Saturday, August 21, 2010

session - Ecological Art: Community and Representation-I

During this session we heard from speakers Heather Davis, Linda Revie and Tia McLennan. As an Art Education student here at CBU, I was captivated by the parallels between Heather Davis' work, "The Non-Human at the Heart of Community Art: Spiral Garden's Living Story Space", and Tia McLennan's, "The Woodhaven Project: Integrating Writers Into Community Based, Site-Specific Eco Art". I hope to address Linda Revie's lecture, "Views From Petersfield: The Sydney Painters Club's Early 20th Century Eco Canvases" in a later post.

The environment of the Spiral Garden, as described by Davis, is an inclusive space for differently abled and abled children and artists, a utopia of storytelling, art and play. The Spiral Garden occupies a space in-between the institutional and undeveloped natural environment, between a grassroots community group and looming corporate sponsorship. The Woodhaven Project is an approach to collaboration, learning, writing and art-making, also within a (sub)urban natural setting, but from a basis within an institution, UBC Okanagan. McLennan and Nancy Holmes implemented a project where students engaged in artmaking and creative writing with each other and a local nature preserve.

Both of these programs, the Spiral Garden and the Woodhaven Project, occupy different spaces in the world of learning and Eco Art. Both encounter different problems because of their position as institutional insider or outsider. Whereas the Woodhaven Project has steady financial support but was met with some indifference and neglect by local residents, the Spiral Garden seemed to be fully integrated into the community of the rehab centre and beyond, the project is struggling with funding requirements while remaining independent of corporate sponsorship and institutional control.

The students' and children's engagement with the physical space seemed to also reflect institutional affiliation. Davis suggests, the utopian community of the Spiral Garden may not extend beyond the physical space or weeks of participation, but while they are there the children are fully engaged with their surroundings, each other and the world they have created. McLennan suggests the Woodhaven students' engagement with the natural setting may have suffered because the setting and subject matter of the university course was off campus.

For me, as an Education student, this relationship between student engagement, subject matter and the learning and teaching environment is at the core of contemporary pedagogy and I look forward to continued exploration of the possibilities of the institution as well as the spaces in-between.

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