The Art of Sustainability Symposium took place on Friday February 19th and Saturday February 20th in Palm Bay, Florida, and featured nationally noted guest speakers from the art and science communities highlighting advancements in art and sustainability, including: Mississippi River's Chad Pregracke of Living Lands and Waters, biologist Wendy Anderson, Marty Baum of Riverkeeper Alliance, kinetic artist Ralfonso Gschwend, Keith Winsten from the Brevard Zoo, Trevor Gibson of Environmental Advantage, and Patricia Watts, founder/curator of ecoartspace.
Wendy Anderson gave a presentation on her perspective as a biologist of the unique ways in which artists and scientists are similar, and how these characteristics offer opportunities for both domains when using the imagination to solve the environmental issues at hand. Keynote speaker Chad Pregracke gave a presentation of his 18-year ongoing effort to clean up the Mississippi River, including 856 clean ups of 23 rivers with 93,000 volunteers. He also shared with us images of his low tech/high tech barge that looks like a great opportunity for artist residencies on the Mississippi.
Florida's habitat ecoartist Jesse Etelson was also involved and presented an interactive habitat sculpture made of driftwood for families of the sustainability Community Day! And, Patricia Watts of ecoartspace presented site projects that employ wind, water, and solar including both proposals, and permanent and temporal public art works such as Windsock Currents at Crissy Field in the Presidio, which she sited for the UN World Environment Day in 2005, and Cloud House that she curated for Farmer's Park in Springfield, Missouri working Matthew Mazzotta in 2015. Other projects included Mags Harries and Lajo Heder's Sunflowers in Austin, Texas, and proposals from the 2012 and 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative competitions, as well as Buster Simpson's waste water cisterns, Betsy Damon's Living Water Garden, and Eve Mosher's HighWaterLine. Her talk wrapped up with a work she feels is long overdue to be implemented, Andrea Polli's Queens Bridge Windpower Project, and then in contrast, the bloated $15.5 million dollar unsustainable work by Olafur Eliasson, NYC Waterfalls. The title of her talk Some Kind of Nature was borrowed from the song by the Gorillaz.
There was a closing panel on Saturday discussing climate science with a couple members of the audience questioning the data and the validity of climate change. It was apparent that this is an area where the sciences can benefit from the arts in presenting the data in order to help the general public understand the science. There is still much work to do!