This spring, Auburn University continues its annual interdisciplinary series, Art in Agriculture, which brings together artists, designers and scientists to examine a topic related to agriculture, food, the environment or natural resources. This semester’s series is titled, “Reclaiming Ground,” and includes two exhibitions, several workshops for kids and seven lectures. One exhibition combines agriculture and architecture, called “Agritecture,” and another features sustainable designs by students in the Landscape Architecture Program, Design Program and Art Department. The lectures investigate questions such as: What is the role of the artist and designer in society at large? Can ordinary citizens make a difference in their local ecologies? How can a university encourage its students to become involved in their community? Art in Agriculture is jointly hosted by AU’s College of Agriculture, College of Liberal Arts and Department of Art.
Artists and scientists will explore “Moving Perspectives – approaches to understanding water through geology, environment, art and society” at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois, October 13, 2009. The panel discussion includes George Roadcap, Illinois Water Survey; Cecily Smith, Prairie Rivers Network; Brett Bloom, artist and activist; Brigit Kelly, poet; choreographer Jennifer Monson; and moderator Michael Scoville, an environmental philosopher. The talk is part of Monsons Mahomet Aquifer Project, a series of public dance performances, workshops and a mobile gallery, October 10-18, to inform and engage the communities in East Central Illinois dependent on the aquifer and draw the audience into their own understanding of their relationship to water. Monson intends the iLAND project to “draw connections between our scientific and political relationships to natural resources and the cultural frameworks that shape our perception and relationship to these resources.”
This will not be the first place you’ve heard of Jon Stewart’s interview with Jim Cramer, of Mad Money, on the Daily Show. This may be, in fact, one of the last places you’d expect to see it mentioned. This is a blog about environmental art. The Daily Show is a mainstream political comedy show. The interview was largely about finance, investment, and the economic crisis (which are not separate from natural resources, blah diddy you know the drill . . . )
But as comedian, Stewart provided an invaluable service. He called Cramer out. He urged Cramer and his network to use their visibility and connections for the public good, and not in service to investors, corporate interests, or mere ratings. He chided Cramer for misusing his powerful influence.
And that’s the essence of its relevance. At greenmuseum.org we’re constantly seeing artists who are using their craft as a tool for the public good, whether with education, aesthetic power, or literal utilitarianism. They’re doing it with the planet in mind, defending rivers, forests, communities, connections. Jon Stewart is defending the very nature of work, the transparency of media, and his parents’ retirement fund.
To all of those who voted to cut NEA funding: I defy you to look at the body of work on greenmuseum.org and not understand the public service that artists provide. Tell me that Jon Stewart lecturing Cramer like our nation’s Cultural Daddy isn’t achingly important. Come to grips with the incredible responsibility that comes with the work of culture. And I say: boo-yeah. Now let’s get some work done.