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The Importance of Art and EcoJustice Education
There is a terrible passivity and carelessness to be overcome: feelings of malaise, hopelessness, powerlessness. The arts will not resolve the fearful social problems facing us today; they will not lessen the evils and the brutalities affecting the modern world. But they will enhance the consciousness of possibility if we learn how to attend. And this itself may make a difference if more and more people are awakened, if they are freed to move through openings and develop a sense that things can indeed be otherwise than they are, somehow better than they are. (Greene 2001, 47)
This paper provides us with important empirical evidence of the potential of art education in promoting change, and of the mechanism by which such education can happen. Programs like Arts UP set the seeds for creating in youth an eco and cultural conscience and sense of activism through arts-based experiences. “Arts UP is a wonderful resource and starting point from which I can gather insight into the impacts of such factors as social, economic, political and historical conditions” (Joan, Q1, 2). We argue that programs like Art UP are imperative in creating not only future artists, but also future activists who will be critical thinkers and active, democratic citizens. These citizens are our future. They are vital to the reclamation of the Commons and the prevention of their further demise. They must give rise to the great work ahead of them. And when asked to define ecojustice, they’ll be able to answer, "Knowing the problems and strengths of your community and going so far as to act on your knowledge" (Joan, Q1, 1).
In a national Culture that functions under the residual pressures of modernization and economic development and still views the individual as the basic social unit, a sense of community life is disappearing among teens. Art education practices that draw on intergenerational ways of knowing and caring for the environment, for human need, for cultural practices inherent to the sustainability of commons, have the potential to educate our capacity to care, and may ultimately “educate the imagination of students and motivate their engagement, so that they become prepared to reach out, think and act on the broader cultural and environmental stage” (Hicks and King 2007, 335). Ultimately, programs like Arts UP which expose students to real world problems and engage them in creative critique of such problems over an extended period of time can begin to nurture a sense of real responsibility and action.
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