“IF YOU COULD SEE THE BIG PICTURE”: CONTEMPORARY CANADA-BASED ARTISTS’ PERSPECTIVES ON THE ROLE OF AN ENVIRONMENTALLY ENGAGED ARTS PRACTICE IN FOSTERING CULTURAL TRANSFORMATIONS
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Addressing global climate change beyond short-term fixes requires wider cultural change. Artists, as cultural workers, could play a valuable role in attending to questions of social and ecological justice. While there is growing artistic engagement with environmental issues, there are few studies which explore the confluence of art and sustainability within Canada. Through frameworks of poiesis and socioecological transformation, I used a mixed qualitative methodology to understand how an environmentally engaged arts practice could exist as a form of environmental education. I interviewed 24 contemporary Canada-based visual, installation, and performance artists to understand how they could foster a sensibility towards sustainability. I used an inductive thematic coding scheme to analyze transcripts and compared emerging themes to current literature in the environmental humanities. Two theories emerged from the data: the environmental artist-researcher-teacher as facilitator of conviviality, curiosity, and care; and the artist as encouraging socioecological transformation through sympoiesis or self-making-with-environment.