars or bikes.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT (Arts Specific)

All of the business practices listed above can be viewed as universal to most organizations, but within the visual arts there exists additional and often unique obstacles that need to be overcome in order to reduce the impact on our environment. Museums and galleries must be aware of how they transport their collections for traveling exhibits or moving to and from storage facilities. Authors Elizabeth Wylie and Sarah Brophy of The Green Museum assert that “next to energy use (for lighting and climate control), crating and shipping are generally seen to be the greatest resource link for institutions caring for visual and decorative art and artifacts” (200).

The safe transportation of a traveling exhibition is a top priority for museums and the delicate nature of the art requires that crating and shipping are of the highest standards. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has found that building crates that can accommodate a variety of objects in different shapes and sizes is cost effective, time efficient and better for the environment (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200).  On solution is to use Greenshipping.com, which offers       individuals and organizations the opportunity to purchase renewable energy in order to offset the carbon footprint created by your package (Green Shipping).  

ROLE AS COMMUNITY LEADERS AND CATALYSTS FOR CHANGE

Artists and arts organizations have been viewed as community leaders for decades and the choices they make often set the tone for how society approaches or reacts to certain issues and can often be a the catalyst for change. At a recent arts symposium Dr. Ford Bell, President/CEO of the American Association of Museums, offered up data that showed the ability of museums to “educate, inform and change attitudes and behavior” (Pain & Central Nervous System Week 525). The American Association of Museums feels so strongly in the power of museums to shape communities that they undertook an initiative in 1998 to explore possibilities for expanding and strengthening their presence in neighborhoods across the country. Among the many positive results was a change to the AAM’s Museum Assessment Program’s Public Dimension Assessment, a modification that holds museums to greater accountability for their image in the community (American Association of Museums).

PUBLIC FUNDING FOR THE ARTS

In an article provided by Americans for the Arts, author Anne L`Ecuyer opened her discussion of public funding for the arts by stating that “communities demonstrate their priorities and values in part by the programs and services they support with public funds” (1).  For many, the argument is that the role of a visual arts organization is to exhibit and/or collect art and to educate the public on its value – not to be leaders in environmental conservation, but how can an organization claim to serve the public, when their very policies and procedures could cause future harm to the community they exist in. If visual arts organizations desire continued funding through public dollars, they would do well to demonstrate an interest in the priorities and values of their community, which includes environmental responsibility.

SAVING MONEY

In these tumultuous economic times, a move towards green business practices can put more green in the pockets of     museums. Websites such as the U.S. Green Building Council and GreenandSave.com provide information on the initial cost of implementing green strategies, the time it will take to see a return on investment, and the dollar amount of that return, to help assess which changes are feasible for an organization. Energy is often the most costly part of operations, but there are many green alternatives that can save money over the long run. Solar energy can save an organization roughly $1,200 per year and initial costs can be recouped in only 10 to 16 years depending on appreciation of property value. Heating and cooling accounts for about 40% of an office’s energy cost – a number that can vary for museums depending on size and collections. Using radiant floors instead of a forced air system can save up to 30% on heating bills. Installing a plant-filled roof can cost about $8 to $10 a square foot, while a traditional roof costs $4 to $6 a square foot, but the green roof can save 20% on summer energy costs. Installing LED lighting requires 16% less energy and lasts 100 times longer. Additionally, there are grants and government tax incentives for making these changes (GreenandSave.com).

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION AND ART PRESERVATION

There are many within the museum community who make the connection between the preservation practices in the visual arts and the preservation of the environment. In an article entitled “Keeping Art, and Climate, Controlled” from the New York Times, journalist Carol Kino discusses the problems being caused by global warming and how museum officials are responding. She asserts that conservators have observed one rule for over 50 years: “Keep everything in the museum at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 55 percent relative humidity” and this has been made possible with the use of Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, “which typically cope with unforeseen events by working   overtime”. However museum officials have had to rethink their approach to conservation due to the increase in energy cost, decrease in museum funding and the growing effects of global warming and climate change. Kino poses the  question; “Should museums add to global warming by continuing to rely so heavily on such systems in the first place?” a question that is beginning to be examined in places such as the recent International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works conference where a panel discussion was held to look at the relationship between art conservation and environmental conservation (Kino). By understanding the relationship between art and nature, organizations will be able to better perform their role as community leader, save money, and provide additional justification for public funding for the arts.

Over the course of my research, I have learned that while there are many environmental grassroots efforts taking place in visual arts organizations across the country, there is yet to be a truly unified, systematic effort from the field as a whole.  From the research I have conducted, I have singled out three recommendations for visual arts leaders; to create discipline-wide policy and best practices for the field, to market the field’s green efforts, and to collaborate across disciplines. 

DISCIPLINE-WIDE POLICY/BEST PRACTICES IN THE FIELD

The authors of The Green Museum support the implementation of environmental policies, asserting that it “institutionalizes behavior by providing vision and frameworks, defining process, identifying goals and evaluation methods, and delegating authority” (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200). This is the vital missing piece in the move towards environmental responsibility in the visual arts community at this time. Although many organizations are making commendable strides in green initiatives, there is no overarching understanding of what the visual arts should be doing. Of the organizations    surveyed, 29% have a difficult time in changing organizational culture, something that could be made easier if there were universal environmental standards in the visual arts. 

In order to better understand what environmental policies should mean to the arts, we can brake down Wylie and Brophy’s definition into four parts; vision and framework, defining processes, identifying goals and evaluation methods, and  delegating authority. “Vision and framework” puts everyone on the same page, letting people both inside and outside our visual arts communities know our stance on environmental issues. It provides a set of best practices that organizations can measure against and it creates a supportive community where ideas and obstacles can be openly discussed. “Defining processes” involves combining the efforts of galleries and museums, consultants and engineers, and other leaders in the industry, to create a collection of industry standards. This list of standards could be incorporated into the American     Association of Museums’ accreditation process and could serve as an outline for organizations to make changes to their operations. By “identifying goals and evaluation methods” for incorporating environmental standards into museum  accreditation there will be a consistent and objective means for evaluation “Delegating authority” empowers people to take responsibility and ownership over a project, plan or program. By designating a point person within the organization to oversee environmental policies it creates greater consistency in our operations and provides employees/guests a point of contact for questions regarding environmental strategies (Wylie and Brophy, The Green Museum 200).

Beyond the organization, authority on environmental issues needs to be delegated for the entire visual arts field. It is    logical that the American Association of Museums (AAM), in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council, would be a likely candidate. AAM is a well respected authority in the field and is called upon for leadership in many other areas of museum management. Their accreditation program is sought after by most museums and their recommendations are trusted by the field, perfectly situating them to unite the visual arts community in its pursuit for environmental  sustainability.

MARKETING OF GREEN EFFORTS          

According to “It’s Easy Being Green” organizations are not making enough of a statement about their efforts to be green; “In fact, many recent and planned art museum expansions incorporate high-performance energy-efficient mechanical,   ventilation and lighting systems yet their press materials don’t mention the operational cost savings and environmental advantages, and the average person is hard-pressed to know or find out about them” (Brophy and Wylie, It’s Easy). Brophy and Wylie attribute the silence to an organization’s belief that green strategies are not part of their mission. However,  marketing green practices demonstrates an investment in the future of the community and provides an opportunity to  connect the organization’s mission with the environmental strategies they are using. An organization can achieve this by creating signage that explains their environmental philosophy, developing programs around green initiatives such as building tours, and incorporating the information into their website.

COLLABORATION ACROSS DISCIPLINES 

Some compelling figures from the survey regarding resources and supporting the need for collaboration include; 91% (of organizations) need increased availability of funds, 33% (of organizations) want increased resources for understanding green processes and 22% (of organizations) want green consultants. Foundations such as The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Doris Duke Foundation that support both the arts and the environment would be invaluable resources in stewarding     collaborations between the arts and environmental communities. A database with resources including green consultants, engineers, funding opportunities and more, could be created and utilized by organizations across the country. By  providing organizations with a central location to research information on green initiatives, share experiences and        obstacles and interact with others looking to make a change in the way their organization operates would provide some of the support the visual arts community needs.

As an arts community we continue to make the case of “arts for arts sake” to our local, state and national officials. We  insist, with good reason, that the arts enhance our lives and contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. I don’t believe we can in good conscious highlight the benefits we provide to the neighborhoods we exist in without addressing areas for improvement as well. Advancing the arts in America does not need to come at the expense of our natural world and by embracing environmental responsibility within our organizations we will ensure that the art we have worked so hard to create, conserve and exhibit will be enjoyed by many generations to come. 

Jessica Broderick Lewis holds a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University and is on the Board of Trustees for the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association in Alexandria, Virginia. This excerpt was taken from her paper entitled “The Art of Sustainability: Visual Arts Organizations and the Modern Environmental Movement”. For a complete copy of the paper, please visit http://www.library.drexel.edu/ or email jess_broderick@hotmail.com.

Rock Stars Rock Climate Change

A new song has been recorded by some of the biggest stars of music and film to support a global climate change campaign.
The project is part of the tck tck tck campaign, which is raising awareness of the need to combat rising carbon emissions levels.
This is particularly vital in the run up to the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this coming December.
‘Beds Are Burning’ is a cover of a 1987 Midnight Oil track – the group’s singer Peter Garret is now Environment Minister in Australia.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Moving Stars and Earth for Water

TODAY, Guy Laliberte, Founder of Cirque du Soleil, will promote a special water conservation message from outer space. His water conservation organization, One Drop Foundation, is producing a 2 hour, ONLINE event which starts at 5pm PCT, Friday, October 9th. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Peter Gabriel, Salma Hayek, Shakira, U2 and others will be joining Guy in the performance.

It’s called “Poetic Social Mission: Moving Stars and Earth for Water”. Yann Martel, Life of Pi author, has created a special poem for the event.
Check it Out: http://www.onedrop.org/en/default.aspx
Should be amazing… (yes, tons of GHGs have been expanded, but hopefully the positive impact from the water conservation message outweighs it)!
More details…

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Cirque du Soleil focus: WATER & CSR

Cirque du Soleil is one of my favorite entertainment companies. I was so pleased to learn from Lyn Heward, their COO of Special Projects, that a strong environmental ethic guides their work, e.g. they installed a seven layer filtration system for their O show in Las Vegas.

Obviously, they are all about the arts. Not as obvious is the fact that Guy Laliberte, the Founder of Cirque du Soleil, is passionate about ensuring equal and clean access to water. He created the One Drop Foundation, and the foundation is breaking new ground by using theater and the arts to educate people in Central American about watershed management and water conservation practices.

“Making the most of what they have, five eclectic actors are touring the Nicaraguan countryside with a show designed to entertain and educate. This resourceful theatre troupe, HAYTA (Hay theatro del agua, “The Water Theatre”)—founded by the ONE DROP’s Water, Culture and Agriculture in Nicaragua Project combines local folklore and hard-hitting facts to push people to realize how much better life could be if water and other natural resources were used wisely.  In Texoxell y el Sueño de Clarita (“Texoxell and Clarita’s Dream”), our heroine meets several characters who use or misuse water. Performances are accompanied by educational and artistic workshops with the theme of collecting and using water more efficiently.”

Applying Cirque’s creative skills to water issues is an exciting marriage I’ll call CSR: Creative Social Responsibility.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

State of Climate Art: On FIRE!

The Arts (music, poetry, theater and film) are one of the best vehicle in which to reach specific target audiences with your message.  Hollywood films (An Inconvenient Truth), Live Aid, and Rock the Vote are some examples that come to mind. However, I think we’re only just scratching the surface and need to more fully integrate sustainability messages into cultural programming. Someone needs to create a Sustainability Hip Hop Dance that rivals the Macarena.  Maybe the movements could simulate recycling?

I’m glad to see eco-luminary, Bill McKibben, agrees with me and is spurring a tidal wave of climate change art. Check out Bill McKibben’s article on the state of climate change art, includes references to many great works of eco-art.  Also check out his 350.org Art Page which showcases the intersection of marketing, art, and climate change.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Video Games + Sustainability

Video games exist for improving brain fitness, financial planning, and learning dance routines, so why not for sustainable living? The field of video games that teach sustainability strategies appears to be slowly blossoming.

  • PowerUp the Game by IBM teaches kids how to save the world by bring clean energy to communities.
  • CO2FX is a web based multi-user educational game which explores the relationship of global warming to economic, political and science policy decisions.
  • Majesco Entertainment’s “Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest” promote awareness of the perils of “…over-industrialization, deforestation, pollution, extinction and global warming.”

Post your favorite environmental video game below.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Green Awards 2009 for Excellence in Communications

For lovers of sustainability communications, viewing this award program (and past year recipients) doesn’t get much better!

Check it out: The GREEN AWARDS™ recognizes excellence in 16 categories in 2009.  The awards set out to illustrate the crucial role that needs to be played by communications in informing people about green issues, products and lifestyle choices.

Go to Eco-Catalysts