Expertise for art & sustainability policy

In England in 2018, ‘65% of Arts Council organisations are commissioning work on climate and the environment’… 

Alison Ticknell – Julie’s Bicycle, 14 Dec. 2018

…but in Ireland, art for sustainability strategies are absent in national cultural policy!!

I first saw Alison Ticknell, CEO of the English Art and Sustainability organisation Julie’s Bicycle give a keynote address at the Culture |Futures Summit held during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. I was so impressed at Julie’s Bicycle’s key strategies to educate, engage and support art workers who wished to engage deeply with the existential issue of our time for their audiences. At that time, I also met with Ben Twist, CEO of Creative Carbon Scotland, who was just beginning to organise a similar organisation to serve the Scottish Art sector.

During my ecological art doctoral research and work in the arts in Ireland over the last decade, I have been dismayed that strategies developed by Julie’s Bicycle and the similar Scottish organisation, Creative Carbon Scotland, have not been adopted in Ireland. There are reasons why Ireland hasn’t developed such strategy (as detailed in my report – download here  and summarised in the slideshow below (Fitzgerald, 2017). However, the issue of engaging Irish society in sustainability has never been so pressing.

Importantly, both Julie’s Bicycle and Creative Carbon Scotland have similar strategies for their respective arts sector that could be readily replicated for the Irish situation.

In May 2018, I was asked to summarise and present my findings from my research at the 50th Conference of Irish Geographers. There was enough interest to hold a workshop on my findings and I have been invited to share my research in NUIG  Galway, in May 2019.

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Image from my presentation to the 50th Conference of Irish Geographers seminar ‘The Earth is our Home, Maynooth Univ., 2018. Quote from environmental philosopher and write, Prof. Kathleen Dean-Moore

This is a critical issue for the Irish Arts sector. To me, art and sustainability strategies and policy would immediately signal legitimacy and develop educational and financial supports for the those working in the arts who wish to engage with the most important eco-social issues of our time.

Ireland has immense creativite potential to translate the science of the environmental emergency so as to inspire relevant life-sustaining futures for diverse rural and urban communities of Ireland. But, until national strategy is devised, the full creative potential of the arts sector will not be realised.

Please note, I am available for further research in this area.

Do feel free to contact me at


Further reading:


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Update 2 July 2019 : Since giving my recent talk in Galway in June 2019 on the urgent need art and sustainability supports for Irish Arts communities in Ireland, there has been an important and very welcome development.

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On 28 June 2019 Creative Carbon Scotland announced that Caitriona Fallon and Theatre Forum Ireland had been assisted by them to set up a Green Initiative for Arts in Ireland. Read more here on my new site on ecoliteracy services for the arts in Ireland at

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My Research:


A study I undertook, Creative Carlow Futures (Fitzgerald, 2017; download here) which began as a review of international art and sustainability for County Carlow, quickly grew to scope policy for all of Ireland. The report argues the under-acknowledged, but potential central role of the Irish art sector to engage civil society toward more sustainable futures.


CIG50_logoI have been fortunate in having received some very welcome support from artists and residents in Carlow and beyond. But to tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure where the report might lead. However, perhaps the shocking winter that Ireland has just experienced in 2018 has focused minds. I submitted an abstract of the report recently for the 50th Conference of Irish Geographer’s  because this year’s theme is ‘The Earth as Our Home’. To my surprise, I had an enthusiastic response and invitation to present my findings on 10 May, 2018 at Maynooth University.

Below is an edited version of my presentation:

Order an A5 copy of the booklet here


Here is the abstract:

‘Raising the Shining, Reflective Shield’: the urgent need for cultural policy
to engage Irish civil society toward eco-social well-being 

Building on cognitive research and environmental philosophy, recent international cultural policy research, and as underlined by the United Nation’s publication of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for people and the planet, there is growing evidence that the arts have a key role alongside science to engage a wider public toward more sustainable living and overall well-being. Unprecedented and accelerating climate and other eco-social challenges, if examined through moral reasoning, require urgent action from all sectors, and in particular, the art sector. This presentation explores these ideas to begin a conversation about starting a new public art for sustainability policy in Ireland.

A recent art and sustainability study report for County Carlow and Ireland by Cathy Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald, 2017) highlights comprehensive cultural research, policy and strategies that are being implemented in Britain to foster the cultural sector to engage with issues of sustainability. This presentation reviews the report, which includes a discussion of the reasons why we in the cultural sector must act urgently, and demonstrates the diverse ways creative practitioners can engage with complex scientific issues. The study highlighted strategies from developed national art and sustainability programmes in England and Scotland, which include: assisting national and local cultural institutes to adopt energy audits so they become public champions of sustainability-learning for their visitors and audiences, and which also reduce running costs and make carbon savings ; curating events to educate cultural practitioners in sustainability science; and developing strategies that enable closer partnership between art and science and improved ecoliteracy for the sector.

A workshop at the conference hosted a conversation about how cultural policy for sustainability was held on Fri 11 May 2018, RM  SE129 from 9-10.30 am, Maynooth University, Ireland.


see the blog posts below where I presented an update and new findings, and related earlier posts