RAD-ART TALKBACK: RETHINKING THE ARTS AT FES

Where do we want FES arts programming to be in 2020?

How do we get there?

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On Thursday, May 28th, Crossroads Art Gallery and the Wild Garden Media Centre teamed up for a one-day workshop to address these challenging and important questions. Through a series of popular education activities, participants explored the relevance of artistic praxis in Environmental Studies at York—past, present and future.

Here are some of the themes and projects we touched on. Join the conversation via the Comments section, or get in touch by email.

BEGINNING: MAPPING ARTS AT FES

Using only a flow chart, post-it notes and markers, participants were quickly able to collectively map our own connections to the arts and art production. Here is just some of the current arts programming in and around FES that we discussed:

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Crossroads Fall Shows
This coming fall, Crossroads will feature work by graduating students Anne Zbitnew, Charmaine Lurch, Anique Jordan, and other talented MES artists. Following that exhibit, the gallery will feature an exhibition in collaboration with the Feminist Art Conference in October,  Erica Gajewski in November, and Andrew Zealley‘s TEXTING—”an exhibition about HIV/AIDS, disclosure, typography, erasure, palimpsest, disidentities and vexed meanings”—in January.

Major Research Papers (MRPs) and Dissertations
The faculty’s MES and PhD programs have produced a vast literature on the arts and artistic practice.  Click here to scan some of the available titles.

AGYU                                                                                                                                                                        The Art Gallery of York University has been transforming itself into a major contemporary art gallery, integrating arts programming, outreach, audience development and educational drives. Here’s a list of its recent publications.

Cohearance                                                                                                                                                              The Cohearance Podcast is produced by recent PhD grads Andrew Mark and Amanda DiBattista. This first-rate podcast examines environmental issues from various creative angles.

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Sustainable Writing Lab
Initiated by Cate Sandilands, in conjunction with PhD student Lauren Corman and postdoctoral fellow Adam Dickinson, FES hosted a graduate course on writing and the environment. It also hosted several writing workshops open to members of the York community and loaned out 10 laptops to students exploring questions of nature and environment through creative, expository, or experimental writing.

ZigZag Gallery
Organized and managed by the Wild Garden Media Centre, the ZigZag Gallery is integrated into the student lounge on the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) building main floor. The walls in the lounge are used on a rotating basis to display the artwork of the FES community. In September, the site will feature a joint exhibition by Bernadette Wycks and Andrew Winchur based around re-enactments of the 2015 CUPE 3903 picket lines. (Check out Picket Parade Performance for an earlier iteration of this project.)

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UnderCurrents: A Journal of Critical Environmental Studies 
FES’ resident student-run journal, Undercurrents, explores intersections of environment, culture and society, and publishes one thematic issue per year. Its next issue will centre on themes of environmental justice, and the collective is still accepting artistic submissions.

Alternative Campus Tours
For over a decade, FES Prof Anders Sandberg has led tours of York University that think critically about sites and aspects of the campus, encouraging students to study their immediate everyday surroundings, and to see the campus as a microcosm of the world. In 2012, the Alternative Campus Tour obtained a grant from York’s Academic Innovation Fund to expand its work, and began to develop an online social archive of its work.

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TYFPC Journal
The Toronto Youth Food Policy Council runs an innovative, bi-annual journal, The Gathering: A Youth Perspective on Food Issuesan accessible peer-reviewed journal of research, concepts, case studies, and arguments to help youth be recognized for their contribution to sustainable food system research. The group also hosts regular community meetings and maintains a database on farming opportunities throughout the city.

Wild Garden Brownbag Thursdays
Starting in September, Wild Garden will host a series of brown bag lunches on arts and media production. Details coming soon!

Maloca Garden
FES has its own community garden! About a 15-minute walk from HNES, Maloca boasts approximately 2,000 sq. ft. of land devoted to both individual and communal plots for growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers according to the principles of organic agriculture.

Growing Good: Community Engaged Action Learning in Agroecology course 
Last summer, Martin Bunch and Damian Adjodha led a masters-level practicum on organic vegetable production. Over the course of the term, students collectively built an agro-ecosystem at Maloca based on agro-ecological theory and practices of community development.

There will also be a Harvest Festival in the garden at Thanksgiving, in celebration of the arts at FES and bountiful food.

MIDDLE: VISIONING ARTS AT FES

Using what we gleaned from the mapping exercise, the next activity saw us creating a bold vision for the faculty’s artistic future.

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There was general interest in developing new and better spaces for artistic production—whether that took the form of satellite spaces in downtown Toronto, moving Crossroads to a different location, developing the creative potential of Maloca, or even building a yurt!

There was also an emphasis on coordinating artistic performances, whether in the form of an annual FES “Carnival of Resistance”, or better integrating the arts with FES’ alternative campus tours.

END: BACKCASTING STREAMS AND THE BIG PICTURE

Based on some of the priorities of our visioning activity, we then set to work on clarifying our next steps. Splitting into small groups, we used a back-casting chart to help plot reverse trajectories from our future goals back to the present.

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Out of this work, we took the very first steps towards:

  • developing an online social hub for all arts in and around FES. This will involve the development of an umbrella Facebook group, in which organizers from various collectives (e.g. Wild Garden, UnderCurrents, Maloca) can promote upcoming events and keep each other informed. There might also be capacity to organize a database of FES’ existing arts partnerships, as well as an informal events calendar.
  • organizing a meeting amongst the Graduate Assistants (GAs) paid to manage these collectives early in the academic year. This, in turn, could lead to new partnerships and increased capacity.
  • pooling GA knowledge by means of a training manual, to help smooth transitions between incoming and outgoing personnel and prevent an undue loss of creative momentum.

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  • programming a monthly arts event in an effort to build community and enrich campus life.
  • strengthening the relationship between UnderCurrents and Crossroads. The gallery could benefit from added promotion in the journal, while artists could provide UnderCurrents with much-needed artistic content and critical writing on their work.
  • developing a podcast that could publicize the work of Undercurrents, Wild Garden, the wider department, and its larger academic and activist audiences.