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Art gets environMENTAL

lecture series links art and nature

By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian

Posted January 26, 2007

(pictured above - Jackie Brookner's Gift of Water)

Vermont’s landscape has inspired poems, songs, and paintings for generations. With the looming threat of global warming and its impact on the state’s four-season climate, art is playing a more crucial role in bringing an enlightened debate to bear.

From global warming to famine and disease, the environmental art movement, as its called, is highlighting these issues and exploring solutions as part of our natural landscape.

This movement, and some of its Vermont practitioners, will be featured as part of an ongoing lecture series sponsored by Burlington City Arts in conjunction with the University of Vermont’s Continuing Education program.

The free, public lecture series entitled, “EnvironMENTAL: Earth-Minded Art,” will be held at the Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts from starting Feb. 1 and continuing through April.

Five different artists and art educators will talk about their personal experience in the environmental art movement and the role of art in important and vital issues of global concern.

“The idea for the series sprang from our burgeoning partnership with UVM,” said Eric Ford, the marketing director for Burlington City Arts.

The series continues themes raised during the Firehouse Gallery’s Summer 2006 exhibition, Human=Nature, which explored several emerging areas within the environmental art movement, including Ecoventions (restoration and remediation), sense of place, and understanding the human venture within the larger living web of life, Ford noted.

The summer series was popular, as have been other exhibits from artists who are part of the environmental art movement.

This new series is also part of a UVM class, taught by Cameron Davis, whom Ford credits as being one of the inspirations for the series. Her students will form the core audience for each event.

“We really wanted to keep the momentum of the summer program going and keep the same kind of ideals — this combination of the environment and art and how it’s being explored by local folks,” said Ford. “These are all hot-button issues and are on everyone’s minds. It seemed like the public was very interested in this topic, and we have been working to continue our commitment to not only offer engaging exhibitions, but art and education. That is really what this is, and this exhibit is really the melding of these
two entities.”

Davis credits Andrea Grayson of UVM’s continuing education department and Doreen Kraft, director of Burlington City Arts, with the inspiration for the series. And, the upcoming lectures will continue the dialogue until it culminates in a a major biennial exhibition with internationally-known artists.

Davis sees this art movement as a crucial component to understanding humans’ impact on the planet.

“Environmental art responds to contemporary issues of the environment such as global warming, water health and restoration, and perception of human’s relationship within the living biosphere; all one system,” Davis said, who herself is an artist. “I have also been working on a global warming piece which was part of the activist walk from Ripton to Burlington with author Bill McKibben. There I displayed 20 drawings on sheer fabric in 10 different installations at 10 different sites along the walk; in the trees, at a berry farm, next to a horse pasture, in town center gazebos, etc. The drawings were based on an encounter with 1,000 cedar waxwings migrating earlier than I had ever witnessed before. They became the symbol of my concern about global warming and a symbol of hope, as the mythology of cedar waxwings is that we need not fear change, and that change can come gently. I considered this message to be a ‘gift for the road’ to the workers and to all of us as we journey through the changes immediately demanded by our global climate reality.”

Lectures will cover a variety of subjects (see sidebar) like local architect John Anderson’s “Drawing Space: Integrating Art and Architecture” about the challenges of producing work for public spaces like the Burlington International Airport, to Kate Pond’s “Seasons and Cycles of the Sun” regarding creation of work for the World Sculpture Project, and Jackie Brookner’s “Community and the Being of Human,” about her Biosculptures — evocative, plant-based systems that clean polluted water, integrating ecological revitalization with conceptual, metaphoric, and aesthetic capacities of sculpture.

The artists will bring along slides and images for each lecture, but none of their artwork will be on display at Firehouse, though some of them have had solo shows before.

“We see this as part of our own slogan — see, think, do — bringing school groups in to engage with the art so people can learn what you, as a person, or group of people, can do to get thoughts out into the public through art,” said Ford.

Lecture schedule and biographies

John Anderson, “Drawing Space: Integrating Art and Architecture”
Feb. 1, 7 p.m.
The new “SkyGate” murals at the Burlington Airport represent a key point in a long process of drawing at increasingly larger scales. Anderson will talk about this evolution, the thought processes concerning how one could even attempt to put art in an airport. For more information, visit

Kate Pond, “Seasons and Cycles of the Sun”
Feb. 15, 7 p.m.
Pond will show images and talk about her series of community sculptures around the world. She notes the contrasts and similarities between cultures where she places her artwork. For more information, visit

Jackie Brookner, “Community and the Being of Human”
March 1, 7 p.m.
Brookner will speak about her Biosculptures: evocative, plant-based systems that clean polluted water, integrating ecological revitalization with conceptual, metaphoric, and aesthetic capacities of sculpture. For more information, visit

Adrian Ivakhiv, “Greening Film and Visual Studies”
March 29, 7 p.m.
Through an examination of a series of images and film clips (ranging from documentary to Hollywood to art and experimental films), this talk examines the multiple “ecologies” of film and video production. For more information, visit

Nancy Dwyer, “Public Art: Transportation Solutions”
April 19, 7 p.m.
Dwyer’s talk revolves around the process that involves the integration of art, environment, and function. For more information, visit

For more information about gallery exhibitions, special events, classes and workshops, call 865-7166 or visit