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Habitat: ecology.

Green is more than the complement of red. It also symbolizes a concern for this planet that we call home - Earth. Connections between ecology and art are not readily apparent. Biology, geography, economics and politics are more easily identified with the term that my dictionary defines as "the relationship between organisms and their environment." But the same dictionary serves to include me as it defines an organism as any living individual, plant or animal. The fact that art teachers, in some places, might also be included in a comprehensive list of endangered species, further calls attention to the important place that ecology is assuming in all of our lives. From the recycled paper that we increasingly are writing, drawings and painting on (with all those delicious subtle colors and textures) to our changing belief systems about nature and conservation, it is apparent that ecological concerns are becoming a critical part of our future.

The artist has long been tuned in this movement. From the reverence for nature one finds in Durer's drawings of grasses and small animals, to the earth art of Christo, Smithson, Goldsworthy, Webster and others, art can play a key role in making the general populace aware of this issue. In her book, The Reenchantment of Art, Suzi Gablik describes the art of a Wyoming artist, Lynne Hull, who etches small, glyph-like symbols into rock surfaces - mostly on private land in remote desert areas. She incises them deeply enough so they can serve as small trenches for holding water so snowmelt, helping to store the desert's most precious commodity for desert creatures to drink. Other artists use the art forms of murals, festivals, posters and exhibits to serve the same purpose.

Changing belief systems is one thing; changing behaviors is a much more challenging task. It is in the change-agent role that the art teacher can assume an important function, for this is where we can inform, catalyze, raise consciousness and, hopefully, cause change to occur. Ecological sensitivity has to be a fundamental layer of art education concern, and perhaps it all begins with that troublesome term, aesthetics. In a 1971 article in Art Education, Reid Hastie stated his belief that the sordid state of our environment would not have occurred if we had a higher aesthetic value scale. Many years earlier, in the same journal, Kenneth Beittel presented his view of the art-science paradox in these terms: "Art appraises and evaluates man's existence, whereas science designates and informs us about what exists." At its simplest level, aesthetics plays a role in how we view a polluted stream, a stripmined hill, or litter on a grassy field. Aesthetic concerns are explicit in ecology. We can't all take action, or even agree, on how to deal with spotted owls or alternate energy sources, but we can help children to become aware of the poetry of the earth, the form of a flower, and the color that the sky should be. Where what other area of the school curriculum...can first grade children as well as high school sophomores examine serious issues and express their opinions and beliefs to others in paint, clay or other art media?

As you page through this issue of School Arts, you will meet many teachers and young people who are sharing their ideas with you, and with thousands of others who will be viewing their visual statements about endangered species, the disappearing rain forest, the need to recycle and other critical issues. You will note a sensitivity to materials, objects, living things and cultural context...and you will know that an art teacher helped to develop a sensitivity to these issues, and provided the means to think of solutions and project opinions, ideas and an artful way.

The staff, editors and publisher of SchoolArts join me in wishing you the very best for the holiday season, and for 1993.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:art and environmentalism
Author:Anderson, Kent
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Complete Metalsmith.
Next Article:Going wild for endangered animals.

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