Art & Ecology Workshops – Community Engagement & Partnership Building

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Earth Celebrations workshops are at the heart of our cultural organizing and collaborative process. Over the past 30 years we have developed large-scale collaborative art and cultural organizing projects that have cultivated broad-based and cross-sector engagement, mobilized and built grassroots neighborhood and citywide coalition efforts, and effected policy and ecological and social change.

Earth Celebrations’ creative strategies innovate on the historical pageant art form. On the Lower East Side in the early 1900s settlement houses utilized pageants, community-created public performances and processions, to bring together the diverse immigrant populations around social reform issues. Earth Celebrations utilizes the collaborative process to engage the community to create visual art with site-specific performances of dance, theater, music and poetry that explore the issues, problems and propose solutions. The year-long production process, with partnership building and creative collaboration workshops, culminates in a theatrical pageant through the streets, and significant sites of the neighborhood. The pageant provides a powerful public platform for community-created artistic expression to address issues, propose solutions and impact policy change.
Stakeholders, groups, artists, community service organizations, schools and residents participate through a year-long process of planning/design sessions, research/data collection, artist/partner collaborations and workshops. Through workshops participants explore the issues in depth with environmental experts and neighborhood leaders. Earth Celebrations’ artists-in-residence lead workshops and teach a variety of artistic skills to produce collaborative art projects for the pageant such as, giant puppets, costumes, dance, and performances that explore the issues and sites. Participants are also introduced to the use of organic materials, natural dyes/paints and recycled waste to create artwork. Through a ‘place-based’ learning process our workshops engage children, teens, and adult residents to explore, research and learn about ecological and sustainability issues affecting their neighborhood and then develop solutions.

For the Hudson River, participants researched the diversity of marine plant and animal life as indicators of the river’s health, and current issues concerning pollution and waste. They learned about the restoration of the ecosystem of the Hudson River estuary, and researched the species and habitats that exist in the river, off Lower Manhattan. Participants actively collaborated with local river-based organizations to develop both visual art and performances based on river restoration issues, programs and targeted efforts for improvement of water quality through oyster planting, wetlands to buffer against erosion and sea level rise, and river clean-up and waterfront improvement efforts. For the garden pageants participants researched local garden history and important environmental justice issues that were at the heart of the struggle to preserve the gardens from proposed market rate development. They also explored, observed, and studies the diverse plant and animal species in their neighborhood gardens. These collective ideas and local history were woven into artworks and performances for the pageants, that were created by the local gardeners and community residents. Through the collaborative process, participants learned methods of partnership building, resource sharing, and collective action to achieve common goals. The process of creating the pageant effectively cultivated a coalition effort on the Lower East Side and then citywide, bringing together gardeners from Harlem, Upper West Side, Lower East Side, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The 15 year cultural organizing effort led to the preservation of hundreds of community gardens throughout New York City.

Earth Celebrations’ projects, with its collaborative comunity-engagement workshop process, provide a powerful public platform for community-created artistic expression that is an effective strategy for communities to work together to address issues, propose solutions and impact ecological and social change.