Getting Millennials to Care More about the Environment

By Whitney Works, Intern for SCEE’s Environmental Art Department

Working with the Environmental Art Department of the Schuylkill Center has piqued my interest in a few things. While I recognize my own conservation habits, I can’t help but wonder about my colleagues and other Millennials (those aged 18-29). Those outside of the environmental science or nonprofit sphere; how do they view the environment and its pressing issues?

Surprisingly, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study earlier this year finding that Millennials were more civically and politically disengaged and less concerned about helping the larger community than GenX and Baby Boomers were at the same ages.

So, what?

Millennials are now the largest group of Americans outnumbering Baby Boomers (nearly 90 million strong) by an estimated 20 million. Their presence can no longer be overlooked. It’s estimated that they will have the most buying power by 2017 and for the next 40 years after that.

Not only do nonprofits have to make their missions and projects more engaging to Millennials, but they also need to get them excited about social change.

That’s just it. How exactly do you encourage Millennials to care more about the environment? Beyond growing their own gardens, composting, recycling, and using sustainable materials.

Participant Media just launched a new channel YouTube channel, TakePart TV. The channel “serves as a digital home for clever, eye-opening and optimistic content around big issues that face our planet for Millennials ranging from teens to thirtysomethings”. Clips like the Waterpocalypse Now video, from the Brain Food Daily series takes a humorous, more crass approach, but one has to wonder if these types of media really move audiences to action.

Ecoarttech, a unique organization “combining primitive with emergent technologies, to investigate the overlapping terrain between ‘nature’, built environments, mobility, and electronic spaces” may be on to something. Their current project Indeterminate Hikes+ is a mobile media app that “transforms everyday landscapes into sites of bio-cultural diversity and wild happenings”. Users map out a hike in a natural or urban setting and along the way are asked to perform small tasks, learning to appreciate the surrounding environment and notice the unique sits often overlooked.

Having the unique advantage of combining both visual art with environmental education, what can the Schuylkill Center take away from these two examples in order to engage Philadelphia young professionals about relevant environmental issues, such as stormwater run-off?

I’m on a self-made mission to find out.

Stay tuned for more blog posts from the Advisory Board, and more on the Millennial view on Environmental Art.

Hear from Our Team!

By Jenny Laden

Now it’s time to hear from our team !  Here they are, discussing our planning project, the art program’s goals, and what makes The Schuylkill Center unique. Our Advisory team is collectively committed to progressive collaboration in art and science, and after our time together have a sincere fondness for the site and the program.

Moving forward, we will be sharing some thoughts and ideas from the team members themselves in the coming weeks. In the meantime, watch these smart amazing people, and join in our Walk in the Woods.
Special thanks to Mangrove Media for their gorgeous filming.

What Makes the Schuylkill Center Unique

The Goals of this project

Advisory Team Meets at Schuylkill Center

By Jenny Laden

On August 16th and 17th, SCEE hosted seven Advisory Team Members to visit our center and assist in the re-visioning of the Art Program’s direction. As part of the Pew Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative’s Planning Grant, the Team was invited to convene over the two days to discuss the Center’s opportunities, challenges and help craft a clear vision for the direction of the Art department at SCEE. Learn about the team here. Visiting us over the meeting were Deenah Loeb, SCEE board member and Art Committee chair, and Mary Salvante, founder and former Director of the Art Program.

Over the two days, the team was introduced to the Center’s land with a long walk with staff members: Mike Weilbacher, Joanne Donohue, Gail Farmer and Jenny Laden.

We walked though Penn’s Native Acres and Joanne and Mike discussed the restoration efforts at SCEE, and the contrast between the “restored”/”managed” areas and the rest of our property – delving into the details of soil composition changing as a result of non-native earthworms, invasive plant species such as stilt grass and why it prevents forest growth.

We saw erroded paths – the result of stormwater runoff from our building which runs down our hill. This errosion prevents growth, and brings unwanted debris to ponds and streams.

Gail Farmer, Education Director at SCEE, discussed the importance of environmental education, and the experience city dwellers have when they visit us here. She mentioned this book, which is an interesting perspective on why kids are reticent to fully engage in nature.

The team discussed other projects where art served to restore, remediate, revive bruised broken down space. We created a list of goals for our new work – including the notion that our projects must make visitors/participants and users Think, Feel and Do;  provide well interpreted information, offer a moving/surprising/effective experience and clearly present ideas to bring home which might alter their behavior, or the world around them.

We discussed the value of collaboration, and the importance of experimentation, the problems with the term “sustainability,” using art to educate an urban community about nature, the relationship between art and science, on various levels (personal, institutional, national, global). The team felt strongly that our work here must consider multiple time frames (short, medium and large) – so that our art projects might have a variety of ways of becoming, being and remaining (or not). Nothing replaces the time spent in a place. Our most successful artist projects (like Jennie Thwing’s brolo hill project)  thus far have come from artists who spent significant time here and arrive at a deeper understanding of the complexities that exist on our site.

At the end of a long two days, we collaborated on the following mission statement, paving a new way forward for the Environmental Art Program: 

SchuylkillArt provides opportunities to investigate, innovate and interpret the nature of place

Stay tuned for team member interviews, blogposts and more.

Letter from Director of Environmental Art

By Jenny Laden, Director of Environmental Art

Let’s begin with Joseph Beuys.

An environmentalist before that was a word. I keep returning to his project 7000 Oaks

for its smart, simple answer to the problem of deforestation. Beuys was an artist who believed in action, in collaboration, in innovation and in the deep, enormous value of the natural world. He used humor, research and the power of community to create iconic works which spawned a generation of artists who both raise awareness and find solutions. Let’s discuss solutions. The focus of environmental art practice tends to be about problems – problems with how we humans treat nature, problems with our misguided understanding and ignorance of nature’s intricate systems, cycles and methods of regereration. Like most artists, environmental artists care about problems in nature – and our own human relationship to it. They want to take action, spur others into taking action, to activate the space around them and find ways for art to matter.

To be important.

To sink in and create change.

This is what inspires me most in this work – the passion and dedication to finding solutions. Their clear minded thinking that yes, they can help, they can do something worthwhile with their art work, and they can use their art to move beyond the pointing out of problems. Regardless of the continued human devastation of the natural world , some of us still think it is worthwhile to search for solutions and educate the public to seek their own. Maybe, somehow, these solutions will surface, will be adopted here and there, eventually to become integrated into how we all live. Green roofs, community gardens, composting, recycling – these seemingly obvious remedies were not practiced at all 40 years ago. The blend of artistic imagination with the knowledge about ecological mechanics is a recipe for something wonderful. We shall, in fact, see.