‘The Burren College of Art is a small, independent art school situated on the Wild Atlantic Way on the northwest coast of County Clare in Ireland. It is located in the Burren, a region famous for its natural beauty and unique ecosystem. We are an internationally recognized Irish non-profit college specializing in undergraduate, postgraduate and alternative approaches to fine art education.’
This time last year, I was invited by the Dean of the Burren College of Art, Conor McGrady, to teach the ‘Art and Ecology 16-week module’ for under-graduates.
New to sharing my knowledge after recently completing my PhD by Practice on ecological art: ‘The Ecological Turn“, it was such a valuable opportunity to translate my knowledge into accessible, practical learning for others who are at the exciting stage of developing their professional creative careers.
It goes without saying that this opportunity afforded me so many real-world teaching insights for developing my modules for my ecoliteracy courses and workshops. I wish to thank Dean Conor McGrady and Dr. Eileen Hutton and especially my students for making me feel so welcome and teaching me as much as I shared my ideas with them.
I have since been invited to be an honorary Research Fellow at this wonderfully vibrant college that works so sensitively within and for its local environment.
As a Research Fellow, I will continue to share my research knowledge with the college and come occasionally to teach (I will be at the college again on Feb 19, 2020, giving a talk about my practice and research and tutoring current students). I will be so looking forward to reconnect with staff at this beautiful college and travelling again to this unique area of outstanding geologic and natural heritage.
Skilful ways of knowing are key for creative insights that align with ecological and social values.
I was delighted to receive an unsolicited review article on LinkedIn from Californian based philosopher, friend and mentor-coach Dr. Nikos Patedakis. In the article, Nikos enthusiastically responds to my recent article about my work that I had written for the US Minding Nature journal and online site (Winter 2019).
Encouragingly, Nikos frames my ecological art practice and my developing Haumea ecoliteracy courses to an expanding ‘ecology of mind’ – the term promoted by the original systems thinker, Gregory Bateson. Bateson in the 1970s, clearly identifies that the root of the ecological crises begins from our wrong perceptions of ourselves that enable unsustainable and unjust living. Western culture’s priorities too often ignore the plight of other peoples and the wellbeing of the greater Earth community. Bateson and others’ philosophical critiques of the ecological crises are an important part of my ecoliteracy teaching and I have valued mentoring from Nikos for my work in recent months.
Cathy’s “Haumea site will be of interest to a broad audience, including artists, educators, policy makers, and anyone concerned with increasing our ecological intelligence. Be sure to look at the blog, where Cathy posts about a wide range of issues and activities related to ecology, ecological sanity, and how we can wisely and gracefully navigate the climate crisis” (read Nikos’ full article here)
Nikos has generously deepened my knowledge of understanding how ecological insights present an unprecedented paradigm shift for modern society. Of special value, Nikos has alerted me to recent neuroscience and philosophy advances that confirm meditative compassion practice can significantly help us as individuals approach the ecological emergency with calmness and insight (When Nikos taught at Univ. California in Santa Cruz he never taught philosophy about the ecological catastrophe, without first inviting students to develop practices of compassion for themselves).
Such self-care practices are so vital in whatever field we work in and are still so little addressed in mainstream discourse of the eco-social emergency (UK Prof. Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation Network Profession’s Network that is inviting input from leading eco-psychologists and others is another important arena for this developing discourse).
In my work, I have met creative workers and art educators who feel overwhelm and despair about the environmental-social catastrophes that are unfolding. Often sensitive to the social injustices and ecocidal destruction to begin with, they tell me it doesn’t feel inviting to engage in this topic or they worry that engaging in this topic would instrumentalize their creative energies to merely illustrating the science or solutions. These are valid concerns, but what the planetary emergency invites us to consider is that our entire modern culture will need compassionate reflection and creative insights for exploring ways of living that complement life. We will need creativity informed with ecoliteracy to foster the more beautiful, ecological era we know if possible.
From much reading and personal experience, I also know if we turn to face these troubling realities with a mind of compassion, we find opportunity for healing and many new insights for doing things differently. Most strikingly, creatives and artists are well placed to process the grief, cultivate love and remind us of the beauty of the Earth, through creative activity, and particularly when we work with others. Nikos’ has shared from cognitive science advances that self-compassion practices help us turn outward (they foster pro-social activity). Instead of sitting alone with the pain that leads us to feel hopeless, isolated or depressed, compassion practices can help us face realities but allow us to function in productive, collaborative and creative ways for personal and community wellbeing.
I am very particularly delighted that Nikos has generously offered to advise on some aspects of my workshop and soon to be launched pilot online course too. If you are interested in philosophical coaching, read more below
Interested in extraordinary one-to-one philosophical coaching-mentoring?
Nikos now offers mentoring-coaching in philosophical wisdom for deeper, more meaningful success for work in any field, from creativity to business, with a particular emphasis on skilful thinking for the emergent ecological era.
In the art and ecology field I work in, I can’t emphasise enough how Nikos’ mentoring has enriched my understanding that skilful thinking is incredibly necessary to align our creativity for ecological values and well-being beyond the individualism so often emphasised in some contemporary art training.
If your are interested in mentoring for your work, do contact Nikos at www.wisdomloveandbeauty.org (Nikos especially likes working with creative people and also offers practices for those who own horses!) His resource page contains contemplations (podcasts) on the value of philosophy for living well today and several examples of compassion meditations – free to use. The generosity of these resources give a great overview of the special ways Nikos works.
Thank you so much Nikos for your work and this incredible, accessible and generous growing resource which is essential for anyone requiring practical, down-to-Earth philosophy – that is, more skilful love-wisdom practices – for these challenging times.
“Do artists have the right kinds of tools to imagine new ways of living for the earth and its inhabitants?”
Luke Clancy, RTE Lyric FM Culture File, 11 Nov, 2019
I had such a wonderful time on Saturday 2 November 2019, giving my first Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop for creative people and art teachers in Rathanna village, Co. Carlow, Ireland.
Developing this workshop has been a long-held wish of mine since I suggested the need for urgent ecoliteracy for the Irish arts sector, at the conclusion of my doctoral thesis, when I submitted it back in 2016. I have felt this keenly for many years as I have a previous career in research science and I know the cultural sector needs to be better informed and supported to effectively engage with this topic. I also know that societal shifts, like the urgent need for society to live in more life-affirming ways, are always related to new cultural activity. Sharing ecoliteracy with other creatives is part of how I am contributing as an Irish signatory to the international #CultureDeclares emergency campaign.
Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop
I designed this one-day ‘Everything Must Change: A Paradigm Shift for Society and the Arts‘ workshopspecifically for creative workers and art educators, art researchers, who have some knowledge of expanded, socially engaged, community art practices. This workshop was NOT about how to make an environmental artwork. Rather, it was a course to start thinking about how you might transform your creative practice or your art teaching for the environmental-social emergency.
I was delighted to welcome participants from as far away as Kerry, Cork, Clare and Dublin and people who were living in the Carlow – Wexford area.
Ecoliteracy is a big, heavy topic
With workshop participants, I shared how ecological insights and science data demand an unprecedented paradigm shift for modern society. I covered several topics to fully present the history, science, philosophy of how ecological insights can empower us in these urgent times. As this is a confronting topic for anyone and from my experience, I also introduced a range of pyscho-social supports for creative workers and educators engaging with this topic. I was blessed on the day of the workshop to have assistance on bodywork practices with the wonderful subtle anatomy educator Veronica Larsson. I also shared encouraging new insights for mindful practices for a more compassionate and creative era from US philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis. I presented a way to understand the environmental science more easily and introduced concepts and new words like solastalgia, soliphilia, The Symbiocene, advanced by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, that help us better identify the emotions of the age we are in, and how our creative work may contribute to a more compassionate era, the Symbiocene, where the welfare of all of Earth’s inhabitants are prioritised (it was great to share the new Solastalgia film as well).
Visual art, music, film, drawing flowers, fungi and eco jazz
Amongst a range of cultural works I shared that engaged with the ecological emergency, I also shared new Irish eco #jazz music from The Carole Nelson Trio, and showed the ‘Fantastic Fungi’ (2019) film trailer (the sensational new US film by inspired filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg, forest mycologists like Paul Stamet and forest ecologist Prof Suzanne Simard who are sharing new advances in symbiotic science that underlines growing appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life to growing audiences around the world).
At the end of the day, listening to Carole Nelson’s Trio new ‘canopy’ and ‘under-the-ground’ tracks, we each of us drew our own ‘flower of sustainability’ (a personal map-making drawing exercise designed by eco-social artist Dr Insa Winkler). This allowed us to reflect and visualise our unique gifts, intersecting interests, concerns and joys, as an ecology of practice for these urgent times.
Overall, it was a day full of sharing, laughter, feet stamping, reflecting, feeling, learning, tears, leaning on each other, and great local vegetarian food by Trish Markey (who I later discovered had done cookery classes at Ballymaloe – how we did enjoy the food Trish).
My Interview with Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM
Also, it was a real surprise to be interviewed by one of the workshop participants, writer, journalist and cultural researcher Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM’s Luke Clancy Culture File Weekly show. Thank you so much, Rachel, for recording the day. What an unexpected gift to reflect on too!
Listen to my interview with Rachel, and introduced by cultural broadcaster Luke Clancy below. (Participants will smile when they hear the intro to the Katie Goodman music clip that I shared during the workshop 😉 )
These are just some of the highlights of the day – its a day I will treasure for all the insights and learning.
More Workshops and an Online Course early January 2020
PS – I’ve had invitations to give more workshops across the country and I will shortly be offering a 6-week online version early in the New Year.
Please subscribe to this blog to hear of future workshops and online courses.
Thank You Everyone!
Very special thanks to my philosopher coach and anam cara, Dr Nikos Patedakis; to Veronica Larsson, what a joy to reconnect recently and thank you for the gift you gave us – we all felt so supported and connected to new understandings in our bodies. Heartfelt thanks to my magic biz-tech-art mentor Mary Carty, my wonderful sculptor Lithicworks husband Martin Lyttle and new dog Willow. Hugs to Kate Flood and thanks for setup and ongoing support from Jules Michael, Eoin Mac Lochlainn, Mairead Holohan, Dr Eileen Hutton, Rosie O’Gorman, and Orla Callaghan. Thanks also to Drs Iain Biggs, Paul O’Brien, Karen Till, Gerry Kearns and Nessa Cronin. Thanks also to all the participants who have given such rich, detailed feedback. Also a big thanks to Arts Officer, Sinead Dowling and all at the Carlow Arts Office. And to the Rathanna Community Hall Committee – the venue was perfect. Thanks also to the Local Carlow Enterprise Board, business mentor Bernie Tracey and my online course mentor Jim Wright at Mirasee, Montreal.
Update: Fully Booked! but please email me to be placed on waiting list or list for future courses.
Haumea Ecoliteracy Services for the Arts:
New One-day Workshop in County Carlow, Ireland
with ecological artist, educator and former scientist, Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD
* Ecological literacy – “ecoliteracy” is about gaining the environmental and ethical knowledge of what makes life on earth possible, just and sustainable. Ecoliteracy will deepen and empower your creative practice for these urgent times.
‘In knowing what we have to do, we have to do the science, but we have been making a mistake in thinking that’s enough. We equally have to decide on what we most deeply value, we have to talk about the ideals the move us, we have to figure out what we hope for our children, we have to decide what we believe in… AND THIS IS THE WORK OF ART, POETRY, LITERATURE AND RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY – ITS THE WORK OF CIVIL COMMUNITY – IT IS STORY-TELLING IN ALL ITS FORMS’
Writer and philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore, 2013
‘Everything Must Change’:
Essential Ecoliteracy* for your Creative Practice or Teaching:
Saturday 2 November 2019
10.30am – 4pm
Rathanna Community Hall
Rathanna Village, County Carlow Eircode R95 ND00
Fee: €20 for County Carlow residents,
€30 for those living outside the county.
Vegetarian lunch and refreshments will be provided. Free car parking opposite the Hall. Hostel accommodation at Osbourne’s Storehouse Hostel and local Air B & B’s.
Who is this Workshop for?
This workshop is for working creative practitioners of ALL art and craft disciplines. As an ecological view fosters collaborative activities, the course is particularly relevant to community art and social art practitioners & educators. SEE FULL COURSE INFORMATION BELOW.
Places are limited. Note: This is a pilot group workshop where we will learn and share together. An online pilot course will also be available in the near future.
Please note, this is NOT a workshop to make an environmental artwork.Rather, it is a course to start thinking about how you might transform your practice or your teaching for the environmental-social emergency. _____________________________________________________________________________________
Grateful thanks to the Carlow Arts Office. Workshop development and places
are subsidised by a generous 2019 Carlow Arts Office Award.
Stark environmental reports have made headlines in the last year. An estimated 8 million people worldwide have recently joined marches to demand new Earth-aligned actions. Scientists began alerting humanity decades ago of the impending catastrophe. Yet there is only dawning appreciation that we are in the midst of an unprecedented cultural crisis. The catastrophe rapidly unfolding is because Western culture has long promoted a way of living that is incompatible with life on Earth.
A necessary ecological worldview fundamentally challenges modern cultural beliefs and creative practices to expand awareness of the necessity of all species thriving within healthy ecosystems. However, few art institutions are offering teaching for this enormous societal shift. As environmental writer-activist Naomi Klein argues, ‘This Changes Everything!’ and everything must rapidly change. Bringing art and ecology together makes creative practices more complex. But creative workers have enormous skills to engage society, to help us all imagine and experience new ways of living well with the Earth and all of its inhabitants.
Learn about ecological knowledge for your creative practice or teaching
Feeling overwhelmed, isolated and concerned about the planetary environmental emergency? Do you sense cultural responses are needed for these urgent times? That future arts funding will be increasingly directed to this topic? Do you wish to respond through your creative practice or teach others but don’t know where to start?
Gain confidence and competence for this urgent new topic
In this supportive, information-sharing one-day workshop you can connect with others, and learn with Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD, a Carlow-based local ecological artist,researcher and educator. Cathy, a former science researcher, is a nominated member of the International EcoArt Network and a Research Fellow at the Burren College of Art. Cathy’s in-depth knowledge and practice insights on why creative practitioners have a key role, alongside scientists for the planetary emergency, are based on many years first-hand creative practice experience, and in-depth research of others’ ecological art practices.
In 5 modules, I will share my ‘Ecoliteracy Guide’ to introduce you to:
the historical roots of the environmental-social emergency,
a means to navigate environmental science with ease,
self-care supports for this often confronting topic,
understandings of why the incoming ecological worldview challenges
conventions of modern art practice,
understandings to situate your work within an expanded Earth ethic
Overall, you will become aware of the exciting, inclusive social power of bringing ecological concepts and art together for yourself and your audiences. The information in this course will be valuable for writing about your creative practice and empower you for future opportunities in the art and ecology area.
All attendees will be provided with resource material, handouts and be shown examples of diverse practices.
“Co-creating a regenerative culture – one that is inclusive, healthy, life-supporting, resilient and adaptable – requires rebuilding just and ethical relationships between ourselves, and with other species and the landscape. This takes time.
Regenerative culture includes:
Teaching and implementing the changes we want to see in society
Challenging power and privilege
Supporting each other in tending to grief as we face the truth about this emergency
Building a culture of care into our daily lives – care for ourselves, each other and the Earth
Changing the paradigms by which we design, grow, make and trade so that the living planet can be regenerated.”
It is not easy to eat local Irish food all year round and I know that. There are hungry months in late Spring when the food is just not ready after late frosts. So three years ago I decided to do a trial month: A 30 day local food challenge. September seemed a really good option as the garden is truly abundant with tomatoes, kale, spinach, herbs, peas, beans, onions, garlic, beets, carrots, parsnips and the list goes on. It is a luscious month in the gardening calendar. To eat Irish still means doing without what Barbara Kingsolver called ‘botanically outrageous’ foods, but it is somehow easier this month with all the food on offer in the garden and hedgerows.
Lisa Fingleton talking about the annual 30 Day Local Food Challenge
A creative eco-social art practice that I really admire is Irish artist Lisa Fingleton’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge. The creative idea grew several years ago when Lisa was horrified to read the 40 listed and many imported ingredients in a BLT sandwich, and then and there, decided to challenge herself to just eat local Irish food for a month. She then shared her challenge on social media and others became involved.
Growing up in a household where her father grew all their food and now living on a small farm with her partner in Co. Kerry, Ireland, Lisa’s creative practice awakens awareness of the unsustainability of the globalized food system for herself and her local community. Her work highlights the shocking statistic that only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables, the lowest in the EU (which is doubly shocking considering Ireland’s history of famine). Most heartening is that Lisa’s practice has uncovered and promoted networks of local food producers in a fun and engaging way.
Lisa brings many strands of artist activity together and through drawings, photos, keeping a diary, and great conversation fosters much needed community awareness about an urgent topic for us all.
Over time, Lisa’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge has developed considerable national press and radio attention. Lisa has since toured the project to other counties, conducted children’s workshops and created a very delightful, informative book about the project (which can be purchased from her website (http://lisafingleton.com).
And, it is a challenge once you start, to only eat food from your country and forgo all the imported treats and exotic fruits. However, making decisions about your food does makes real how the industrial food model all too easily has alienated us from being sustainable and self reliant. When environmental writer Naomi Klein writes thats ‘everything must change’, Lisa’s work shows how creative workers can help communities foster ecoliteracy, fun and agency for a better world we know is possible.
I have been thinking for some time, in my development of an online course for essential ecoliteracy, that I should begin sharing creative works.
Many people have asked me how to develop creative work for the ecological emergency that is not too preachy. This sometimes seems a hard thing to achieve with a complex topic in which many creative workers and their audiences are little informed of the environmental collapse that modern civilization promotes. In these urgent times, we need all types of creative approaches to envision and inspire a new ecological way of living, that safeguards lives now and for the future.
I also wanted to chime with Greta Thunberg’s extraordinary efforts, and many other young people across the world who are raising awareness that we must all understand the environmental science that confirms our way of living is causing accelerating ecological collapse and mounting social injustice in many countries. With Greta and the children schoolstriking every Friday, I will likewise post an art practice every Friday that I feel touches audiences and inspires creative workers too.
For my 1st post of #FridayArt4Emergency, I’m starting with a new short film work that incorporates dance, spoken poetry, and audio-visual recordings of the other-than human world. The film work is titled Solastalgia (2019, Pascal Tremblay and Sean Stiller, British Columbia). The film embodies responses to a new term for the grief many of us now feel for our environment ‘solastalgia’, particularly highlighted these last few weeks with the devasting increasing deforestation and fires set off across the Amazon region.
Although the film doesn’t mention it, the film also ably depicts, through dance, image and words, a powerful, underlying ‘soliphilia’, our graditude and love for the Earth.
These new terms, solastalgia, soliphilia, and more, are from Australian farmer-philosopher Glenn Albrecht. In his recent book Earth Emotions: New Words For a New World (2019) (which I previously have written about here), he details how such terms, and shared in creative works have much power to inspire a new, sustainable way of being with the Earth. He believes that creative workers will be at the forefront to share ideas of a new age, the Symbiocene, where we live life so all beings thrive.
Solastalgia the film below conveys the context of the crisis many creative people are now approaching in a emotive, engaging way. Works like this can move us in ways science can’t – we need both understanding and engaging ways to change societal behaviour to the better world we know is possible.
Congratulations to the communication agency, Good Kind Films – their ethos speaks to a new ecological age, the skilled filmmaker, dancer and world renowned eco-poet and educator Craig Santos Perez from Guam.
Lets share this film, this meme for the Symbiocene, far and wide.
The background story to this film is here
PS I have found other filmworks on Solastalgia made in recent months since writing the above. It’s so fantastic to see more creative expressions, more ecoliteracy fluency and confidence developing in the arts, for these urgent times.
Do feel welcome to share works that inspire you too!
A short survey to determine the key ideas for an online ‘ecoliteracy for the arts’ course
I’m exploring ways to help others in the arts gain ecoliteracy as I’ve had an increase in people seeking out my knowledge this year (even though I live in a rural area).
I’m looking at new ways to share my experience that don’t overstretch my and the Earth’s resources. Please read below for proposed course outline and the link to the short survey – Thank you for participating!
Please note: if you are already familiar with this topic, I do invite you to fill in the questionnaire. This may help others who are struggling to find adequate learning for this topic and develop the art and ecology field further. This is a field of creative practice that will have immense importance in the years ahead.
A new online ‘Ecoliteracy for the Arts’ course
by Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Practice in Ecological Art
Proposed course idea:
In this unprecedented time of ecological emergencies, I am developing an accessible and affordable online course* to increase ecoliteracy (ecological understanding) for creative practitioners, art educators, curators, art organisation staff, art activists and art historians in all art disciplines.
Ecoliteracy is the basis of creating impactful work and strategies to inspire audiences and communities for the better world we know is possible.
The proposed ‘Ecoliteracy Essentials for the Arts’ course is not intended to instruct people on how to make environmental art. Rather, the course lessons and resources will help creative workers to confidently navigate environmental science, explore the root causes of the eco-social crises and give examples of best practice. An online format also has the potential for networking, developing a community for support and peer-to-peer learning.
I would be very grateful for any ideas and feedback on how this topic might be of interest to you. Filling in the questionnaire does not mean you have to do the course.