Beginning in 2019, the Art+Earth Festival has been a series of interactive, public events that provides an appreciation for the wonders of our natural world through artistic and environmental experiences. In 2020, the pandemic saw the Festival move to a mainly virtual platform, and 2021 has seen it grow into a wider time frame—beginning with Earth Day in April, continuing through World Oceans Day in June, and finishing with World Rivers Day in September.
It is difficult to know if the term “festival” is appropriate for what Art+Earth attempts to be. It is an ongoing exploration of how to engage communities in a manner that can effect change. As an aspect of tourism and economic development, or as a promoter for social development and cultural entrepreneurship, Art+Earth has the potential to partner with every sector of our community to promote positive growth.
The main partners currently include the Campbell River Arts Council, Museum at Campbell River, Greenways Land Trust, the Campbell River Art Gallery, Tidemark Theatre, Aquarium, Downtown BIA, and Patrons of the Arts.
All events are intended to explore the relationship between the arts, the environment, and the community. The key question is: what does it mean to explore relationships?
As humans we are enmeshed and integrated into our environment. We are a part of the waters, the land, and the air. How we extract meaning from our relationship with these elements is through the creative—an aesthetic process of framing observations. It is impossible to see the entirety of the natural or social world’s complexity all at once. We examine the world in parts so that we may understand how they relate to the whole. This is at the root of artistic practice and scientific investigation.
Our collective technologies, alongside population growth, have reached a scale capable of influencing our global natural environment. Yet our individual understanding of this scale struggles to find common ground for discussion—we are bombarded with contrasting perspectives and viewpoints.
How best should we approach our current environmental and social challenges? What role does an individual have within the massive global scale? What can communities do together? There is no singular, quick, or easy answer. It will take many efforts across all communities’ social, environmental, economic, and cultural sectors.
Art+Earth is an effort that encourages community partnerships. The focus is on the local. It begins by acknowledging that we need each other, working together, in order to learn and to grow. When we share experiences and then discuss the influence it has on each of us, we begin to see our diversity alongside our connection.
Art+Earth is not a problem-identifying exercise; it is not a blame game. It is attempting to provide opportunities to witness the beauty, the mystery, and the profound complexity of what surrounds us both large and small. Art+Earth provides entry points for discussion. It is an attempt to raise appreciation of the natural world, through direct aesthetic experiences, in order to heighten our sense of value for what is at risk. It highlights the inherent beauty that exists all around us. What we come to appreciate and value, we evolve to protect.
Art+Earth looks like this: pollinator gardens planted by schoolchildren in order to learn about native plants, insects, pollination, and health; photography and drawing workshops to foster a deepened insight into the world around us; “framing” of the world through pictures, dance, music, and poetry; interpretive and restorative work; opportunities to learn alongside our First Nations neighbours and understand history as a living aspect of the present; talks from world experts on oceans, forests, land use, and social challenges; observing artists and scientists at work; promoting the participation of school children, families, adults, and seniors; local food offerings and wildlife experiences; discussions on active living, urban biodiversity, sustainable community planning, community aesthetics, and the influence on social engagement. All of this is Art+Earth.
And it is a work in progress. We will build it as we go, addressing emerging needs of the community. Campbell River is perfectly poised to become a major voice within environmental and cultural discussions. We no doubt have the geography that can speak to environmental diversity, and we have the people—the artists, scientists, business innovators, and cultural leaders—who contribute to leading-edge, solution-based thinking. Campbell River is at a crossroads. It can become whatever it chooses.
Art+Earth suggests a cultural future, one rooted in an ongoing exploration and understanding of the complexity in our evolving social, economic, and environmental relationships. Art+Earth should be seen as a resource in developing creative approaches to the developmental challenges that lie ahead.
Perhaps not a festival, but rather an initiative for how we want to move forward together.