EcoArt Club-Art to Inspire Change

EcoArt Projects 2013

The EVES EcoArt Club is a group of people committed to making the world a better place, one art project at a time. We are using art to explore issues of ecology, sustainability and personal and collective empowerment. I am going to chronicle some of the projects and ideas that have grown from our experiences in order to reflect and create a road map for further projects.

Project 1: I CARE Collage

The artists brainstormed some of the living things on the planet that they loved and wanted to protect. Each artist chose a plant or animal that they care about. Using it’s dominant colour, we used magazines to make a colour collage to represent it. When the artist was happy with the colour collage, they cut letters out of the magazines and glued the name of the plant/animal they had been reflecting on.

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Photo 2013-10-04 4 00 48 PM   Photo 2013-10-04 3 58 42 PM

Project 2: Everything is Connected

We explored the idea of the web of life and how everything on Earth is interconnected.  What we do to one part of the web of life may have direct or indirect effects on other parts of the web of life.  We drew pictures on a 12 foot long piece of bulletin board paper that another teacher had used to protect the table, so we were giving something that would have been garbage a second life.  Then we connected the birds, butterflies, fish, trees, people, etc. that we had drawn.  It looked like a giant colouring book page.  Two smaller groups broke off to work on their own, smaller interconnected mural because space was limited and sometimes it’s easier to work on a smaller project with a few like-minded friends.

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Photo 2013-10-11 4 19 02 PMPhoto 2013-10-11 4 17 58 PM

Everyone felt very optimistic initially, but when we began to paint on our second day of the project, we realized the job was quite enormous and complicated.  We “lost” some of our images when care wasn’t taken with the painting.  It was a messy job and we had to work through many problems.  A lot of people were working in limited space, competing for space and resources,  and although we had a plan to paint from the middle to the edges, not everyone managed to follow through and the painting got messy, ending up on clothes, the floor and even in someone’s hair.  The connection between the problem solving needed to solve both art and environmental problems was clearly illustrated at this stage of the process and led to much discussion.  Several times that day we quoted our hero, Jackie Hildering.  She always says “Don’t get mad, don’t get sad.  Find a solution.” and those wise words managed to move us forward.

The real challenges in this project became apparent on the third day, in the last stage of the project.  It was our goal to “reclaim” the images that had been “lost” in the painting stage by outlining them in black paint.  This task was beyond our abilities and patience- the students began to lose interest because of the high level of difficulty in painting thin black lines to outline the designs.  We talked about the problem we were having and made another connection between the mural art project and the “environment”.  Sometimes a job is just too big for a small group of people to solve alone, or the job might require a commitment over time.  We decided to call in “experts” to help us; teachers, friends, and bigger kids would be needed to help us tackle this very challenging part of the task.  We’re still working on it and will post the finished project when it is done.

Project 3: Art as Canvas

We painted on leaves and found out that using natural items as a canvas was rewarding and beautiful.  We used cherry leaves that had fallen from the many cherry trees planted in our community by our municipality.  The students used brushes, wooden skewers, and tooth picks to put acrylic paint(looking into a better choice) on the leaves in patterns.  The natural material was enhanced by the student’s artistic vision, which was influenced by the natural beauty and symmetry of the leaf.

Photo 2013-11-08 4 07 45 PM  Photo 2013-11-08 4 08 34 PM

Photo 2013-11-08 4 14 30 PM  Photo 2013-11-08 4 07 45 PM

Everyone felt accomplished in their efforts, and they excitedly created more than one piece.  The task was easy to accomplish in the hour and a half lesson and collecting the leaves together outside would have enhanced the experience.  An extension to this activity would be to have the students collect more leaves and a stick, and make a wall hanging with all of their mini-canvases.  Below is an example of the next step in our project:imagesCA39LHL6

Project 4:

We discussed a trailer I had seen for a documentary by Chris Jordan that will premiere in 2014.  Although it was information I knew, the short 3 minute clip was very powerful.  It made me weep and then it made me angry.  I knew I had to talk to the students about it, but wasn’t sure when or how.  The next day, I walked to school, and on the way picked up garbage.  In a short 5 minute walk, I had picked up so much garbage, I had to ask a child to help me carry it in.  That pile of garbage included 5 plastic bottle caps and made me remember the video, and I knew that it was the day to talk about Midway and the birds.  Waiting was not an option.

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We looked at some of the images from Chris Jordan’s website.  The students were surprised and saddened by the images. We talked about what we could do to prevent such tragedies.  I brought out two huge bags of bottle caps that I had been saving for a big project.  Using the bottle caps, the students made several temporary art projects, taking photos of their work so we could use the materials again for other projects.  Eventually, after using them as art materials, we will recycle them.  Here are some examples of their bottle cap creations:

Photo 2013-11-08 4 20 32 PM Photo 2013-11-08 4 22 42 PM

Photo 2013-11-08 4 19 05 PM Photo 2013-11-08 4 20 32 PM

It was uplifting to make a plan on keeping plastic out of the environment, where it could make it’s way to the ocean and drift on currents out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and so much better to see these bottle caps in an art project or recycled than in the body of a dead bird.  We all realized the importance of controlling our garbage and the need to buy less plastic products.  Each of us working toward this goal will mean less material for the Patch.


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