UI course combines science and the humanities


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Nick Fetty | April 3, 2015

A University of Iowa course offered by the School of Art and Art History gives students the opportunity to learn about environmental sustainability and related social issues through various art mediums.

Art and Ecology is offered once every two years and not only teaches students about the relationship between art and environmental issues but also gives them the opportunity create their own unique project through video, installation, performance, writing, sound, 2- or 3D forms, and/or electronic media. Past projects have examined issues ranging from industrial potato farming to floating gardens. Students will read and examine works from several professionals in the field including poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, legal scholar Christopher Stone, and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert.

The course is taught by Sarah Kanouse, an Associate Professor of Intermedia in the UI’s School of Art and Art History. She holds degrees from Yale University (BA ’97) and the University of Illinois (MFA ’04) and in 2012 released the award-winning documentary Around Crab Orchard which examines the history of the Crab Orchard wildlife reserve and its balance between conservation and industry. She feels that it’s important for the UI to offer the Arts and Ecology course because environmental issues transcend the scientific fields.

“Environmental issues are often framed solely as a set of scientific problems: how much carbon can the atmosphere absorb, what is the effect of this or that chemical, and what practices will best preserve or restore biodiversity. But human environmental impacts are fundamentally about the nature of our relationship to the earth. The arts and humanities provide the tools for both examining and shaping the cultural values, emotional entanglements, and ethical and spiritual questions that undergird the current environmental crisis,” Kanouse said.

The course is open to students of all majors and interests. For additional information contact Sarah Kanouse (sarah-kanouse[AT]uiowa.edu).

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