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Lesson Plans

A&E.A: How do artists identify and act to resolve ecological issues through their artwork?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Cathleen D Lane (cdlane)
Sat, 25 Oct 1997 09:40:18 -0700 (MST)

Greetings fellow Artsednetters!

I have been finding some interesting and unique ways artists identify and
act to resolve local and global ecological issues through their artwork.
I browsed a web site that was new to me (I am still new at this!) to get
my information, specifically:

Helen and Mayer Harrison are established San Diego artists who have
collaborated for 30 years, and have worked all over the world. For
example, they studied the effects of pollution in the former Yugoslavia
and inspected river waste in Csechoslavakia. They have had requests for
help from such places as Paris, France and Nagoya, Japan. Their artwork
during these decades has involved: analyzing a specific environmental
problem, devising a solution, and recording the whole process in maps,
photos, and poetic texts. Their work opens the public's eyes to an
environmentalproblem. Some of their proposals get acted on.

Suvan Geer, founder of ACTS (Artist Contributing to the Solution) notes
that artists that focus on environmental issues do not attempt to
"decorate the world", but respond to the larger needs of society, namely,
ecology. The "earth is their canvas and their philosophy is 'It's dirty -
let's clean it up'." This group of artists organizes exhibitions and
events to increase environmental awareness.

Joseph Beuy's project, 7000 Oaks, involved the planting of 7000 trees,
each paired with a 4' high column of basalt stone in Kassel, Germany.
Beuy's local mission was to "affect social change" and extend a "gesture
toward urban renewal". The global mission was bigger: Beuy considered
this to be the beginning of a project that would extend world-wide.

New Zealand artist, Andrew Drummond, sought resolution to a potential
environmental problem in a creative, yet powerful way. In 1980 he heard
that a smeltering plant was planning to be built on a salt marsh in
Dunedin. He inserted an animal's kidney into the marsh - a representation
of the "body's filtering systems that would absorb the smeltery's
by-products". As a result, the plans to build the plant were cancelled.

Obviously, many artists are using their creative resources to bring light
to their issues. But as Walter Dahn notes, "It's not just a romantic,
artist thing. It's a symbol for the new cooperation among people with
different backgrounds, ideologies, views of the world. We're working with
scientists, ecological groups, theological groups - it's a fantastic
mixture." As the environmental picture has become increasingly troubling,
the artist goes to work.

I am interested in taking this issue a step farther. How can a teacher
introduce these environmental issues to, say, a group of 3rd graders
without "hitting them over the head" with them? How can we foster
creative brain-storming and artistic application, so that the children are
able to arrive at some pretty thoughtful, plausible, realistic and
"do-able" solutions to the environmental issues? How do other subject
areas get incorporated into this? At this age level, children would still
need direction from the teacher, yet I want them to think it through with
a minimal amount of "coaching". How do we "toe the line"?

If anyone is interested in partnering with me and pursuing these questions
and collaborating on ideas and research, please let me know. I would
like to incorporate a project similar to Beuy's 7000 Oaks into the program
we would implement. Is anyone interested????

Cathy Lane

University of Arizona