Teaching Eco Art Matters, 2005-present

Based on an EcoArt Literacy program that Andrée Singer Thompson founded at Camp Oh-Ne-Tah, a self esteem camp for inner city girls in New York, this unique interdisciplinary course was developed in 2005 with Zackary Zide at the Oakland Museum. Andrée continues to teach and expand the program as EcoArt Matters at Laney Community College, and since 2011, co-teaches with Sharon Siskin, a noted social justice community artist and fellow board member of WEAD. (Womens Environmental Artists Directory.) 
The focus of the course is to unite creative skills and thinking with urgent environmental and social justice issues, based on the idea that artists are trained in sideways thinking and thinking outside the box, which is necessary to create positive solutions to urgent issues. It covers a brief history of the environmental/social justice art movement, with several distinguished guest artist, scientist, eco and community activist speakers.  The students do extensive research on an important “matter” of their choosing, develop a proposal, and then create artworks, installations, visual presentations or performances which are installed by the artists and exhibited at a local gallery. 

In addition to visiting lecturers and invited artist/curators, the works are informed by a rich variety of experiences including: Collaborations with local social justice and educational organizations such as Creative Growth, attendance at the Bioneers’ Conference, hands on field work in community such as Save the Bay, visits to other eco art exhibits, extensive video/film screenings and assisting prominent eco artists on public projects.  

For current updated information about registration for this class, click here

EcoArt student shows have included:

Resilient Sustainability,  Laney Art Center Gallery, spring 2013
Future Imagined,  Jack London Square, Oakland fall 2012
Sprouting Visions,  Laney Art Center Gallery, spring 2012
Conversations with Earth,  Big Daddy's Community Garden, Emeryville, spring 2011
Save Our Ship,  June Steingart Gallery, Laney Campus, fall 2010
Fresh Digs,  Big Daddy's Community Garden, Emeryville, spring 2009
Global Warnings,  June Steingart Gallery, Laney Campus, fall 2009
Art Roots Here,  Big Daddy's Community Garden, Emeryville, CA May 2009
Art Acts for Change,
 Vickie Jo Sowell's Studio Gallery, Emeryville, CA Dec 2008
Matters of Fact
,  Art Center Gallery, Laney campus 2008
Heart of the Matter,  Addison Street Windows Gallery, Berkeley  2008
Eco Art Matters,  Oakland Zoo Educational Center  2008
Heart of the Matter,  Art Center Gallery, Laney campus  2007
Inconvenient Art,  June Steingart Gallery, Laney campus 2006
eARTh Matters,  June Steingart Gallery, Laney campus  2006
     and Berkeley City College Sustainability Conference  2006
Bio-Logic, Eco–Action,  Oakland Museum  2005

Resilient Sustainability

Future Imagined

Sprouting Visions

Conversations with Earth

Save Our Ship

Fresh Digs

Global Warnings

Art Roots Here

Art Acts for Change

Matters of Fact

Heart of the Matter

Eco Art Matters

Inconvenient Art

eARTh Matters

Bio Logic Eco Action

An exhibit of art works about the environment by MetWest High and Laney College Students
December  2005 through Spring 2006

Co-taught with Zakary Zide, Oakland Museum Natural Science Program Coordinator.

The works represented in this exhibit are the result of an innovative art and natural science course for high school and college students taught by the Oakland Museum of California and Laney College.

Bio-Logic, Eco-Action featured artworks that reflect the students' concerns about many of today's most pressing environmental issues; water quality, pollution over-consumption, and habitat loss. Each student's personal commitment to educating themselves and others about these important issues is demonstrated in this unique collection of work. Bio means life and Eco means home. Through the cultivation of their own environmental awareness, the students came to realize that to preserve life on earth, the only logical thing to do is take action at home. We hope that the students' artistic creations inspire you to act on behalf of the planet.

Understanding how to live in a world that is linked economically, ecologically, and politically is essential to meeting human needs in the 21st century. It will require a citizenry with an expanded awareness and ethic for environmental stewardship and informed decision making. We believe that our students, having successfully completed this course, are better equipped to navigate the challenging roads that lay ahead.

The Children

Andrée Singer Thompson developed and taught a summer Eco-Art Literacy program at Camp Oh-Neh-Tah, a self esteem camp for inner city girls. For thirty years, she taught a program Monsters Demons and Imaginary Beings in at-risk-schools in Richmond, California.

Eco- Art Literacy Project at Camp Oh-Neh-Tah, 2003

Eco art refers to art activities based on environmental and ecological issues. Students have the advantage of learning about some global and local environmental problems, while having hands-on related art activities that develop their own individual aesthetic, imagination and skills. This program is also designed to build self-esteem and self-awareness through positive literary and creative adventures. Along with eco-art, there is an emphases on Identity and developing a sense of self. The program includes: readings about American Indian nature- related stories and myths, books about planting and seeds, new vocabulary related to all activities, making clay planters and Indian-style burnished pots decorated with Indian-inspired images and symbols, symmetry paintings based on insects and bugs, color-mixing, the risk-taking process of raku-firing, studying and making masks and their meanings in different cultures, making tiles of local or imaginary creatures for the dining hall, and journal writing about their experiences. We conclude by planting seeds in our own compost and discussing what other things children can do to help the planet. Writing assignments include: character development of art spirits created that day; Me, Myself and I, book reviews, pictographs and sign language, Ways to help the planet, and Our ancestors and heritage, and critiques of the program. On Museum Night, there was a large exhibit of all the art projects and some journal writings for the entire camp.

They go home with their beautiful creations and extra seeds to become "Green Gorillas", encouraging their parents and elders to be more aware of the environment. Hopefully, their creative adventures have given them a new appreciation of themselves as original and unique individuals.

Monsters Demons and Imaginary Beings

These pariskraft masks, by children in the Richmond Elementary Public Schools, were made in the Monsters, Demons and Imaginary Beings Workshops which I originally developed in 1981 through 1997 as California Arts Council Artists in Schools artist and at the Richmond Art Center.

The program introduces children to the idea that art is a language to express feelings and ideas for which there are not always words. We develop personal friend or protective creatures in drawings, paintings, clay, mixed media and finally masks that they could wear in plays or videos, in collaborative performances, working together with the classroom teacher and/or other artists. The projects are designed to encourage individual creative fantasy, develop problem solving and technical skills, while acquainting them with art materials, vocabulary and concepts.

While working with the children, my own "survivor" sculptures and wet- clay performance pieces are often inspired by and reflect their creations. Their inventions and personal stories become a part of my own aesthetic.

I have also done mask workshops with children and adults in schools, with AIDS patients, at East Bay Center for Performing Arts and at Camp Oh-Neh-Tah in upper state New York, a self-esteem camp for inner-city girls where I established an eco-art literacy and ceramics program.

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All images on this website are copyrighted. For further information please contact the artist at: andreesthompson@gmail.com