Bringing Creativity into Sustainability

I was lucky enough to spend some time learning firsthand from Mitchell Thomashow two summers back, a wonderful scholar, educator, and writer who has been influential on my own development in environmental & sustainability education (ESE).  His EcoIdentity book was one of the first books on ESE that I read years ago, and now I’m working through his Bringing the Biosphere home (also an excellent read.)  Mitch’s latest work focuses on the Ecological Imagination, recognizing the important role of expression, imagination, and creativity in working towards sustainability   (http://www.mitchellthomashow.com/ecological-imagination/ )  As part of the workshop he gave at OISE, he mentioned a book published by the Museum of Modern Art called BioDesign:  Nature+Science+Creativity (http://www.biology-design.com/ ).  It’s a fascinating look at how we can partner with natural organisms and their ecological design capabilities to create sustainable products, buildings, and communities.  It takes the idea of environmental art-making to a whole new level.  MOMA has posted a preview of the book on their website to give you a glimpse into a more sustainable future…I just need to find a way to do this, even if small-scale, with students.  Ideas anyone?

Creating Eco-Friendly Sculptural Books

While I’ve been busy with collaborative eco-art installations with my students this winter, summer always gives me a little more time to work on my personal artworks.  I’ve been experimenting with sculptural book-making in recent years – I love the combination of text and image, and the surprise of taking a traditionally flat object and making it come alive in three dimensions.  So how do you make this technique more eco-friendly?  Working with paper is a first step as it is easily biodegradable – that’s a natural when it comes to book-making.  But I’ve also been drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, looking for ways to incorporate natural or found objects into my bookworks.  I love the Spirit Books of Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord (http://www.susangaylord.com/the-spirit-books.html), who uses branches, grapevine and dried berries in this evocative book series.  Mary Ellen Campbell’s books also incorporate a range of natural materials, often layering one on top of the other for a beautiful effect (find examples of her work on Pinterest.)  Basi Irland takes a very different approach, freezing water and seeds into book forms that become part of a community performance as they float downstream (http://www.basiairland.com).  If you’re looking for exemplars of how to re-use found objects and turn them into books, look no further than Terry Taylor’s EcoBooks: Inventive Projects from the Recycling Bin.  Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be excited to try this yourself – you’ll be seeing possible books in everything you discard!

ecobooks

Growing Art in Schoolyards

I was spending a lot of time in gardens over the summer, and some in school gardens.  I’m always on the lookout for ideas about how art can be incorporated into school yards as I think it’s a great tool to raise environmental awareness and even bring about environmental change.  There is lots of experimentation going on in Toronto in this area, and it is exciting to find a new artwork in a schoolyard to support student learning.  If you’re looking for ideas in this regard, Pinterest has lots of ideas in visual forms.  You can also refer to a great book called Asphalt to Ecosystems:  Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation by Sharon Gamson Danks (published by newvillagepress).  Sharon is a Californian consultant on schoolyard greening, and has travelled around the world photographing amazing schoolyard designs.  While any aspect of a greening project could be considered a form of aesthetic design, from the pathways to the plantings to the play equipment, she has included a few chapters dedicated to the diverse and stimulating roles that art can play to enhance children’s ecological literacy.   Check out the gallery on my website for more ideas on this topic.

Asphalt to Ecosystems

Shades of Green

It’s been a busy time since the holidays – hard to find time to blog! Teaching, writing and leading workshops has been keeping me hopping, but environmental art is never far from my mind. I was thrilled to have a new article published on the subject in the November 2010 issue of Art Education magazine – called “Shades of Green: Growing Environmentalism and Sustainability in Art Education”. This article describes a major study I led two years ago on eco-art education in Toronto and the process of having teachers develop curriculum in this area. It’s exciting to be able to share this work with a wider audience – the teachers I worked with were extraordinary, and demonstrated so well what eco-art ed can look like in their elementary classrooms. These are just two photos of the works their students created in the study – both created for school gardens!