CSPA Convergence

Earth Matters On Stage 2012 at Carnegie Mellon University

  There have been a bevvy of eco-theater conferences in recent years, but it’s great to bring it all together with Earth Matters on Stage, which took place this past May 31st-June 2 at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg, PA. It included a collection of performances, presentations and panels covering everything from carbon footprint to eco-dramaturgy. Session titles included: “Sustainable Design,” “Ecocriticism & Contemporary American Theater,” and “The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production,” among many others. That last one was by CSPA’s Ian Garrett, and involved discussions of all the usual players: Arcola Theatre, Julie’s Bicycle, the Broadway Green Alliance . . . Discussions of sustainable design carried throughout the festival and bled into discussion of performance throughout the weekend. Again and again: how do we make theatrical production more sustainable? How do we incorporate or cultural dialogue with the planet into the work? How do we make work that goes beyond “being less bad” into something that actually has a positive impact on the environment?

Below are a selection of photos from the event. Keynote speaker and performer was Holly Hughes, one of the NEA four, whose most recent work (“The Dog and Pony Show: Bring your own Pony,”) examines her relationship with her pets. Ecodrama Playwright competition winners this year included Chantal Bilodeau, whose work “Sila,” explores a cultural cross-section of inuit culture, scientific researchers, and polar bears, and Mark Rigney, whose play, “Bears,” depicts a slow deterioration of civilization through the intimate stories of a group of zoo-bound bears.  The work of Earth Matters founder Theresa May was ever-present in the discussion on eco-dramaturgy, and the weekend ended with a discussion of conferences past and future. The dialogue continues, as we discuss and discover more ways that our set of skills can serve the environment.


Applications for the 2011 Indy Convergence are open.

Once a year The Indy Convergence brings together a group of professional artists from around the country to collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects. We seek out professional artists with a passion for exploration and a unique talent or approach that will contribute to the ensemble. Participants also have the opportunity to focus on their own genre specific works and are required to teach a workshop that is open and free to the Indianapolis community. The goal of the Convergence is for working artists of various disciplines to gather, collaborate, learn, share and teach.

The 2011 Convergence will be March 9 -19.

Over a ten day period each artist:

  • Participates in one wholly collaborative “Umbrella Project”
  • Works on one or more personal “Side Projects”
  • Teaches at least one “Workshop” in their field of expertise.
  • The Indy Convergence concludes with a culminating presentation where work is shared in an open lab environment. All workshops and events are open to the public and free of charge.
  • At the core of the Indy Convergence we are “artists at work” — at work in our community and at work with one another.

Join us in Indiana this March to share space with other dedicated artists for 2 weeks of open space.

To Apply, visit the application page by CLICKING HERE

To view video and images from the last convergences, check our archives to see the artists at work!

The PlanetShifter.com Interview with Ian Garrett, Executive Director: The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Los Angeles | www.planetshifter.com

Where are you? In the present? In the future? See my lament for clues:

Things only happen here to make what happens next.

Is LinkedIn a viable artistic community in your opinion? How would you improve it?

I don’t think so, and I don’t think i wish it to be. I don’t know if LinkedIn represents a community really as much as an infrastructure. I think it exists separate from something like Facebook without competition because one is about social networks and one is about businesses networks. I also don’t see how it accommodates the needs of an artistic community.

I don’t think there is a social network that does effectively represent an artistic community out there. How specific do you allow it to sort itself? the arts are too expansive with too many points of access to be represented effectively through a network with a defined set of sortable criteria. For self-sorting facebook is more effective because it is focused on individuals not labels. For curated sorting a wiki is better since everything is of equal weight.

That’s the issue with getting past post-modernism isn’t it? Modernism was about the universal, post-modernism was about the categorized, and post-post-modernism is about the unique.

What is at the intersection of mythology, innovation and sustainability?

From now on.

What new symbols, songs, secrets, myths are you driving in the green movement?

I can tell you that I’m trying to drive it away from the color green and images of leaves. The image that bugs me the most is actually grass, since in most places it’s impractical and wasteful regardless of it’s green-ness. I think an era’s aesthetics speak to values and I think we’re pushing the value of the first nature and something more raw, less processed. It’s happening in design, supply chains and our food. I’m also trying to break the myth of technological solutions.

I’m irked by the layering of systems over existing systems to solve problems with the existing system. I’d rather break it down to it’s elemental parts. I’m a big promoter of archaic technology, like using steamed banana leaves or not vitrified drink ware in Indian. Things that were discarded as incorrect in a modern manufactured world that persists into the contemporary era.

Are you an alchemist?

No, there is plenty of magic in real science.

Tell us about your favorite modern painter and how you feel when you gaze at the work.

Are we saying modern or contemporary. I’m a traditionalist when I define the Modern era as something that happened in the beginning of the 20th century out of industrialization. If we’re talking painters though I can name a few. Magritte for being clever and questioning the mudane, Haring for balancing accessibility, message, and challenging art world constructs. I do however find myself most drawing to the infrastructural and phenomenological though and insofar as that is concerned am more trilled by visual are that engages those parts of my brain. That’s not always present in painting, so I have to mention Olafur Eliasson, who fascinates me.

How do you manage the bureaucracy that you’ve created at The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts? How do you personally support your members?

There isn’t much Bureaucracy. We’re extremely small and nimble. We’re the least incorporated we can be and have foregone 501c3 status to stay lean. I suppose we deal with the bureaucracy of partnership with more cumbersome organizations and then it’s oftentimes working within their structure.

We can make our decisions and change methodology rapidly to best accommodate our members and partners since all of the power rests between two equal executives. We’ve yet to expand our power-sharing, outside of partnerships, and those are all project based. It’s not the most profitable, but it’s in line with our core mission, which is really about information and infrastructure. We’re like the opposite of the CIA, we don’t see value in protecting our information, and support ourselves through others valuing sharing information as a desired act.

For the second part of the question though, it’s hard to say. I mean, we don’t have funds to directly support their activities. But, we try and talk directly to all of them. They have our address, phone numbers, email addresses, and ultimately all of our lines of communication like our website, social networks, twitter and so on is all us personally. If you get in touch with the CSPA, you’re getting in touch with us directly. We don’t filter that, and don’t understand ecologically mind organizations that put up blocks, since we gain absolutely zero (aside from profit I guess) from not talking and being transparent if we plan to not destroy the planet and the billions of lives that will impact.

And, ultimately, it helps that I’m the web guy too. It’s part of what I do, so there is nothing standing in the way of our web presence, we do.

What were the 3 – 5 best innovations from last year’s CSPA Convergence?

Well we did this in partnership with the University of Oregon’s School of Theater, so mind you a couple of these might be theater centric.

  • The Convergence itself. I go to a lot of conferences and I deal with but don’t like the hierarchy and artifice that often surrounds them. I prefer the camp model which, like wikis, aims to gather people around a topic and allow all of them to offer something. So I think it’s in expanding the convergence model to get between these models of conference and camp and add on more doing, not just talking.
  • Marbles in a Jar – This is Avery simple re-use model we’ve been working on. It looks at volume of material used as a marble in a jar. You fill the jar until you’re done and then add a second jar for the next and so on to next iterations. For each unit of reused material you move a marble from the first jar to the one for the current project, if you use new material you add new marbles. It doesn’t have to be marbles and jars, but it’s a very simple way to engage your use of raw material
  • Energy Budgets – We’re trying to get theaters to incorporate the expenditures of energy into budgets for making. It incentivizes energy innovation by the user. If no one uses energy efficient devices, it doesn’t matter.
  • Eliminating recycling programs – this idea started at this convergence in response to the 6 receptacles the University of Oregon had for waste. It’s too much. The idea waste receptacle is only one for compost-ables. It’s not entirely feasible though. When speaking at APAP last month I brought this into a more realist goal. Not recycling because you don’t have anything to recycle. At the CSPA we print proofs of the Quarterly for editing that we share and otherwise we don’t generate material waste by our business. That sort of blows people’s minds.

I think Jack Capitalism and Eli Sustainability are headed for a blow-out, down and dirty fist fight in the months ahead? Ready?

I’m ready, but I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be particularly violent. I think that the necessity of sustainability will be the biggest check on a capitalist future. I think about the labor movements of the post-industrial world and the evolution of that “conflict”. I also think about the 4 roles in the actor-centric model of political change and the political pendulum. Sustainability is different still, it’s an opportunity if we want it to be, but as with all of these models of shift, the future is hybrid, not contrary.

* * * * * * *

Ian Garrett Bio –

Executive Director of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA), a non-non-profit arts infrastructure organization where he collaborates with others like the LA Stage Alliance, University of Oregon, York University, The Arcola Theater, EcoArtSpace, the Royal Society of the Arts, Diverseworks ArtSpace and others to work towards sustainability in the arts, ecological and otherwise.

Programs at the CSPA include a rich online resource guide, curricular development, a quarterly journal, annual convergence, and the development of collaborative local materials re-use programs and a certification program for arts making being initiated through an international partnership between US, Canadian and British producers. The center was founded by funds received through the 2007 Richard E. Sherwood award for emerging theater artists from the Center Theater Group (CTG) awarded to be used forming a working relationship consulting with CTG on the integration of ecologically sustainable practice into their production.

Ian teaches Sustainable Theater and Management Technology courses at the California Institute of the Arts and has been featured in American Theater, DramaBiz, and The Design Magazine and has spoken at The Central School for Speech and Drama, St. Louis University, and the Indy Convergence along with most arts conferences in the United States.

He originally studied architecture and art history at Rice University in Houston, Texas, but has since come to build an awarding winning practice in live performance and installation art, having also attended California Institute of the Arts to complete MFAs in Lighting Design and Producing.

Connections –

Ian Garrett
Executive Director
Ian at sustainablepractice dot org
The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts
c/o LA Stage Alliance
644 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Profile Summary: William “Willi” George Paul Green Business Certified Sustainability Consultant and strategic vision planner, writer and program designer for environmental planning, civil engineering and non-profits for over 15 years. Executive producer at PlanetShifter.com generating 125+ thought leader interviews and 1200 posts to-date since EarthDay ’09. Produced two innovative online community building projects as a PhD Student in Environmental Planning and Design at Virginia Tech. Designed the electronic charrette while earning MA in Urban Planning. Developed marketing and online community building strategies for over thirty Internet start-ups.

Willi Paul, Art and Sustainability Consultant
415-407-4688 | willipaul1 at gmail dot com
Current Portfolio | Linkedin Profile | Digital Archive

Selected Work Product by Willi Paul:

2009 Indy Convergence

The end of my February was spent in Indianapolis, crossroads of America, dead center of Indiana, home of the Indy Convergence. I was brought in last year and spent 30 hours making something. I decided to make a little more space for making this year and spent 10 days in Indy. As part of what was made was this short video I put together for the open lab/performance we culminated tour time together with. 

I had led a couple of workshops on sustainability in performance and also led the effort to measure our waste, primarily by weighing our waste and then running numbers on what that waste meant. Here is that video:


Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium Update

The Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium On Theatre and Ecology is now closed to play submissions, and have reissued their call for proposals for the symposium. The CSPA sesions are also still open, and are linked at the top of the column on the right. We hope that you’ll apply to one or both and foresee some overlap and sharing in the final symposium. We, the CSPA, will be concentrated on the more scientific research side of the symposium, but are very excited to see everything everyone has to offer!

The Revised Call:

May 21~ 31, 2009 ~ University of Oregon

Ecology is at the heart of burgeoning creativity and interdisciplinary scholarship across the arts and humanities. This Festival, together with a concurrent Symposium, invites artists, scholars and activists to share their work, ideas, and passions with one another and with the larger community.  

CALL FOR PROPOSALS for Artist Workshops and Scholarly Papers.  FEB. 1 2009 DEADLINE

We welcome creative and innovative proposals for workshops, round-tables, panels, papers, working sessions, installations, or participatory community gatherings that explore, examine, challenge, articulate, or nourish the possibilities of theatrical or performance responses to the environmental crisis in particular, and our ecological relationship in general.

The form and format is wide-open and we will schedule and shape the Symposium around the types of proposals received and selected. We especially encourage artists who have performance work they would like to present to develop a workshop in which they present all or part of their work, and then use it as the basis for involving others in exploration. We encourage proposals that go beyond a recitation of ideas or positions, and instead bring presenters and participants together as they engage the driving question of how theatre has or might function as part of our reciprocal relationship with ecological communities.

Possible topics include: 

  •  land and body in performance;
  •  representations of bioregionalism; 
  •  eco-literacy and performance;
  •  representation of/and environmental justice; 
  •  green theatre production; sustainable theatre;
  •  design and technology developments towards green practice;
  •  old cultural narratives/new stories;
  • indigenous performance; 
  •  community-based performance/ecological communities; 
  •  sensing place/staging place; 
  •  the ecologies of theatrical form and/or space; 
  •  animal representation; 
  •  application of ecocriticism to plays, performance and culture.

    Send a one-page proposal and/or abstract by 1 February, 2009 to: 

    Earth Matters Symposium 2009, Theresa May, Director, 

    Theater Arts, VIL 216, University of Oregon
    Eugene, OR 97403. 

    Please include: type of session & title; time-length (60 min; 90 min; 2+ hours; half-day); bio or cv. 

    We encourage proposals that include more than one presenter; however, single person proposals are accepted and will be combined with others as themes and formats allow.


    The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CPSA) in partnership with EARTH MATTERS ON STAGE: Ecodrama Playwrights Festival and Symposium on Ecology & Theatre at the University of Oregon, Eugene is asking for presentations from the national arts community focused on building ecologically and economically sustainable models in the arts.   The EMOS Festival and Symposium takes place May 21-31, 2009.

    The CSPA is a start-up arts-service organization focused on researching, developing and implementing change to increase the ecological and economic sustainability of the arts in the United States. The CSPA will be hosting a series of focused sessions within the larger symposium to deal with practical change and repeatable models.

    While the content and format of the presentations is open to the creativity of presenters, preference will be given to presentations that focus on critical analysis, scientific data and documentation as the basis for support of a project’s relationship to issues of sustainability. We seek shareable and repeatable models for active change in arts practice.

    Based on the proposals received, presenters may be grouped into topical sessions and may also be asked to participate in roundtable and/or panel discussions to be able to best compare and contrast existing and proposed models of sustainable change, especially as it may highlight the balance of the ecology and economy in contemporary arts practice.

    Possible topics include presentations on the impact or future impact of LEED certified arts facilities, company greening initiatives, the creation of efficiency standards for the arts, government initiatives, production methodology, education of theater artists, individual projects created with ecology in mind, re-use programs and any practical documentation of positive ecological sustainable change.

    While the CSPA’s session at the symposium will focus on practice and the practical application of change, we encourage all presenters to also submit to the general call from The Ecodrama Playwrights Festival and Symposium on Ecology and Performance. They seek “creative and innovative proposals for workshops, round-tables, panels, working sessions, installations, or participatory community gatherings that explore, examine, challenge, articulate, or nourish the possibilities of theatrical and performative responses to the environmental crisis in particular, and our ecological situatedness in general.”   See the EMOS Call for Proposals at: www.uoregon.edu/~ecodrama or email ecodrama@uoregon.edu.

    Please send a one-page proposal and/or abstract by January 1, 2009 to:

    Earth Matters Symposium 2009
    The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

    (attention Ian Garrett)

    c/o LA Stage Alliance

    644 S. Figueroa St.

    Los Angeles, CA 90017

    Or you may email your materials to conferences@sustainablepractice.org

    Please feel free to direct any questions to the CSPA via email at conferences@sustainablepractice.org