We are so happy to announce that Melinda Kiefer will be Eco Practicum’s 2016 Artist in Residence during our Summer Catskills practicum. Alongside the intellectual and practice-based sides of world-changing which we delve into during the summer practicum, it is important to remember that changing culture is the key to making significant improvements to the way we live on this planet. Art can help us take a close look at ourselves and our values, and consider alternate ways of engaging. We are excited to explore these ideas this summer with Melinda… and as a certified yoga instructor, we are also super excited to take yoga classes with her!
What's your background? When did you decide to become an artist?
I am from working class Catholic suburbs of New York City. I have a Bachelors of Science in Studio Art from Skidmore College and a Yoga Teacher Certification from Kripalu Center. I am currently attending SUNY Purchase College for my Masters in Studio Art. I have always made art and considered myself an artist, but taking the step to pursue professional studies in the arts was more of a formal decision. For me, this meant taking my passion for making, and my ideologies for social and ecological change, and applying them to the workings of society. In this realm, art becomes an integrated dialogue with others and the intimate act of making becomes a political way of speaking.
We seem to be facing major environmental crises. What do you think art can do to address them?
I think art is the beginning and essential step for reshifting our relationship to the environment both on ideological and practical levels. Making art is similar to making food; it is a process that allows us to experience agency and satisfaction in creating. In doing so, we, as individuals, feel our ability to affect others and the world, even if it is at first just on a small scale. This refreshed perspective clears the way for imagining new environmental possibilities that can begin as seeds in an innovative space.
Seeing artworks open a conversation with others so that similar minds can unite and work together. Art can carry metaphoric messages that inspire us to action or art can function as design, such as a permaculture garden.
What kind of art are you hoping to make at Eco Practicum?
I am excited to have the chance to make art outdoors amongst a community of people driven to make ecological change. I was hoping to make a walking labyrinth that is essentially a small garden spiral for walking meditation. Walking labyrinths are winding paths created by either small shrubs or stones that lead to a center point, usually a sacred spot, a place of offering and reflection, rather than wild disorienting mazes. The intention is to orient ourselves with our step and with nature.
How do you expect the participants of Eco Practicum Catskills will contribute to the artwork you're making this summer?
Participants of Eco Practicum would directly contribute to the artwork by leaving any object they wish to the shrine, microcosm center of the labyrinth. These objects can be personal, they can be recycled objects or they can be pieces of nature. When participants of Eco Practicum revisit the camp, they rediscover pieces of themselves in the labyrinth coexisting with sentimental parts of others who have been involved at various points in the community. If they wish, participants of Eco Practicum can also help work on the maze. Participants of Eco Practicum would also inspire me for further interactive art projects.
What's one thing you think everyone should know how to do?
Meditate. Taking 5 minutes out of ones day, to either sit in silence, stretch, or go on a walk outside is physically and mentally empowering.
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