I was delighted some months ago to be interviewed by David Francis Moore and Juliette Harvey at Visual for the European curatorial project Our Thriving Tribe (OTT). This interview gave me an opportunity to reflect on my journey to develop the Haumea Online Ecoliteracy courses for creative professionals.
‘OTT aims to expand upon the current discourse on entrepreneurship within the arts in Ireland. A process of enquiry into the context of artistic practice by researching entrepreneurship from the perspective of the artist in order to generate new knowledge within this field. OTT is produced by VISUAL Carlow as part of the Arts & Humanities Entrepreneurship project (AHEH)’Our Thriving Tribe (2020)
The AHEH project brings together 14 partners from across 7 EU member states to improve the entrepreneurial capacity of A&H students with an innovative programme of entrepreneurial training. This approach aims to develop a tailored Arts & Humanities entrepreneurship model that improves the long-term entrepreneurial prospects for A&H students.
Our Thriving Tribe uses a process of enquiry as ‘case studies’. This ‘research through practice approach’ by the curators, aims to expand upon the current discourse on entrepreneurship within the arts in Ireland. Curatorial research is open to interpretation. The curators of OTT value how curatorial research practices can be used as a vehicle for imagining possible futures. Developed within the wider framework of the AHEH project and produced by Visual. OTT is Co Curated by David Francis Moore and Juliette Harvey at Visual.
For my participation I was asked to describe my fledgling art-entrepreneurial journey (below) and take part in an online video interview – this was filmed during the lockdown.
My name is Cathy Fitzgerald, and I’m an Irish-based New Zealander living in rural County Carlow in Ireland these past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, I have been inspired by the emergent art and ecology field in visual culture, which I deepened through doctoral contemporary ecological art practice and research. My intuition that the arts need to swiftly gain ecoliteracy comes from my early career in research science which connects to what I sensed as a child– that there is inexplicable power and magic in creativity to inspire wonder, awe, and gratitude for life.
I was blessed growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand – its remaining pristine, beautiful bird-filled forests there gave me experiences of ecological richness that many countries, like Ireland, no longer know. This art-science-forest-filled background means I realised sooner than most that informed-creativity can help convey new Earth-aligned values, ideas and practices to communities so they can address today’s many intersecting ecosocial emergencies.
I have unique insights to share with the creative sector now through an entrepreneurial approach. I deeply understand that the historical divisions in our education system that separates ecological learning from the arts and humanities is failing to prepare many of us in the creative sector for the unprecedented and accelerating ecosocial challenges we now face. Under-acknowledged as yet, the creative sector has a leadership role to inspire diverse communities to live well with others and the wider community of life.
Determined to address the poor ecoliteracy levels across the Irish creative sector, in 2019 following support from the Carlow Local Enterprise Centre and the Carlow Arts Office, I researched and received mentoring on how to develop, market and conduct engaging online ‘Essential Ecoliteracy courses for Creatives and Art Professionals’ – an idea that arose in the conclusion of my PhD (Fitzgerald, 2018).
I received incredible advice from serial entrepreneur Mary Carty, former arts officer, now a leading Irish women-in-business tech-strategist and co-founder of Ireland’s new Awaken Hub (Ireland’s new women-led, for women, entrepreneurial business network), and cutting-edge learning from the Canadian online-learning course developer experts at MIRASEE.
In early 2020, coinciding with the pandemic lockdown, I successfully launched, marketed and piloted my #HaumeaOnline ecoliteracy courses through my new business Haumea – Ecoliteracy Services for the Arts. My online course offerings, now expanding with other collaborators, is the learning I wish I had access to when I began my contemporary art education in the late 90s. The course material is the distilling of hard-won experience and learning over many years, from developing a nationally-recognised eco-social art practice, The Hollywood Forest Story (Woodworth, Irish Times, 7 March 2020) and my doctoral research.
Crucially, I see my new business of teaching ecoliteracy as another facet of my eco-social art practice. For these urgent times, it’s my contribution, as the first Irish signatory of the international #CultureDeclares movement– of cultural workers working to radically renew and reimagine the creative sector to inspire society toward a better, more beautiful world. And already, due to the online nature of my work, I am sharing ecoliteracy with Irish and international creative professionals across the world.
If I could encourage other creatives along this entrepreneurial road in these challenging times, I would suggest that one beg, borrow or steals to get great business mentoring! Starting up a new enterprise is tough, exciting, extremely rewarding but also lonely as many may not know what you are trying to do. Entrepreneurial business mentors are experienced path-breakers and your first-call supporters – they are eager to help your work make a great impact on the world. Entrepreneurship is all about risking and growing ideas– so it helps to have a great support around you.Cathy Fitzgerald, 2020 for OTT
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!