Excitement mounting for Eco Art and Media Festival

Excitement is growing for the Faculty of Environmental Studies’ annual Eco Art and Media Festival, running March 30 to April 1.

eco art mediaThe festival brings together submissions from York University faculty, students and community members with the goal of sparking substantive and critical discussions on pertinent environmental topics through a variety of artistic media.

The festival will be held in and around the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) building, and includes a cabaret evening at the Tranzac Club in the Annex neighbourhood the evening of April 1.

The Eco Art and Media Festival, first held in 1994, is organized through the Wild Garden Media Centre and administrated by FES Instructor and Centre Coordinator, Chris Cavanagh. The festival draws attention to the vibrancy of the critical and creative arts community found inFES. Check out the program on the Wild Garden website.

Exhibits at this year’s festival include workshops and performances on participatory musicking, creative writing, craftivism, neuro-eco education art, pinhole cameras, steelpan music, podcasting, comics and social justice, wunderkammer and more.

The three-day festival is just one indication of this direction. The (newly renamed) Cultural and Artistic Practices (CAP) for Environmental and Social Justice certificate program is an Environmental Studies initiative that,  since 2005, has offered FES students, as well as other York students and non-students, the opportunity to complete a certificate in Community Arts as part of their studies.

“FES is a vibrant hub of community arts activities,” says CAP Coordinator Sarah. “From Crossroads, to Zig Zag and our annual Eco-arts Festival, our community of students, faculty and community partners are producing and sharing incredible work that showcases the many ways that social and environmental justice can be achieved through artistic activism and intervention,”

CAP encourages students to explore topics that consider the artistic implications of a more expanded environmentalism – one focused on equity concerns, the status of marginalized and subaltern groups, historical and environmental injustice, as well as traditional ecological concerns. These considerations are taken up by students and faculty of the project as having both local and global faces, and in this sense, the project has built bridges with communities surrounding York University, as well as in Costa Rica through the Las Nubes Program.

Andrew Zealley
Andrew Zealley

Recently the artistic excellence of FES students has been recognized by artists-in-residence programs in Toronto advocacy organizations. Andrew Zealley, an FES PhD candidate, has been appointed to the Toronto People With AIDS foundation; and Gloria Swain, an MES student, holds an appointment with the Tangled Arts collective.

These exciting connections demonstrate the strong community advocacy orientation of students pursuing artistic practice in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

As Dean Noël Sturgeon noted, “At the Faculty of Environmental Studies, we are very proud of the work we do in the arts to address and articulate environmental and social justice issues within communities. To have artist-in-residencies awarded to two of our excellent students is very important.”

Zealley’s artistic practice addresses the management of queer bodies in the health care industry by approaching the biopolitics of AIDS through neo-shamanic practice, while considering the ways in which performative artistic engagement can operate as a health intervention.

Within the People With AIDS foundation residency,  Zealley aims “to see what comes when an artist is visible and active in an (AIDS service organization) as a distinct experience and as a branch to existing arts-and-activism efforts that are significant markers in the history in the AIDS pandemic”.

Zealley’s residency continues to address on the ways in which we can consider artistic practices’ “life beyond the canvas.”

Students, faculty, and community members are encouraged to engage with the movements and projects led by FES. An important element of the artistic constellation in the Faculty has been the Crossroads Gallery, which continually hosts events and exhibits (located in Rm. 283 of the Health, Nursing, and Environmental Studies Building at York University). The gallery will feature a showcase of Bernadette Wyck’s works, a master’s in Environmental Studies candidate, titled “Mourning/Morning” until April 4h.

By Dylan McMahon, Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate assistant