CMU School of Drama

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Artists and Environmental Activists Both Do Better Together

NEA: For a number of years, artist Jenny Kendler had been searching for a science-based or activist organization with an artist-in-residence program as a way to explore her interest in environmental themes. Having had little luck in her quest for formal programs, Jenny’s interest was piqued in the fall of 2013 at the EXPO CHICAGO international art fair, where she saw that the environmental non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was an exhibitor. NRDC’s show included artwork by Maya Lin and Gordon Matta-Clark, and was distinctively different from the other art/activism partnerships that she had seen, which had tended to use artwork solely for marketing or design purposes.


Mark Ivachtchenko said...

Although the article doesn't specifically focus on the relationship between environmental activism and theatrical artists, we've become one of the best environmental preservationists ever. This is most noticeable in lighting since theaters are moving to the era of LED fixtures. These have become extremely efficient, last for years, and don't waste dozens of incandescent lamps in the process. Additionally, lighting fixtures have become extremely customizable, allowing you to install certain accessories so the fixtures are utilized for years or decades. Protecting the environment has become extremely important in carpentry as well. By stopping the use of materials such as MDF we are protecting the lives of--not only the workers--but we are reducing the amount of chemicals released outside when they are thrown out. Additionally, the reduction of the use of lauan in set construction is decreasing the demand for the species which has been one of the major causes of deforestation in the rain forests. All-in-all, we're going in good directions as theater artists when it comes to environmental preservation.

Lauren Miller said...

Juggling being active in advocating for the environment and being enamored with theater is something I I currently, and most likely always will struggle with. Despite what few changes we as an industry have made, Theater as a whole is still extremely wasteful and overall terrible for the environment. Most large theaters have stopped using lauan in set construction, and MDF is known for the chemicals it contains and it's use is limited, but these changes are really just a drop of water in a pool of waste. Practices like these just make you feel better about yourself without effectively doing anything. We stop using lauan but still throw the entire set in the dumpster instead of trying to reuse the resources or give it to a younger or smaller theater. We need to be more mindful of our footprint upon the environment and actively take measures to combat that. Programs like the one mentioned in this article, much like many "environmentally charged" shows, exist to draw attention to a specific issue, but in reality the actions of the project only makes a small dent in the problem. By all means we should spread awareness, but we need to do more on top of that. All industries and people need to carry through on being considerate of the Earth and the condition we will leave her in for future generations.

Vanessa Ramon said...

Ever since I was first introduced to the artistic world, one of my favorites parts is that it can move people like nothing else. Art has a way of targeting a persons pathos and clearly showing them the problem or helping them realizes it through the work. I think the idea to include the artist in the project from the very start and not just bring them in at the very end is a great way to get all that you can out of a creative process and I'm surprised no one had thought of it before. Many times, if an artist felt strongly about a topic and wanted to advocate it, they would work independently but with this new idea, artists have the opportunity to work with groups that have the same end goal and help them to strengthen their campaign. With a collaboration like this, the artist gets the materials and freedom they need to make the company a great product of persuasion. Overall, I think that these two worlds colliding will be beneficial to everyone.

Delaney Johnson said...

If there is one thing that theatre artists know how to do it's make something out of nothing, save money and use every last bit of everything. From reworking wood straps to repurposing fabric, designers and technicians have mastered the art of recycling and reinventing used materials. This does not only apply to materials though. Directors and actors alike repurpose dilapidated buildings to beautiful performance venues and take pieces of lost writings and engineer them into brand new plays and devised work. Theatre artists are environmental advocates in their own right even though they do not make walls of plastic water bottles or clothes of use paper towels. We use what little we are provided to make something that is so grand that it cannot be seen as little at all. This so important because just like products made from natural materials we are given our talents as a gift we need to use generously, and the supplies we receive to exude this talent is ofter small in nature. Just as the earth gives to use I believe we need to give back which includes recycling and renovating.

Pics from CMU Drama