@story TANIAH TUDOR
@images COURTESY WALTON ARTS CENTER
On Earth Day the Walton Arts Center will begin a series of events promoting environmental conservation and sustainable living called Artosphere: Arkansas' Art and Nature Festival.
The first Artosphere was held last spring and provided a new perspective on protecting the environment and living sustainably, something many in the Fayetteville community have worked hard at promoting. Organizers at WAC were looking for different ways to connect artists with the audience and recognized the environment as a local and world-wide concern. They wanted to create a framework so that artists could use their art form to influence the audience to be more reflective and live more sustainable lives, says Jenni Swain, Walton Arts Center vice-president for programs. “The consensus was that art could bring an emotional aspect to the issue of sustainability,” Jenni says.
“Garden as Muse” is the first event of Artosphere and will run the length of the festival beginning April 22 and ending June 6. The exhibit will be in the newly designed Joy Pratt Markham Gallery, which opened in WAC April of 2010. “It's an exhibition that will focus on a series of artists' works who have been inspired by the garden, in the same tradition that Monet was inspired by Giverny Garden outside Paris,” Jenni says.
Andrea Packard, a Philadelphia-based curator and artist who has directed the List Gallery at Swarthmore College since 1995, is the perfect curator for the exhibit. She has a love of nature which is reflected in her work. “Artosphere is about connecting people to nature at a time when we are increasingly aware of the fragility of nature,” Andrea says. She began working with WAC in August 2009 to consult on the new gallery design and was excited to do this show, she says, because she could see the importance of gardens to the Fayetteville community and its “connection to nature.” “Garden as Muse” brings together five artists who all have a career-long obsession with gardens and gardening. Syd Carpenter and her organic sculptures, some of which will be part of the “Garden as Muse,” were Andrea's inspiration for the entire exhibit, she says. Included in the exhibit will be photographs by Sally Apfelbaum; paintings by Lois Dodd and Sarah McEneany; and sculptures by Markus Baenziger, which blend nature with industrial mediums, such as chain link fencing.
The Trail Mix Tour is one of several events this year which combine the natural beauty of the community with art. The event will be May 14 or 15, depending on weather, and will be on two-and-a-half to three miles of the Fayetteville bike trail, from the Lake Fayetteville docks to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. The tour is free and “is an afternoon that we encourage people to get out and hike-and-bike with their family,” Jenni says. There will be five sites on the trail with different bands whose energy will be supplied with renewable sources, from solar power to “pedal power,” Jenni says. Participants can help generate energy for the bands by hopping on stationary bikes that will be set up at each site.
The Chamber Music Series with Chris Parkening also encourages attendees to enjoy the environment in combination with art. Guest musicians will hold concerts in one of several chapels chosen for the event, with the focus on string instruments, Jenni says.
There is also a series of programs for kids invited from local schools. “Kindur” or “Icelandic Sheep” is an interactive theater presented by the Italian company TPO. Children will be taken on an adventure of the migratory patterns of sheep through the environmental extremes of Iceland and are encouraged to participate in the theater.
The most ambitious event this year is the Artosphere Festival Orchestra, Jenni says. The orchestra will provide concerts May 17 and 21 under the direction of Corrado Rovaris, music director of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and principal conductor of the Italian Chamber Orchestra in Verona, Italy. The orchestra will also play May 22, directed by Jura Margulis. “An orchestra adds a dynamic element to a festival,” Jenni says. “We also felt there wasn't anything like that in our region.” The orchestra will consist of more than 80 esteemed musicians from all over the United States who will be living, working and interacting with the community.
WAC is collaborating with local cities, organizations and theaters on a number of smaller events, as well. “That's the beauty of a festival, and the challenge for us, is that we want to create lots of varied events because we want to...cast the net really large for lots of people to participate,” Jenni says. Each event will be concerned not only with the content of the art or music, but also with the focus of sustainability placed on what food is being served, how it's being served and how materials are being recycled, she says. Many of the events are free or have low pricing to make them more accessible to the public. “It is an opportunity for us to look at our practices and how we work, and how we can be better. Artosphere is our opportunity to contribute, and we hope that that expands into our full operation. It's about doing little things and that the cumulative effect of little things makes a difference.”
For more information on upcoming Artosphere events, check out artospherefestival.org.