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Sustainability Council awards four sustainable arts competitive grants

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s Sustainability Council has chosen the 2013 winning proposals of the annual Sustainable Arts Grants Awards. The council awarded grants for four projects, which represent various art disciplines. The projects will be presented or displayed across the campus and community during the 2013-14 academic year.

The winners are a permanent campus labyrinth and meditation installation, photography contest in conjunction with the High Country Farm Tour, theater performance about environmental awareness and an arts festival during local International Day of Peace activities. Members of the winning proposals this year include a combination of students, faculty and community members.

The awards, ranging from $250 to $1,500, allow the artists to carry out their artistic visions and spread sustainability awareness.

“Part of our job is to inform people that there’s an aspect to the art world that is addressing these ideas (of sustainability),” said Laurie Atkins, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, and member of the Sustainability in the Arts Subcommittee. “The arts are integral to having a vibrant, sustainable community as a whole, so to me, they have to be part of the conversation.”

Liz Rose, chair of the Sustainability Arts Committee and professor of music education and therapy, said, “The arts are a different way of allowing people to understand what sustainability is.

“If you see something beautiful that is truthful and represents something challenging, it’s going to feel different than if somebody just gives you the facts (about sustainability),” Rose said.

The winning proposals:

Campus Shrine and Labyrinth
This project proposes a permanent public interactive art installation on the Appalachian campus. It will be constructed in stages over the course of a year, with a formal introduction to the community in spring 2014.

A seven-circuit labyrinth outlined by smooth, local river rocks will encircle a hawthorn tree, which will stand at the center of the installation as the “shrine.” The labyrinth will lead to the tree where handmade benches will be placed.

The project will enhance the university’s sustainability mission by serving as a “resource for students, faculty and staff to connect and integrate their cognitive and intellectual endeavors to creative, therapeutic and embodied psychological, emotional and spiritual practice,” according to the proposal by Susan Reed and Katrina Plato. They are students in Appalachian’s doctoral program in educational leadership.

Additionally, the shrine and labyrinth will “serve as a way for community members to express and process complex feelings and decisions that are intimately entwined with the project of sustainability, especially in light of our place in history, when the human relationship to the earth is in urgent need of attention and repair.”

The project combines the collaborative interdisciplinary efforts of expressive arts students, additional doctoral students as well as a blacksmith and campus minister.

Photography contest in conjunction with the High Country Farm Tour
This proposal combines a photography contest with the High Country Farm Tour, an event held in August and sponsored by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). The project will showcase a practical use of the arts and provide awareness of local farming practices.

Members of the community will be invited to take photos during the farm tour, Aug. 3 and 4. After the photos are judged and cash prizes awarded, the winning images will be displayed in an installation on campus during fall semester and during the spring 2014 semester as part of Boone’s First Friday Art Crawl.

The contest will “encourage students, community members and consumers of all types to try to creatively express the importance of supporting local food and farmers through the lens of their camera,” according to Leah Jalfon’s proposal.

The farm tour is an annual summer event when local farms open their doors to the community to educate consumers in the farm-to-fork process.

Jalfon is a senior studying sustainable development at Appalachian.

Black Sheep Theatre Production
Dennis Bohr’s play “Brown: Jesus from Another Planet” will speak to issues of sustainability and environmental awareness. It will be performed at Appalachian by Bohr’s company, Black Sheep Theatre, during the fall semester.

Black Sheep Theatre is “dedicated to issues of sustainability” and “encourages cooperation and connection between people as ways to achieve a sustainable, livable world,” according to Bohr’s proposal.

The play will “raise awareness of environmental issues in a humorous way and to show people a different way of viewing the benefits of health, friendship, justice and cooperation,” all themes that will be woven into the play’s narrative.

Bohr has taught at Appalachian since 1993 and is a full-time lecturer in the Department of English since 2003. He co-founded Black Sheep Theatre in 1995 with Mary Anne Maier and Georgia Rhoades to produce original, satiric, political theater.

Arts for Peace Festival and Peace Parade
The grant will fund a portion of an arts festival and parade coinciding with local International Day of Peace activities. The event, sponsored by Mountain Peacemakers, will be held Sept. 19-22.

The grant will enhance an existing sidewalk peace parade by Elkland Art Center in Todd and better connect it to the university. It will also extend the festivities to include activities and African dance and drumming at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts.

The Elkland Art Center participates in community parades, workshops and puppet shows using “up cycled” materials and environmentally sustainable narratives and themes to create their work and shows.

The proposal was made by Anna Ward, a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance who is involved in research, performance and community art related to environmental and social justice, and Pegge Laine, education and outreach director for the Turchin Center for Visual Arts. Laine is also a counselor and artist, working in various populations using the arts.

Part of Appalachian’s evolving identity is its focus on sustainable practices and green energy technology. For four years in a row, The Princeton Review has considered the university one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible campuses, according to its annual “Guide to 322 Green Colleges.”

Recently, Provost Lori S. Gonzalez stated that the university’s new strategic plan will be based on the concept of sustainability. “This is a true value at Appalachian and the University Planning and Priorities Council believes it should be elevated through the strategic plan,” she said in an email to campus.

Atkins said Appalachian’s support of the artists and their work is “a statement about value toward the arts,” and she said she is excited and encouraged by it, especially as the university grows, changes and develops its “new identity.”

The offices of Sustainability and Business Affairs award three to five projects annually as a part of the Sustainable Art Grants. Although the competitive arts grant award is only in its third year, Atkins said the number of applicants each year has increased.

To find out more about the grants or the Office of Sustainability, visit http://sustain.appstate.edu.

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