The connection existing between art and the environment has been discussed and written about for decades, both within the field of art education and other areas of academia. In the early 1960s through the early 1980s, the environmental art movement brought forth “earth artists” who, while not concerned with the conservation of nature, “used the land as a field of operation” (Blandy, Congdon, & Krug, 1998, p. 232). These attitudes were soon changed through the works of artists such as Joseph Beuys: “Beuys believed that art and life were interconnected as are culture, nature, and ecological systems” (Blandy, Congdon, & Krug, 1998, p. 232). With strong beliefs such as these, he began to advocate that political action be taken to protect and conserve the earth.
In 1970, shortly after the first Earth Day celebration, President Richard Nixon signed “Title Three, which provided funding for and mandated that every state develop and incorporate environmental education strategies and curriculum into their schools” (Haskin, 2003, p. 2). Since the signing of Title Three, environmental schools, or schools with an emphasis on environmental science and preservation, and other environmental curricula and programs have come into existence.
While many art programs have begun to explore environmental connections, there still exists a deficiency in the presence and importance of environmentally-focused art programs within educational institutions. Within the field of art education, numerous articles have been written concerning the connection between art and the natural environment, as well as the ways in which this connection has been utilized within art classrooms. Much of this material addresses the ways in which an art program can instill within a child a greater sense of responsibility and connectedness to their natural and built environments (Barbosa, 1992; Coutts, & Jokela, 2008; McFee & Degge, 1977; Pattemore, 1974; Sanger, 1997; Song, 2008). While much literature exists concerning this connection and responsibility to nature through art education, there appears to be a lack of information regarding the ways in which an environmental focus might affect the learning that occurs within the art classroom.
The purpose of this blog is to provide ideas and inspiration for both art programs wishing to incorporate more environmental studies into their curricula, and environmental programs wishing to utilize art to engage their students and visitors in a multi-sensory learning experience.