‘The Burren College of Art is a small, independent art school situated on the Wild Atlantic Way on the northwest coast of County Clare in Ireland. It is located in the Burren, a region famous for its natural beauty and unique ecosystem. We are an internationally recognized Irish non-profit college specializing in undergraduate, postgraduate and alternative approaches to fine art education.’
This time last year, I was invited by the Dean of the Burren College of Art, Conor McGrady, to teach the ‘Art and Ecology 16-week module’ for under-graduates.
New to sharing my knowledge after recently completing my PhD by Practice on ecological art: ‘The Ecological Turn“, it was such a valuable opportunity to translate my knowledge into accessible, practical learning for others who are at the exciting stage of developing their professional creative careers.
It goes without saying that this opportunity afforded me so many real-world teaching insights for developing my modules for my ecoliteracy courses and workshops. I wish to thank Dean Conor McGrady and Dr. Eileen Hutton and especially my students for making me feel so welcome and teaching me as much as I shared my ideas with them.
I have since been invited to be an honorary Research Fellow at this wonderfully vibrant college that works so sensitively within and for its local environment.
As a Research Fellow, I will continue to share my research knowledge with the college and come occasionally to teach (I will be at the college again on Feb 19, 2020, giving a talk about my practice and research and tutoring current students). I will be so looking forward to reconnect with staff at this beautiful college and travelling again to this unique area of outstanding geologic and natural heritage.
Skilful ways of knowing are key for creative insights that align with ecological and social values.
I was delighted to receive an unsolicited review article on LinkedIn from Californian based philosopher, friend and mentor-coach Dr. Nikos Patedakis. In the article, Nikos enthusiastically responds to my recent article about my work that I had written for the US Minding Nature journal and online site (Winter 2019).
Encouragingly, Nikos frames my ecological art practice and my developing Haumea ecoliteracy courses to an expanding ‘ecology of mind’ – the term promoted by the original systems thinker, Gregory Bateson. Bateson in the 1970s, clearly identifies that the root of the ecological crises begins from our wrong perceptions of ourselves that enable unsustainable and unjust living. Western culture’s priorities too often ignore the plight of other peoples and the wellbeing of the greater Earth community. Bateson and others’ philosophical critiques of the ecological crises are an important part of my ecoliteracy teaching and I have valued mentoring from Nikos for my work in recent months.
Cathy’s “Haumea site will be of interest to a broad audience, including artists, educators, policy makers, and anyone concerned with increasing our ecological intelligence. Be sure to look at the blog, where Cathy posts about a wide range of issues and activities related to ecology, ecological sanity, and how we can wisely and gracefully navigate the climate crisis” (read Nikos’ full article here)
Nikos has generously deepened my knowledge of understanding how ecological insights present an unprecedented paradigm shift for modern society. Of special value, Nikos has alerted me to recent neuroscience and philosophy advances that confirm meditative compassion practice can significantly help us as individuals approach the ecological emergency with calmness and insight (When Nikos taught at Univ. California in Santa Cruz he never taught philosophy about the ecological catastrophe, without first inviting students to develop practices of compassion for themselves).
Such self-care practices are so vital in whatever field we work in and are still so little addressed in mainstream discourse of the eco-social emergency (UK Prof. Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation Network Profession’s Network that is inviting input from leading eco-psychologists and others is another important arena for this developing discourse).
In my work, I have met creative workers and art educators who feel overwhelm and despair about the environmental-social catastrophes that are unfolding. Often sensitive to the social injustices and ecocidal destruction to begin with, they tell me it doesn’t feel inviting to engage in this topic or they worry that engaging in this topic would instrumentalize their creative energies to merely illustrating the science or solutions. These are valid concerns, but what the planetary emergency invites us to consider is that our entire modern culture will need compassionate reflection and creative insights for exploring ways of living that complement life. We will need creativity informed with ecoliteracy to foster the more beautiful, ecological era we know if possible.
From much reading and personal experience, I also know if we turn to face these troubling realities with a mind of compassion, we find opportunity for healing and many new insights for doing things differently. Most strikingly, creatives and artists are well placed to process the grief, cultivate love and remind us of the beauty of the Earth, through creative activity, and particularly when we work with others. Nikos’ has shared from cognitive science advances that self-compassion practices help us turn outward (they foster pro-social activity). Instead of sitting alone with the pain that leads us to feel hopeless, isolated or depressed, compassion practices can help us face realities but allow us to function in productive, collaborative and creative ways for personal and community wellbeing.
I am very particularly delighted that Nikos has generously offered to advise on some aspects of my workshop and soon to be launched pilot online course too. If you are interested in philosophical coaching, read more below
Interested in extraordinary one-to-one philosophical coaching-mentoring?
Nikos now offers mentoring-coaching in philosophical wisdom for deeper, more meaningful success for work in any field, from creativity to business, with a particular emphasis on skilful thinking for the emergent ecological era.
In the art and ecology field I work in, I can’t emphasise enough how Nikos’ mentoring has enriched my understanding that skilful thinking is incredibly necessary to align our creativity for ecological values and well-being beyond the individualism so often emphasised in some contemporary art training.
If your are interested in mentoring for your work, do contact Nikos at www.wisdomloveandbeauty.org (Nikos especially likes working with creative people and also offers practices for those who own horses!) His resource page contains contemplations (podcasts) on the value of philosophy for living well today and several examples of compassion meditations – free to use. The generosity of these resources give a great overview of the special ways Nikos works.
Thank you so much Nikos for your work and this incredible, accessible and generous growing resource which is essential for anyone requiring practical, down-to-Earth philosophy – that is, more skilful love-wisdom practices – for these challenging times.
One of the key reasons why I can share indepth knowledge of ecoliteracy to other creatives, artists, art educators and cultural policy makers, is because I continue my work on my ongoing eco-social art practice, The Hollywood Forest Story (begun 2008). This ecological art practice was the basis for my doctoral research that contributes a new theory-method framework to the ecological field. So I was thrilled to be asked to share my practice and outline my research in a leading US website and journal, Minding Nature, organised by the Centre for Humans and Nature.
Read my post from my Hollywood Forest Story blog below:
I was thrilled and a little bit nervous to be asked to write an article about Hollywood Forest and my creative practice for the US Minding Nature journal over the summer. MINDING NATURE is a journal exploring conservation values and the practice of ecological democratic citizenship
I have been following this fantastic multidisciplinary journal for the Centre for Humans and Nature for many years and it introduced me to the most amazing thought leaders for the ecological emergency: writer and ecological philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, Indigenous scientist writer Robin Kimmerer, philosopher Glenn Albrecht and the work of many more creative people as well. Do sign up for their newsletter and see their invitation to publish too.
I wish to thank Contributing Editor Jeremy Ohmes for patiently guiding my article through the editing process and the very kind encouragement from Editor-in-Chief Bruce Jennings.
“Do artists have the right kinds of tools to imagine new ways of living for the earth and its inhabitants?”
Luke Clancy, RTE Lyric FM Culture File, 11 Nov, 2019
I had such a wonderful time on Saturday 2 November 2019, giving my first Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop for creative people and art teachers in Rathanna village, Co. Carlow, Ireland.
Developing this workshop has been a long-held wish of mine since I suggested the need for urgent ecoliteracy for the Irish arts sector, at the conclusion of my doctoral thesis, when I submitted it back in 2016. I have felt this keenly for many years as I have a previous career in research science and I know the cultural sector needs to be better informed and supported to effectively engage with this topic. I also know that societal shifts, like the urgent need for society to live in more life-affirming ways, are always related to new cultural activity. Sharing ecoliteracy with other creatives is part of how I am contributing as an Irish signatory to the international #CultureDeclares emergency campaign.
Essential Ecoliteracy for the Arts workshop
I designed this one-day ‘Everything Must Change: A Paradigm Shift for Society and the Arts‘ workshopspecifically for creative workers and art educators, art researchers, who have some knowledge of expanded, socially engaged, community art practices. This workshop was NOT about how to make an environmental artwork. Rather, it was a course to start thinking about how you might transform your creative practice or your art teaching for the environmental-social emergency.
I was delighted to welcome participants from as far away as Kerry, Cork, Clare and Dublin and people who were living in the Carlow – Wexford area.
Ecoliteracy is a big, heavy topic
With workshop participants, I shared how ecological insights and science data demand an unprecedented paradigm shift for modern society. I covered several topics to fully present the history, science, philosophy of how ecological insights can empower us in these urgent times. As this is a confronting topic for anyone and from my experience, I also introduced a range of pyscho-social supports for creative workers and educators engaging with this topic. I was blessed on the day of the workshop to have assistance on bodywork practices with the wonderful subtle anatomy educator Veronica Larsson. I also shared encouraging new insights for mindful practices for a more compassionate and creative era from US philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis. I presented a way to understand the environmental science more easily and introduced concepts and new words like solastalgia, soliphilia, The Symbiocene, advanced by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, that help us better identify the emotions of the age we are in, and how our creative work may contribute to a more compassionate era, the Symbiocene, where the welfare of all of Earth’s inhabitants are prioritised (it was great to share the new Solastalgia film as well).
Visual art, music, film, drawing flowers, fungi and eco jazz
Amongst a range of cultural works I shared that engaged with the ecological emergency, I also shared new Irish eco #jazz music from The Carole Nelson Trio, and showed the ‘Fantastic Fungi’ (2019) film trailer (the sensational new US film by inspired filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg, forest mycologists like Paul Stamet and forest ecologist Prof Suzanne Simard who are sharing new advances in symbiotic science that underlines growing appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life to growing audiences around the world).
At the end of the day, listening to Carole Nelson’s Trio new ‘canopy’ and ‘under-the-ground’ tracks, we each of us drew our own ‘flower of sustainability’ (a personal map-making drawing exercise designed by eco-social artist Dr Insa Winkler). This allowed us to reflect and visualise our unique gifts, intersecting interests, concerns and joys, as an ecology of practice for these urgent times.
Overall, it was a day full of sharing, laughter, feet stamping, reflecting, feeling, learning, tears, leaning on each other, and great local vegetarian food by Trish Markey (who I later discovered had done cookery classes at Ballymaloe – how we did enjoy the food Trish).
My Interview with Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM
Also, it was a real surprise to be interviewed by one of the workshop participants, writer, journalist and cultural researcher Rachel Andrews for Lyric FM’s Luke Clancy Culture File Weekly show. Thank you so much, Rachel, for recording the day. What an unexpected gift to reflect on too!
Listen to my interview with Rachel, and introduced by cultural broadcaster Luke Clancy below. (Participants will smile when they hear the intro to the Katie Goodman music clip that I shared during the workshop 😉 )
These are just some of the highlights of the day – its a day I will treasure for all the insights and learning.
More Workshops and an Online Course early January 2020
PS – I’ve had invitations to give more workshops across the country and I will shortly be offering a 6-week online version early in the New Year.
Please subscribe to this blog to hear of future workshops and online courses.
Thank You Everyone!
Very special thanks to my philosopher coach and anam cara, Dr Nikos Patedakis; to Veronica Larsson, what a joy to reconnect recently and thank you for the gift you gave us – we all felt so supported and connected to new understandings in our bodies. Heartfelt thanks to my magic biz-tech-art mentor Mary Carty, my wonderful sculptor Lithicworks husband Martin Lyttle and new dog Willow. Hugs to Kate Flood and thanks for setup and ongoing support from Jules Michael, Eoin Mac Lochlainn, Mairead Holohan, Dr Eileen Hutton, Rosie O’Gorman, and Orla Callaghan. Thanks also to Drs Iain Biggs, Paul O’Brien, Karen Till, Gerry Kearns and Nessa Cronin. Thanks also to all the participants who have given such rich, detailed feedback. Also a big thanks to Arts Officer, Sinead Dowling and all at the Carlow Arts Office. And to the Rathanna Community Hall Committee – the venue was perfect. Thanks also to the Local Carlow Enterprise Board, business mentor Bernie Tracey and my online course mentor Jim Wright at Mirasee, Montreal.
“Humanity faces the combined catastrophes of climate change, a mass extinction of vital biodiversity and a degradation of ecosystems health everywhere,” said Lucy Neal, spokesperson for Culture Declares Emergency.
“This has now become an emergency situation because governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership, and, so far, have not acted fast enough. Fortunately, humans are capable of responding in a remarkable variety of ways to accelerate climate solutions and adaptations, and culture can help stir up human response as well as creating new stories and visions for our world.”
As an Irish art culture worker extremely concerned with the ecological emergency that is unfolding around us, and knowing the culture sector in Ireland to date is not creating strategies commensurate with the situation, I have become a signatory to the first wave of a new global movement, #CultureDeclaresEmergency that is being launched across the world today. I am…