reGEN: Art & Science Addressing Climate Change

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In November 2016, the Land Heritage Institute (LHI) hosted the first reGEN: Art & Science Addressing Climate Change event. reGEN is focused on gathering a diverse group from the region for ongoing collaborations to address regenerative practices. reGEN was envisioned as an annual collaborative event between Texas A&M University-College Station, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and the Land Heritage Institute. reGEN brings together the public, students, science practitioners, and artists to engage in a productive dialogue about how science, technology, and art can be brought together to address climate change. The intent of reGEN is to move beyond the traditional framework of sustainability and present a platform for regenerative practices, “to turn fallow lands green.” The principles outlined in the  Regenerative Development Manifesto inform what the reGEN collaborative seeks to achieve for San Antonio and South Texas.

a living land museum, that promotes lifelong learning, for students, of all ages by providing interactive experiences with historical, environmental, and cultural landscapes

Land Heritage Institute is an ideal setting to host such a collaborative. In their own words their mission is “a living land museum, that promotes lifelong learning, for students, of all ages by providing interactive experiences with historical, environmental, and cultural landscapes.”Land Heritage Institute is located on 1,200 acres of land just south of San Antonio, TX on the Medina River. LHI got its start as a happy accident. While digging for the proposed Applewhite Reservoir, Richard Beene discovered evidence of human habitation dating back at least 10,000 years. Verified by Texas A&M archeologists, this evidence validated the claims of the American Indians in Texas that their ancestors inhabited the lands in South Texas. Along with the ancient past, Land Heritage Institute has connections form Spanish colonialism, Western European settlers, and African Slave enclaves right through the more contemporary ranching era. Under the direction of Dr. Penelope Boyer, the Land Heritage Institute has hosted several Art-Sci symposia bringing science practitioners and artists together to present and collaborate on the role that land plays in generating art and science.

Artist Carol LaFayette a professor in the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M College station and Director of the Institute for Applied Creativity, a forum for collaboration across the arts and sciences, spearheaded the development of the reGEN collaborative. The plan for the first reGEN event was to host an art exhibition for MFA candidates from the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M College station. Graduates from the program have gone on to work companies such as Pixar. During the planning for the event the MFA candidates visited the Land Heritage Institute during Native San Antonio. This event exposed students to the deep cultural roots that run through the land that they would be presenting their works on. In a few cases–notably Hyojin Jang’s interactive assemblage–their experiences that day helped shape their final pieces. The reGEN team and the students then visited potential sites for the exhibition to take place. The students decided to host their pop-up exhibition in the barn next to the historic Presnall-Watson homestead. The barn provided an enclosed space to display the artist’s work while allowing natural light to filter in and outdoor space for art installations.

The themes raised by the art included trans-humanism, the computational beauty of nature, cultural awareness, and interactive art.

The reGEN event began at noon on Novemebr 5th with the MFA student’s pop-up art show. The themes raised by the art included trans-humanism, the computational beauty of nature, cultural awareness, and interactive art. After the attendees perused the art they were invited to a conversation on climate change. Olivia Cortona, a Palo Alto College student, presented the most up to date evidence of the changing climate provided by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Dr. Joseph M. Simpson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M-San Antonio, talked about the sociological dimensions of climate change focusing on the barriers to agreement and action. Philadelphia based visiting artist Lynn Palewicz–whose own work is self-divided into skin drawings, living room photos, torso photos and girl photos– mentored the Visualization class’ preparation for the pop-up show and talked about her work and evolution as an artist. After the presentations attendees were given the opportunity to dialogue with the artists and presenters before re-visiting the pop-up show for additional reflection.

The final event of the day was a screening of Before the Flood at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The movie was screened in partnership with Drew Galloway from MOVE San Antonio and Mario Bravo from the Environmental Defense Fund. After the screening, there was panel to offer thoughts and answer audience questions. Ana Sandoval, Director of the Air & Health Collaborative of San Antonio moderated the panel. Dr. Gerald Mulvey Assistant Professor of Meteorology at University of the Incarnate Word, Douglas Mellick Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of San Antonio, and Dr. Joseph M. Simpson. The screening as a part of the #KnowYourVote civic film series to educate voters before the election.

What is next for reGEN?

We plan to hold a reGEN event again in the fall of 2017. The ongoing mission of reGEN will be to bring forward creative and collaborative ideas about regenerative practices and provide a platform for their exhibition. As the need to communicate across different disciplines and diverse communities to grapple with climate change grow more immediate reGEN can coordinate that conversation and help produce a new language that will bring together these voices. As the City of San Antonio ponders adopting a climate action plan the reGEN collaborative is well positioned to play a significant role in supporting the adoption of a plan and applying creative combinations of art, science, technology and community to enhance the climate resilience of South Texas and San Antonio.

Biography

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Dr. Joseph M. Simpson received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Oklahoma State University in 2013. He is currently Assistant Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University-San Antonio where he teaches Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences, Sociological Theory, Environmental Sociology and Society and Technology. He is also advisor to Alpha Kappa Delta the Sociology honor society and the Guild of Geeks. He has co-authored “Choices and Chances: The Sociology Role-playing Game- The Sociological Imagination in Practice” the most accessed article in Teaching Sociology in 2011 he has also collaborated on research about changing attitudes toward premarital sex recently published in the Journal Sex Research. Recently and rituals in the heavy metal music sub culture published as a chapter in the edited volume Music Sociology. His dissertation examined the impact of information & communication technologies on carbon dioxide emissions. His area of expertise includes environmental sociology, technology and society, social theory, social psychology, and popular culture.

 

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Hyojin Jang, Texas A&M MFA student with artwork
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Art installation in the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hosts Mark Oppelt and Dr. Penelope Boyer, LHI

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Olivia Cortona, Palo Alto College student, gives a talk on climate change.
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Dr. Joseph M. Simpson, Texas A&M San Antonio, gives a talk on sociological aspects of climate change.

 

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Visiting artist Lynn Palewicz from Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, who advised MFA students on the exhibition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bailey Currie, Texas A&M MFA student, discusses her artwork.

 

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Krista Simandi, Texas A&M MFA student, discusses her artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

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Students and community attend Native San Antonio at Land Heritage Institute prior to the exhibition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before the Flood panel at Texas A&M San Antonio (from left to right: Dr. Joseph M. Simpson, Dr. Gerald Mulvey, Douglas Mellick, and Ana Sandoval.

 

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