Thursday, April 30, 2009

What do Green Art Jobs look like?

What do green art jobs look like? I recently finished this cistern mural that was installed by the Water Harvesting Co-Op. The carbon footprint for the mural is offset by the rainwater harvested. Using the right materials, doing the job well the first time is key.

Image ©2009 MichaelBSchwartz

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dear President Obama from Sam Bower

Readers - I find this letter by inspiring and thought I would share it with you. There appears to be a great groundswell of people connecting the dots between the green economy, the arts, community organizing and innovation. Cross sector collaborations are bubbling up in cities around America, the grassroots - so long on the margins are now front and center.

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on your historic victory. As President of the United States of America you bring a powerful spirit of hope and optimism to a time of great uncertainty about our economy and the environment.

I am releasing this letter into the electronic seas in the hope that it will get forwarded and reposted and somehow make its miraculous way to you so that you will consider the emerging role of ecological art as part of your future vision for this country.

Artists around the world are addressing the needs of communities and ecosystems through collaborative projects with engineers, educators, restoration scientists and park managers. Many of these projects help raise awareness of environmental issues, engage the public in solving problems creatively and beautifully, and reconnect people to local history and restore a sense of place.

One inspiring project in Vintondale, Pennsylvania, for example, by a group called AMD&ART, involved artists, historians, landscape architects and engineers, soil and water restoration specialists, the Bureau of Surface Mining, numerous public and private funding sources, Vista volunteers and hundreds of community members. Inspired by the hope that a polluting liability could be turned into an asset, they transformed a landscape devastated by coal mining into an artful park that connects residents to local mining history, provides recreational facilities and neutralizes the acid mine drainage (AMD) from old mines through a series of attractive limestone-lined ponds and an educational wetlands area.

This combination of function, design, history and culture is part of a rapidly growing movement of artists and their collaborators who are addressing food production, water, erosion, habitat restoration, climate change and countless other environmental and social issues through the arts. The practical hard work and spirited public service you call for can also be fun, beautiful and healing.

Art is a powerful tool for communication and can be highly effective at engaging and educating our children and at encouraging collaboration to address entrenched problems in creative and innovative ways. The following ideas have emerged recently from a wide range of discussions and suggestions from colleagues in the field of ecological art. I ask that you seriously consider them as you look towards renewing a sense of civic pride, public service and ecological stewardship in our country. Art has an important role to play healing our nation and restoring hope.

Here is how you can help:

  • Have science based agencies such as the EPA, Department of the Interior, NASA, NOAA, USF&WS and Parks Departments work with the NEA/NEH to create individual artists fellowships, residencies and development of cultural programs at museums and parks that foster eco-art practices.
  • Extend cultural diplomacy through the Department of State by appointing eco-ambassadors, cultural emissaries who work through U.S. embassies, to collaborate with their foreign colleagues to develop eco-art projects and bioremediation efforts with local partners across the globe.
  • Explore program opportunities within the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation that would allow eco-artists to work with schools to inspire American students to become more excited about the study of science and learn about energy efficiency and green design.
  • Incorporate eco-art into the work of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to advance a widespread 21st century WPA-style works program to address urgent infrastructure and restoration needs in informative and aesthetic ways.
  • Expand your plan to create new green collar jobs to include ecological artists and encourage the formation of collaborative and multidisciplinary teams that can approach old problems in new and more broadly effective ways.

The challenging path ahead does not have to emerge out of fear or desperation. Indeed, if we are to truly thrive and heal our nation and the Earth, it cannot. Please consider this as you set your priorities for the next four years and beyond. A more sustainable future must be effective and practical as well as delicious and inspiring. That's ecological art and we need more of it.

Many of my colleagues and countless artists and restoration specialists across the US and around the world would love to help with this. Are you ready to work with us?


Sam Bower
Executive Director

Mission: helps people create, present and appreciate art that heals our relationship with the natural world.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rising Tide Conference

This groundbreaking conference will be jointly hosted by California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and Stanford University this spring. Our audience and collaborators come from various disciplinary backgrounds. They are artists, activists, community organizers, venture capitalists, philanthropists, students, and faculty of Fine Arts, Design, Architecture, Writing, Criticism, Curatorial Practice and Environmental Sciences who are helping to push the green revolution to a tipping point.

In a series of topically organized panels, seminars, and roundtable discussions, we will bring together creative professionals, scholars and students to engage in conversations and debates about the intersections of ethics, aesthetics, and environmentalism. We believe that global governmental policy can be deeply influenced by artists, designers, and architects and that public discussion of the interconnection between environmental justice and the global environmental movement is both necessary and urgent.

The conference will convene on the San Francisco Campus of California College of the Arts on Friday, April 17th, on the Stanford Campus Saturday, April 18th, and at CCA on Sunday, April 19th. We are planning a series of satellite events (screenings, exhibitions, performances, lectures...) throughout the month of April.

For more information, email us at:

Green Innovation in Tough Economic Times

Spring 2009 Design and Technology Salon: Seeing Beyond Now—Green Innovation in Tough Economic Times

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 7:30pm
Studio 18
800 Chestnut Street campus
Free and open to the public

In the midst of a worldwide economic slump, everyone is concerned about jobs and livelihoods. It follows that people are less likely to be receptive to proposals about assuming further responsibility for global problems, solutions to which may be decades in the future. The more dismal and dogmatic the rhetoric of experts, the less inclined will people likely be to engage green alternatives with enthusiasm. Other factors working against the appeal of green technology are the return of inexpensive fossil fuel energy and the fact that planning for the long term requires—of strategic thinkers, academics, policy experts, scientists, and many others—at least a five-year outlook. Such factors are likely to mean that new investments in alternative and higher-cost energy sources—in fact, in any kind of new energy project—will seem less attractive and cost-effective. For better or for worse, we live life in the now.

The Spring 2009 Design and Technology Salon will consider what role artists, designers, and architects—often overlooked in the green-alternative debate—can play in furthering the possibilities of long-term ecological sustainability in a time of global economic crisis.

Panelists include David Baker, Amy Franceschini, and Jill Manton.

A practicing architect for nearly thirty years, David Baker founded San Francisco–based David Baker and Partners Architects, which has a history and driving philosophy of urban and green activism and is known for combining social concern with distinctive design. Over the course of his career, he has received numerous awards and, in 1996, was selected as fellow of the American Institute of Architects. From 1977 to 1982, he was a principal at Sol-Arc, a firm dedicated to energy-efficient architecture. Before becoming an architect, Baker was a union carpenter.

Amy Franceschini works with notions of community, sustainable environments, and a perceived conflict between humans and nature. She founded Futurefarmers in 1995 and Free Soil in 2004 as a way to bring together multidisciplinary practitioners to create new work. The design studio serves as a platform to support art projects, artist-in-residency programs, and research interests. Her solo and collaborative works have been included in such venues as Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe (Germany); the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA in New York City; and SFMOMA. Franceschini is the recipient of the Artadia Award, the Eureka Fellowship, the SFMOMA SECA Award, and a Creative Capital Grant.

Program director of the Public Art Program for the San Francisco Arts Commission since 1990, Jill Manton is involved in a number of environmentally conscious public-art projects for the California Academy of Sciences, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Port of San Francisco. She was the recipient of the Public Managerial Excellence Award in 1997 from the Mayor’s Fiscal Advisory Committee. With over twenty years in the public-art field, Manton serves as an elected member of the national council of the Public Art Network and serves on the Advisory Board for the Public Art Review.

For more information, please contact Paul Klein, chair of SFAI’s Design and Technology department, by e-mail at or by phone at 415 749 4589.