Facilitating Intergenerational Stewardship through Community Arts

Project Title:

Facilitating Intergenerational Stewardship through Community Arts

Project Short Description:

This project harnesses collaboration across generations and neighborhoods in order to stimulate collective, environmental efficacy through the creation of site-specific, ecological art. In order to cultivate stewardship with children and adults, participants neighboring the Mystic River Watershed will explore trails surrounding the basin and waterways with the guidance of local experts. Those partaking will then activate natural spaces in a way that is noninvasive and sustainable in order to share information while bonding with their neighbors and environment.

Project Description:

As an artist, educator, and community arts worker, my life’s pursuit is to build community resilience around local needs by implementing educational, creative practices. Arts integration continues to be a proven strategy for increasing understanding, cooperation, confidence, and creative problem solving while learning. With the looming threats of climate change and natural resource pollution, climate anxiety can paralyze proactive responses of individuals and communities on a day to day basis.  This project investigates needs specific to the environment surrounding the Mystic Watershed and shares this knowledge to neighboring communities through artistic, ecological education.  It is though wondrous exploration, knowledge exchange, and collective efficacy in which communities viably support nature conservation and preservation.  A multigenerational and interdisciplinary approach allows a greater variety of community members to engage creatively as they learn and share expertise surrounding local, environmental issues. The intentional inclusion of multiple generations enhances family prosperity and sustainable stewardship by simultaneously engaging and educating youth and adults.

This community-based project creates an event for parents, a caregivers, and diverse families to collaboratively learn through the creation of site-specific, ecological art. This event will include the expertise of local experts at the Mystic River Watershed Association and Arlington Center for the Arts in order to pull resources to provide thoughtful, intentional, community-based programming for all ages to learn and enjoy. The event will take place along the trails of the Mystic River and Lower Mystic Lake. Methodologies include site-specific research, formal and informal interviews, social engagement, visual phenomenology, as well as observation of site and participants. The intended result is to facilitate intergenerational and communal exchanges of values, inform the public about importance of their local water bodies, and to create an opportunity for community members to bond in appreciation of their surrounding landscape.

Project Narrative:

Fall in New England is a world-renown, natural phenomena in which local residents experience annually. The dramatic shift in the hues of leaves provides a kaleidoscopic canopy above the land and, inevitably, blankets the ground before winter’s emergence. As the days get shorter and the leaves fall faster, the natural world reminds us of the fleeting moments comprising our existence.

Autumn’s whimsy yields an opportunity to imagine, explore, and discover across all ages. Frequently, this phenomenon brings together people from a variety of backgrounds in the collective appreciation for the earth. Diverse families, solo travelers, groups of friends, and all varieties of micro communities consciously inhabit the present state of the region. These factors make fall an ideal time to facilitate intergenerational exchanges of environmental values and information.

This project harnesses collaboration across generations and neighborhoods in order to stimulate collective, environmental efficacy. Thoughtful observation and play will secure the foundation for bridging social capital and the exchange of knowledge within the community. The methodologies employed in this project include observation, formal and informal interviews, written interviews, visual phenomenology, as well as site and community-specific research.  These approaches provide multiple angles through which to design, analyze, and assess the impact of this community-based project.

In order to cultivate stewardship with children and adults, participants neighboring the Mystic River Watershed will explore trails surrounding the basin and waterways with the guidance of local experts. Moments of awe in the natural landscape develop a sense of place for participating families and community members. Rather than a river clean-up, a climate protest, or a momentary project addressing pollution and climate change, participants will engage in thoughtful wonder of their landscape and activate natural spaces in a way that is noninvasive and sustainable.

This multifaceted project empowers families to explore a local, protected landscape while creating ecologically-conscious artistic designs alongside their neighbors. As a community event, families can interact with one another, share anecdotes about their history in the natural world, exchange resources, and demonstrate civic values to their offspring and one another.

A partnership between Arlington Center for the Arts and the Mystic River Watershed Association will support this community-based project through their artistic and environmental expertise. These community partnerships provide the structural support needed to produce thoughtful, site-specific programming and educational opportunities for all ages. Additionally, such partnerships will allow these vital community organizations to advocate for their community’s concerns and engage the public through collaborative learning. This project ultimately yields an increase in community stewardship, local environmental knowledge, and community resilience all through the creation of ecological art.