Environment and Energy

There was a time not long ago when our houses (Fale's) were built with no walls on purpose. Shared knowledge was an integral part of our daily life. An isolated communal society were the men cooked the family dinner in earth ovens daily. On our island paradise, the injured or sick were healed by elder women (Fofo's) with ancient medicinal knowledge of local herbs, flora, body mechanics, nutrition, and internal healing. Our diet was Fish Coconut, Taro and other vegetables...everybody was skinny.
This week we will be joining ArtPlace Executive Director Jamie Bennett at SXSW for a panel talk , “Beyond Bars: Art and Incarceration, ” at the SXSW Social Impact track. This panel was picked from thousands of ideas in a competitve process and will focus in part on our documentary about Damien Duncan, “ Little Boy Lost ,” which premiered in May 2017 at the National YoungArts Foundation. What made this project unique is that the music, which was composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, was performed live at the screening by YoungArts alumni—some of the top young musicians in the country, most around the same age as Damien.
International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. To celebrate we asked some of the amazing women of ArtPlace America to talk to us about the women integral to their project and history, and those leading the charge for change in the world. Gayle Isa (Asian Arts Initiative): Our Social Practice Lab artist residency and the transformation of the Pearl Street alley behind our building have allowed Asian Arts Initiative to become a connector of the diverse array of people in the Chinatown North neighborhood.
In rural Weogufka, Alabama, a reclamation of Indigenous Maskoke land and reestablishment of the traditional village system is taking place. The organization Ekvn-Yefolecv is a Maskoke collective committed to embracing the role of protecting and reviving traditional relationships to the earth while revitalizing language and culture. On January 12, 2018, Ekvn-Yefolecv became official “land owners” of 577 acres of Alabama woods. Settling in has been full of welcoming feelings from our ancestors and the sacredness of the land, and surprises from many external factors.
I believe that stories unleash curiosity. Stories take us on a journey with a character whose values may be diametrically opposed to our own but we go along because we are curious to see where their journey takes them. This process, of going down a path with the character, also leads us to see the world through a different lens. When a roomful of people all watch the same work of art, they can then discuss the characters’ journeys while reflecting on how their own worldview has expanded or shifted as a result.
President Trump has delivered his budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2019, which proposes significant cuts to and, in some cases, the complete elimination of key federal agencies – like the National Endowment for the Arts. This has the potential both to end valuable direct investments in our local communities and to dismantle tremendous partnerships with philanthropy that have strengthened our country. As just one example, in 2011, we were so inspired by work that the National Endowment for the Arts was doing through its “Our Town” investments that we came together to capitalize ArtPlace America, which exists to extend and build upon the federal government’s work enlisting the arts and culture sector as an ally in creating equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities of all sizes across the country.
February 1st marked the beginning of Black History Month where each year we set aside a few weeks to focus our historical hindsight on the contributions that people of African descent have made, and continue to make to this country. At ArtPlace, we're privileged to work with Black leaders who are driving change in communities across the country. A few of our colleagues wrote to us to share what Black History Month means to them, and how it informs their work.
Art has an ability to occupy a space outside of the dry approach of science communication and the limited sound bite approach of the media. It offers a way into complex conversations through different modes of engagement - investigative, experiential and collaborative. As creative thinkers, we often approach things from a different point of view, pulling together disparate concepts and weaving them into an elegant tapestry. In working with communities, we use creativity to bring together people who might normally be segregated due to geographic, cultural or political reasons to collaboratively address a regional concern.
At the US Water Alliance, we believe that the key to securing a sustainable water future for all relies on an integrated and inclusive approach to managing our water infrastructure and resources. We refer to this paradigm shift as a One Water approach. And we’ve seen how integrating arts and culture can help us reach those goals. The new report, Farther, Faster, Together: How Arts and Culture Can Accelerate Environmental Progress, released by ArtPlace America last Wednesday, demonstrates the tremendous opportunity to drive new solutions and positive change in the water sector.
Environmental sustainability is at its root about the health, safety, and long-term integrity of the places where we all live, work, and play. We are increasingly realizing that sustainability isn’t the purview of a single sector working in isolation, but a shared responsibility for changing how we live in relation to our natural environment and to each other. Environmental leaders fully recognize this, and are eagerly looking for new ideas, partners, methods, and tools that can help propel the social, cultural, economic, political, and physical changes we need to get us where we need to go.