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100 posts on art and ecology resource site grows alongside a slow art-forest project

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Museum of Nature, 2004 by photographer Ilkka Halso

This is my 100th post on my art & ecology notebook site – amazing! I’m as shocked as probably you are and its made me realise that I have created quite an archive of the different means where arts and ecology intersect.

new ecoartfilm site

What started out in 2008 as a small personal notebook has grown – it initially was a place to put inspiring art & ecology projects and resources that I came across in one place and also a means to house the beginnings of my own long term art & ecology project. From a small rural location the site has allowed me to gather and make visible projects that often fall outside the mainstream agendas of many galleries and it has allowed my own practice to travel to many unexpected destinations.  For newer readers my artistic work is about creating small audiovisual works that touch on the small forest that surrounds our house that we are transforming from a monoculture conifer plantation into a permanent mixed species forest. Mostly my own work is about how we engage with ‘nature’ in general and its led me to pursue the idea of whether audiovisual video works can be used in a  more ecocentric way, if that is possible (if you are interested my  research on this topic can be found here).  My art & ecology site been quite an odd jumble of  things and early posts were a bit random, but my readership has steadily grown even though my posts can appear a bit infrequently. Thank you for all the comments along the way too – you have no idea how this small site has enabled my work to develop and connect with others!

new archive page

Anyway, to mark this blogging milestone I’ve spent a little bit of time and created an illustrated Archive page  and  a new dropdown Category section on the home page where you can easily see all the art

disciplines for instance that I have written about; from film to dance, to music to policy papers on culture and sustainability. You are more than welcome to share any of these posts along.

Some of you might also be aware that I wrote a research paper on networking the arts to save the earth earlier this year. It was a whopping 8,000 words, designed to reach out and comment on how cultural practitioners of all types could best use online social media networks. Social media is something I’ve worked with for several years in a past job where I helped develop a  large online arts community.  A lot of the paper was me trying to figure out the potential or not of social media, amongst all the hype and suddenness in which these

a new article

technologies have now appeared in our lives, and examine their value for art & ecology practitioners. The paper seemed to have struck a nerve – I expect it was probably the  fact that many working in this field are both isolated geographically but also isolated on the fringes of contemporary art practice.  A much shortened form of the article was printed in the Aug 2011 Irish Visual Arts Newsheet. It was then picked up by one of the editors as a feature article on the international

site HerCircleEzine.com –  an online site that for the last 6 years has been dedicated to women’s socially engaged practice. I was surprised and delighted –  to tell the truth the research paper had been turned down originally for an academic journal (not that I was too surprised about this as it was my first attempt) but of course, a paper on social media, should be circulating on social media not stuck in some academic journal. I’ve created a resource page of the many various art & ecology networks too – please feel free to tell me about other networks not listed. There’s more too, I’ve also been asked to write a regular column on the HerCircleEzine site about art & ecology and my research practice, starting in November which I must say is a bit daunting as if you examine the site you’ll see the articles written are of a very high standard. 

holly dog looking proud

Hollywood - smallest close-to-nature forest in Ireland (pictured: Holly at the forest entrance)

You might have also noticed the blue forest image above – the Museum of Nature created by Finnish photographer Ilkka Halso. I found this image intriguing; its from a larger body of works by Ilkka called Restoration (2004). While I don’t like the idea of putting a forest in a cage I could identify with this artist’s interest with forests. I have also come across a  number of artists who describe their art & ecology works as ‘restoration’ environmental projects. It’s not a term I use for my own forest project; while restoration of sites is obviously important I think much more needs to be addressed. Undoubtedly we can learn much from restoring sites/habitats, but for me,  I think there is something more interesting in transformation; transforming the ideas and practices of how we relate to nature (a tricky area when one begins to examine it though) and hence, transforming how we behave on this one finite earth. You might be wondering why I’ve added this paragraph at the end of this post – I was saving the best for last :-) . My tiny forest, nick-named ‘Hollywood’ has been getting some attention. ‘Hollywood’ is now listed on the new Irish database for forests that are being managed in a permanent way – its the smallest plantation undergoing ‘transformation’ to become a forest, in Ireland. We manage the forest following close-to-nature principles ( a low impact management system that follows nature’s own dynamics). As it is an ecological type of forest management it means that the forest is sustainable not only for our use (we get firewood, birdsong, oxygen, sanity etc from it) but as it will never be clear-felled; the overall biodiversity, soil fertility and carbon-sink values on the site will only ever increase.

Funny, how this writing about transformation has slipped into this post, as I often have a lot of difficulty in talking about my creative work – in fact, I think its much better presented by the forest itself (click on the image below if you can’t see the film).

If you have any comments, do write in!

transformation 2011

 

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
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‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ includes a healthy amount of creativity

Usually, when I’m at a conference, and everyone is standing in a circle and talking about what inspires them, the participants are barefoot. With dreadlocks. Also, someone is making a giant pot of beans in the next room. This was not that conference. This was the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” conference. The people in the circle were corporate VPs, non-profit directors, public health officials, and National Park Service Staff. And creative design thinking guided much of the process.

The concept of “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” is directly lifted from Parks Victoria in Australia. The idea is, basically, that nature is scientifically proven to be healthy for us, and so supporting parks is good for everybody. Parks Victoria Director Bill Jackson was in attendance, moving from group to group as we were all shuffled about to exchange ideas and brainstorm. As the chattering and shuffling went on, folks from the Grove Consultancy facilitated and drew giant illustrative doodles of emerging concepts. Like mind-mapping. Like some of us have done at other hardcore eco-conferences.

The doodles were helpful in visualizing commonalities. That’s a wordy way of saying there was a lot of common ground. There were collective calls for more research, pooled resources, branded messaging, and a reach out beyond the obvious perks of parks into the tree-less digital-screen-land most American kids live in.

This whole thing got started when the Institute at the Golden Gate created a “Parks Prescription” document, detailing non-profits across the country who were using park activities to fight obesity and diabetes. They connected with NPS director Jon Jarvis, and put the jumble of parks/health/environment people together at Fort Baker.”We need to create new partnerships,” said Jarvis in his opening remarks.

Done and done? In addition watching health insurance reps work in groups with uniformed Public Health Officers and green retailers, I ended up sitting in a group with an NPS staffer and the American Heart Association’s Ambassador of Play (yes!) discussing the possible benefits of a design competition. At the end of it all, Jarvis announced a Healthy Foods Strategy for parks, analyzing the nutritional value and sustainability of park food and creating requirements for concessionaires.

“How can we bring about a cultural change in which parks are valued not just as scenery, but as the untapped sources of healthy living that they truly are?, ” asked Jarvis at the start of the conference. It remains to be seen whether the gathering will be the catalyst for such a change. It has yet to involve the collaboration of known creatives like Presidio Habitats. But I did see one non-profit director working without her shoes.