Wesleyan University: Partnerships

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Artist Partners

Scenes from the Feet to the Fire Festival at Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown, CT on May 10, 2008. Photography by Adam Kubota.

Scene from the Feet to the Fire Festival at Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown, CT on May 10, 2008. Photography by Adam Kubota.

Ann Carlson (dancer and choreographer),  artist in residence for the project; Ann participated in project conception and planning; partnered with environmental studies professor Barry Chernoff in developing and co-teaching Biology 109: Feet to the Fire: The Art and Science of Climate Change; choreographed a piece for the Feet to the Fire eco-arts festival; and taught a course modules in an economics and in an anthroplogy course.

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange www.danceexchange.org : through their ongoing role with the Center for Creative Research, Dance Exchange artists developed the student dance elements of the first-year Common Experience programs; in addition, Liz Lerman, Cassie Meador and Matt Mahaney co-taught with Professor Barry Chernoff Biology 306: Tropical Ecology, a course that included a trip to Guyana to experience the effects of global warming first hand.

Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. (printer/bookmaker) http://www.kennedyprints.com: partnered with anthropology professor Gina Ulysse in a course in which students created an ethnography of people living in the vicinity of the Middletown landfill.

Eiko Otake (dancer and choreographer) http://www.eikoandkoma.org: co-created and co-taught a module in a government/East Asian studies course exploring through movement the idea of a global civil society concerned with global climate change.

Michael Pestel (visual artist and musician) http://www.michaelpestel.com – participated with Wesleyan faculty in developing and teaching an art history class on issues in contemporary art.

Katja Kolcio (assistant professor of dance) http://www.wesleyan.edu/templates/dept/danc/skeleton_faculty.htt?function=f1&department=DANC&faculty=kkolcio: added a module to an advanced modern dance technique course in collaboration with Environmental Studies professor Barry Chernoff exploring how the physical and contemplative practice of dance serves as a medium for the investigation of the environment, how an investigation of the physical landscape of body/self deepens the understanding of the environment and how a deeper understanding ecology/environment informs our understanding of our physicalized self.

Marion Belanger (photographer) http://www.marionbelanger.com: co-created a module with astronomy professor William Herbst that introduced students to an artistic approach to the scientific issues of causes of climate change.

Rachel Boggia (dancer, choreographer, and video artist): taught a course module on the elements of dance composition as a way of physicalizing scientific concepts and of expressing ideas about environmental justice.

Dic Wheeler (Artistic director, ARTFARM theater) http://www.art-farm.org: coached students in a Physics of Sustainability course to become effective advocates of informed policies of sustainability.

In addition, there were a number of artist-led presentations and performances, as well as the eco-arts festival, during which 120 artists performed or developed visual arts installations.

Campus Partners

Wesleyan University Center for the Arts (CFA) http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa and http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa/feettothefire provided conceptual, planning, and implementation leadership, artistic direction, administration, fund raising, promotion, technical coordination, and financial management of the project.

Wesleyan University Environmental Studies Program http://www.wesleyan.edu/ees through the leadership of Environmental Studies professor Barry Chernoff, was the key campus partner for the CFA, provided major financial support, coordinated the logistics and financial management of the field elements of the co-taught course, managed and secured speakers for all lectures and symposia, and was an active partner in development of artistic components of the project.

Center for Creative Research (CCR) http://www.centerforcreativeresearch.org a prior partner with CFA in placing artists into non-arts areas of the university curriculum; CCR arranged for the participating visiting artists and played an ongoing role in project planning and execution.

Environmental Organizers Network (EON) http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/eon: a student-run organization that mounted the project kick-off event, provided volunteers for the festival and participated in project planning.

Community Partners

Green Street Arts Center http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org, a community arts organization that developed and hosted an after-school arts/science Feet to the Fire course for elementary school students; adopted the climate change theme in their other activities and courses; participated in the Festival Planning Committee; and hosted project meetings.

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art http://www.thejonahcenter.org, a local environmental organization that was CFA’s key partner in mounting the community Feet to the Fire Festival, organizing exhibits, providing volunteers and participating in all aspects of planning.

This number and variety of artistic, campus, and community partners gave the project a truly campus- and community-wide impact.  A key lesson was the importance of having a highly-placed faculty member as the key project partner for the presenter who was able to bring university and student resources to the project.  Also, the formation of two major committees gave the partners a larger forum within which to collaborate.  By reaching out to established organizations, faculty, students, staff and administration, people of color, churches, schools and the broader community, the project established a message of inclusion: everyone could be involved.  The Center for the Arts already had a history of community engagement but Feet to the Fire succeeded in strengthening the CFA’s connections by including people from the project’s inception, including during the planning process.  Finally, the partnership with the Center for Creative Research was critical because they gave the project access to a group of world-class artists who are experienced and interested in cross-campus experimentation.

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