about Cathy Fitzgerald

Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Practice: The Ecological Turn
Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Practice: artist | educator | researcher |

“I’m passionate about bringing ecoliteracy to the art sector. Creatives, if informed with basic ecoliteracy (ecological knowledge), can ‘translate’ the science relevant to their diverse urban and rural communities and audiences. Informed by ecoliteracy, creatives are well skilled to develop inclusive work to help us all reflect and envision the more beautiful, just and better world we know is possible. And this is an urgent task, given that the pandemic is seen as another symptom of the ecological emergency.”

My name is Cathy Fitzgerald, and I’m an Irish-based New Zealander living in rural Ireland these past 20 years.

Since the late 1990s, I have been inspired by the emergent art and ecology field in visual culture, and later, more specifically in contemporary ecological art practice and research.

See a one-minute film on my creative practice – it explains some of my interests in this beautiful, threatened world and actions to learn about continuous cover forestry.

The key to my own understanding that the arts need to swiftly develop ecoliteracy, comes from my early career in research science that joins my intuition that I sensed as a child, that there was inexplicable power and magic in art. I was blessed too, in growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand – I’ve long being inspired by its pristine, stunningly beautiful, bird-filled forests.

This diverse background in both science and art means I have perhaps realised sooner than most that art has a critical role for today’s ecological emergencies and that I have unique insights to share to the art sector.

Importantly, my background in science means I can navigate the often confusing array of environmental science we read in the media.

I also understand the imperative of new expanded environmental ethics that must underline cultural responses.

Furthermore, ecological insights underline that environmental and social concerns are always connected. To this end, I understand why collaboration with non-art others who have local and expert knowledge of places, is essential to develop rich ecological art practices and events.

Much of these insights have developed in the challenges I have faced in developing and sharing the workings of an effective eco-social art practice.

Since 2008, my ongoing Hollywood Forest Story – featured in The Irish Times (7 March 2020 – see images below) has contributed to a growing and urgent understanding for the need for permanent, more sustainable forestry in Ireland.

My eco-social art practice and doctoral research into ecological art practice has increased ecoliteracy and agency for myself and my audiences with real-world, aesthetic-socio-political outcomes.

Eco-social art practices develop ecoliteracy and agency for myself and my followers to rethink a new forestry for Ireland. I use photography, video, writing, blogging and my practice has led me to take a political stand for forests and against the crime of ecocide.

Haumea Ecoliteracy for the Arts began in January 2019

Along with my ongoing eco-social arts practice, my experience in professional development for the arts, my doctoral research into ecological art practice, and other research to understand advances in international art and sustainability policy ALL inform my work for Haumea and the ecoliteracy services I offer.

Through Haumea, I am sharing my ecoliteracy knowledge to others working in the art sector through tailored learning modules. 

I do hope you will be interested in learning with me for the better world we must all create. 

My key work experience is in:

  • eco-social art (ecological art) practice
  • eco-social art (ecological art) research
  • professional development service for the arts
  • environmental NGO organisations
  • policy development

More details can be seen on my LinkedIn profile/

Details of my work experience

Working to deliver professional development courses for all art disciplines as the inaugural ArtLinks Director (2007-10), saw me supporting creatives in workshops and developing an online community for five counties the South East of Ireland.

The experience has stayed with me to understand the unique challenges people working in different creative areas face.

In this role, and going through contemporary art education, I am aware of the acute lack of ecoliteracy supports (educational and financial) for creatives in Ireland (and similarly in arts education elsewhere).

During 2009-11, I was a Board Member of The Irish National College of Art and Design.

My innovative, eco-social art-practice-led doctoral research The Ecological Turn... (Fitzgerald, 2018) and recent research into the eco era ‘The Symbiocene’ (Fitzgerald, 2019) gives me a rich overview of the context and value of advanced situated, durational eco-social (ecological) art practices (consistently marginalised in contemporary art for many decades). I know in great depth how an ecological paradigm significantly challenges conventional art practice philosophically; I understand the scientific and ethical drivers of such creative activity, and their scope and social power to engage diverse communities for the urgent societal shift that we are facing if we wish to usher in a life-sustaining, just and beautiful world.

In 2019, I became an honorary research fellow for art and ecology at the Irish Burren College of Art.

My research and presentations, in particular my research study reviewing overseas national art and sustainability programmes (Fitzgerald, 2017, 2019), have given me insights into key understandings of international art and sustainability programmes. I deeply understand the still under-acknowledged critical leadership role for the art sector in the ecological emergency – to help generate inclusive and inspirational public discourse about the urgent and necessary shift to more life-sustaining ways of working and living. I have been invited to share this research at Maynooth University and NUI Galway.

Recent writings and research

Fitzgerald, C (2020) ‘The Hollywood Forest Story: understanding why place-making develops ecoliteracy and social power for the Symbiocene’. Editor Cara Courage in: Place-Making Handbook: Research, Theory and Practice. London Routledge. In Press.

Fitzgerald, C (2019) ‘The Hollywood Forest Story—Eco-Social Art Practice for the Symbiocene, Minding Nature, Fall 2019. (Leading US art ecology philosophy journal). pp.53-9.

Fitzgerald, C (2019) ‘Goodbye Anthropocene – Hello Symbiocene: eco-social art practices for a new world’ in Plasticity for the Planet: On Environmental Challenge for Arts and its Institutions” by editor Magdalena Ziolkowska, Centre for Contemporary Art U-jazdowski Castle, Warsaw. Milan: Mousse Publishing. This book accompanies the international exhibition Human-Free Earth (2019) curated by Jaroslaw Lubiak.

Invited speaker by Dr. Nessa Cronin, Irish Studies, NUIG to present ‘Cultural Climates: Fostering Art for Sustainability – Time for a New Cultural Policy?’ to Galway artists and academics, Moore Institute, NUIG, 14 May 2019.

Invited speaker and workshop facilitator for 50th Conference of Irish Geographers, for art and geography panel and workshop ‘The Earth is our Home’, Maynooth University 10 May, see a summary online powerpoint slideshow here

Fitzgerald, Cathy (2018) The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests to articulate eco-social art practices with a Guattari ecosophy and action research framework. PhD by Practice thesis, National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland.
Fitzgerald, Cathy (2018) The Hollywood Forest Story eBook: LIVING WELL WITH A FOREST TO EXPLAIN ECO-SOCIAL ART PRACTICE (the cultural artefact for the PhD by Practice, 2018). The audiovisual ebook is available from the iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/book/the-hollywood-forest-story/id1441958722?mt=11

Fitzgerald, Cathy (2017) Creative Carlow Futures: an art and sustainability report for Co. Carlow and Ireland


Affiliations

  • An invited member of the International Network of Eco Artists (established in 1999)
  • Visual Artists Ireland
  • Create Ireland – the development agency for collaborative arts in social and community contexts.

  • A signatory to the International Culture Declares an emergency movement
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    A Conscientious Earth Protector against Ecocide
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  • A signatory to the Earth Charter