ABOVE: ‘The Rapunzel Tree’ – new painting courtesy of Irish artist Rachel Webb, April 2020
In this planetary pause, there is more awareness that we need to live well with the Earth’s wider community of life. Creative practices–informed by ecoliteracy (ecological knowledge)–will have important social power to invite society to reflect and reimagine the better world we know is possible. Cathy Fitzgerald PhD., launched an innovative 6-week online ecoliteracy course for creatives that coincided with the pandemic. She reflects now that an accessible and engaging ecoliteracy education for our art sector shouldn’t cost the Earth.
“Today, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and I’m hosting the final live Zoom meeting of my pilot 6-week ecoliteracy for creatives course. My course has been timely–I have found a relatively low-cost means to share my eco-social art practice experience and knowledge of advances in the art and ecology area in an engaging way–with creatives and art professionals from across the world: from different parts of Ireland, the UK, Sweden, the US and Aotearoa New Zealand.”
Cathy Fitzgerald, Haumea Ecoliteracy for the Arts – http://www.haumea.ie
April 22, 2020: the 50th anniversary of Earth Day
I have developed this course since experiencing firsthand the struggles in gaining learning in the art and ecology area. I mentioned the under-explored opportunities for e-learning for ecoliteracy for the still marginal art and ecology field at the end of my doctoral thesis (Fitzgerald, 2018). I felt compelled to learn how to design an online course over the last number of years, as creatives are coming to my door and emailing me for advice. To equip creatives and art professionals with ecoliteracy will enable deeper reflection of why the dominant culture is so utterly alienated from life, and assist them in more skilful ways to envisioning a more just and beautiful world.
Ecoliteracy is not widely available as a topic in art colleges. The main reason is the historic divide between the arts and sciences. This situation means that many creatives now sense that a deeper knowledge of the ecological emergency is needed but are struggling to obtain ecological learning; art educators and other art professionals also haven’t had ready access to this knowledge. In these times of accelerating global degradation to the living world, I also wanted to create to course to reflect ecological values. I don’t travel for my ecoart work when I can avoid it – but, I didn’t expect my online course to begin just as the pandemic caused a worldwide shutdown.
I have been so very fortunate to develop this new ecoliteracy course over the last year. Many creative workers and educators generously spent time answering a survey so I could pinpoint topics to cover.
In weekly modules during my first pilot course, I offer comprehensive modules so participants can deeply:
- understand the paradigm shift that an ecological worldview presents;
- why adopting psycho-social practices are necessary to prevent burnout with this challenging topic;
- as a former scientist, I share how to navigate environmental science with ease, and introduce the UN SDGs, moral philosophy, the Earth Charter and why developing laws to prevent manmade ecocide are critical;
- I also share how expanded care for Earth’s wellbeing correspondingly confronts conventions in modernist ideas of individualistic art practice;
- and something I really found useful was interviewing practitioners working in this area, like Irish based artists Lisa Fingleton, Jules Michael and Martin Lyttle but also others from other countries who I know from my research over the years (see the full course details here). My first cohort loved hearing other creative practitioners’ rich experiences in working with an Earth-aligned focus.
The pilot course was booked out in days and this is largely because I’ve had incredible support from: my Local Carlow Enterprise Board; the Carlow Arts Office; my fantastic art-tech and online course building mentors, Mary Carty and Jim Wright of Mirasee (Canada). Then there were special collaborators – philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis and from the healing fields, Veronica Larsson, who have enriched the course in ways I could not achieve alone.
But most of all, at this point, I want to thank my first cohort of participants. My pilot course was a bit rough around the edges, my broadband speed could have been faster, but nevertheless each participant has given feedback so I can develop the course further, as they too want others in the art sector to know about this important topic.
Tonight we are celebrating that one can face most things with creativity and collective goodwill–we were sharing small works for Earth Day, for Haumea, the name of the Earth Goddess that I use for my ecoliteracy learning work.
If you are interested in this online course, I will be running another in a few weeks.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be put on my mailing list for my next course announcements.
I’m also pleased to announce I’m developing a new complementary course with eco-philosopher Nikos Patedakis, as we both sense a need for a course that explores how art, ecology and philosophy can assist us in being the best creatives we can be, in these challenging times.
About Haumea Ecoliteracy Essentials On-Line Course Development
During February 2019, I was awarded a Carlow Local Enterprise Feasibility Study Award to explore online course development with support from the Carlow Local Enterprise Office and business mentor Bernie Tracey. The Feasibility Study Award allowed me mentorship with the Canadian Online Course Builders Laboratory by MIRASEE and award-winning Irish art-business-tech mentor Mary Carty. I delivered a live ecoliteracy workshop in November 2019, with the support of the Carlow Arts Office and the course programme has been greatly enriched with the knowledge and experience of Dr Nikos Patedakis and Veronica Larsson. Thank you all!