The Open University

Art and Ecology

Posted on 2024-03-19 - 18:14 authored by Samuel Shaw

Art and Ecology aims to change public understanding of today's ecological crisis through the art and visual cultures of the past. The project reconnects art and science, moving towards curiosity and active engagement as part of a more meaningful and sustainable solution. 

At the heart of the project are a suite of open access educational resources that show how objects and images from UK museums can be used as the starting point for conversations about different aspects of the ecological crisis. To date, we have produced three 15 min documentaries (Landscapes of Change, Hunting for Feathers and The Polar Bears of Perth) in collaboration with collections in Glasgow and Perth. These are supported by wraparound educational resources, including online articles, lesson plans and family workshops. To watch, share and download our videos, please scroll to the bottom of this page. To access some of the related resources (including lesson plans) please see the References section below.

We start from the hypothesis that reconnecting art and science will provide part of a more meaningful and sustainable solution to the climate emergency. The aim is to disprove the view that the Arts and Humanities are fundamentally separated from scientific knowledge, and that only the latter holds solutions to environmental crisis. If the separation of art and science is part of the problem, what can we do to reconnect them in people’s minds, and will this change their actions in positive ways? Our response is to collaborate with museum collections across the Four Nations that span art, natural history, science, and technology. Working with these museums, and the range of objects within them, offers a means of engaging interdisciplinary conversations about crucial topics such as climate breakdown, sustainability, urban growth, human-animal relations and biodiversity. Objects and images have the power to change the way people perceive the world. Museums across the UK, hold an incredible amount of material through which to tell stories about the ecological crisis: what is currently lacking are the people to make the relevant connections, create the resources, and take the conversation to as many people as possible. 


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