Immersing the arts: Integrating the arts into ocean literacy

Syma A. Ebbin
2020 Parks Stewardship Forum  
Prologue Shortly after I began working at Connecticut Sea Grant (CTSG) as their research coordinator, my friend, the artist Diane Barcelo, invited me to visit the studio of sculptor Susan Schultz. At that time, Susan was creating finely detailed porcelain still-life sculptures of coastal and marine detritus. Her work is meticulous and provocative: carefully arranged recreations of natural detritus and anthropogenic flotsam and jetsam. (The cover of this issue of Parks Stewardship Forum features
more » ... ship Forum features an example.) Schultz visited the beaches and waterfronts of coastal New England towns; collected, mapped, and photographed selected items of debris from the wrack line; and then sculpted and composed arrangements of these objects. She spent hours searching the wrack line for pieces of debris worked on by natural forces: eroded, rusted, wave pounded, encrusted in barnacles or mussels. Her pieces are actually three-dimensional portraits HUMANIZING THE SEAS A CASE FOR INTEGRATING THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES INTO OCEAN LITERACY AND STEWARDSHIP of the items she collects on the beach arranged together in still-life compositions (Figure 1 ). After my visit, I realized I saw the beach differently. My vision had changed; I considered process and form, trajectories of change and transformed aesthetics. My motivations and perceptions were altered by a quest to recover human detritus transmuted by natural forces into items with hybrid identities: part human, part "natural"; their hybridity questioning the dichotomous separation of humans from nature. Abstract This article tracks efforts to diversify Connecticut Sea Grant's funding portfolio with an arts-focused award program and examines the implications of that effort. For over ten years, CTSG has supported its Arts Support Awards Program, funding one or more individual artists or a collective each year. The program has led to a ten-year retrospective exhibition of the works of awarded artists and spawned a series of associated artist's talks and transdisciplinary panels. Broadening ocean literacy to incorporate the arts and "blue humanities" leads to a richer and more robust knowledge of the ocean, enhances the process of learning and becoming ocean literate, and can generate value-driven or emotional responses that may catalyze conservation ethics. More research is needed to assess empirically the impact of the arts on ocean stewardship and conservation behaviors.
doi:10.5070/p536349843 fatcat:lycbv3wgfbdbvdob5be5zloerq