11.19.18

Grantee Spotlight: EcoArts Connections

“We’re very interested in sustainability, but we’re also arts producers,” says Marda Kirn, Executive Director of Boulder-based EcoArts Connections (EAC), a grantee of Community Foundation Boulder County. “What we do is bring the arts together with science, social justice, Indigenous, and other ways of knowing to inspire sustainable living.

 
“In other words, we define sustainability broadly – not only environmental sustainability, but also economic, social-cultural, and personal sustainability. And we help people understand the interconnections among those four sustainabilities.”
 

Marda Kirn, Founder and Executive Director of EcoArts Connections.

Marda Kirn, Founder and Executive Director of EcoArts Connections.

Marda Kirn, Founder and Executive Director of EcoArts Connections.

Specifically, Marda founded EAC to create a new role for the arts in addressing sustainability crises based on social science research showing that effective action requires a combination of cognition and affect (mind and heart) working together.
 
“When we help each other, we thrive,” she continues. “For example, for us, immigration isn’t as much a race or ethnicity issue, as it is a sustainability issue.
 
“Most people come to this country for a better life. And every one of us, except Native Americans, has an immigrant history. Through the affective power of the arts, we make that kind of understanding personal, visceral, and actionable. When we move people – emotionally and physically – we begin to pull the wagon in the same direction, and we begin to live more sustainably.”
Currently, EAC and other sponsors are presenting free art classes for middle and high school youth at the San Lazaro Mobile Home Park Clubhouse. And a recent book created by naturalist Steve Jones and produced by EAC features the often breathtaking nature photography of local middle schoolers.
 
 
Also worth noting is EAC’s worked with Boulder youth on the Resilience Project. “We brought professional photographers to five area high schools and four after-school programs,” says Marda. So far, the students’ photography has been displayed in seven venues – libraries, science centers, and art galleries – and reached some 90K people. 
 
The students took contrasting photos focused on four resilience themes – immigration, environment (both natural and human built), energy (i.e., from renewables and fossil fuels to what fuels human beings), and youth empowerment. “The whole purpose is to inspire kids to not only take photos with the help of fabulous art teachers, but also to describe in their own words how each photo relates to their chosen resilience theme. What some of the kids wrote is just astonishing, and impactful.”
 
All told, EAC offers programs for youth and families, involving mostly at-risk Latinx* youth who are at or below poverty level; programs for adults that commission national and Colorado-based artists and others to create new works; and national consulting and convening activities.  
 
Coming up, Science On a Sphere® (SOS) will feature an EAC collaboration with SOS and internationally-acclaimed, Los Angeles-based artist Lars Jan and his team of technologists to create a sustainability-inspired, four-minute film. The film will premiere at Fiske Planetarium on Feb. 20, 2019, with the artist and scientists on hand. SOS is a room-sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a large animated globe. 
 
Concludes Marda, “In its latest report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we have just 12 years to bring temperatures down, beyond which we can expect significantly worse droughts, floods, and poverty.
 
“Considering the Ds of climate change – denial, despair, and delinquency – the fourth D, ‘delight,’ is what we’re focused on. Delight that there is something we can do.
 
“The arts can play a pivotal role in helping people be more aware, and inspiring a sense of agency and empowerment to shift and act and move the whole world.”
 
*Latinx is a gender-neutral term that encompasses both Latino (masculine) and Latina (feminine).  
 

This mural was painted by middle and high school students at Boulder Ridge Mobile Home Park in Lafayette under the guidance of graffiti muralist Jolt.

This mural was painted by middle and high school students at Boulder Ridge Mobile Home Park in Lafayette under the guidance of graffiti muralist Jolt.

This mural was painted by middle and high school students at Boulder Ridge Mobile Home Park in Lafayette under the guidance of graffiti muralist Jolt.