“This is a comprehensive introductory course, as ecoliteracy is a big topic. It means becoming familiar with ecological philosophy, ethics, law, psychology, science and economics that an ecological worldview advances and I share examples of creatives pioneering this path.”
Cathy Fitzgerald‘s online learning offers a means to rapidly bring ecological literacy to the creative sector.
“Just as in her own art, where she is growing a forest, in her teaching she draws together the disparate roots, branches, leaves, seeds and flowers, leaving a healthy forest to flourish for itself. I am very grateful. ”
Shane Finan — a visual artist in Wicklow, Ireland — took part in Cathy Fitzgerald’s Haumea Online Essential Ecoliteracy course for Creatives and Art Professionals in 2020.
Cathy Fitzgerald is an artist and researcher exploring ecosocial wellbeing by bringing art and non-art practices together in creative practice and offering Ecoliteracy learning for the arts.
My background in research science, art professional development and doctoral-level knowledge of ecological art practice means for several decades I have been keenly aware of the vast cultural dilemma we face. In 2016, when submitting my Creative Practice-led doctoral thesis —The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests… — I realised that economically challenged art education institutes would have little ability to pivot towards training their staff, reorientating their curricula to encompass ecoliteracy. Having an MA in new media, and experience of fostering online professional development for creative communities, I briefly speculated that online learning might offer a means to rapidly bring this knowledge to the creative sector.
This idea never left me. In 2019, with support from the Irish Carlow Local Enterprise Office and Carlow Arts office, I was able to get some fantastic international mentoring on best practice in online course development and delivery, and online business strategy. The only thing was, I had never taught before!
Nevertheless, with my mentors’ encouragement, I began by surveying established creative practitioners for their needs in this area and this formed the topic areas that I developed into seven weekly modules. This is a comprehensive introductory course, as ecoliteracy is a big topic. It means becoming familiar with ecological philosophy, ethics, law, psychology, science and economics that an ecological worldview advances and I share examples of creatives’ work who are pioneering this path.
Survey responses from the creative sector when I researched the course, also indicated that many in the sector wanted psychosocial supports to address the overwhelm that awareness of the ecological emergency brings. From my experience, I knew this is crucial to safeguard against depression and burnout.
By some odd coincidence, after trialling the modules in a live workshop, I found myself launching my pilot in early 2020 just as Ireland’s first pandemic lockdown began. Somehow, the Haumea Online Ecoliteracy course and our weekly live zoom meetings thrived. Also, I am very grateful that my friend, mentor and educator in California, ecological philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis, co-hosts the weekly meetings with me and shares his deep knowledge of the world’s wisdom traditions and recent research of psychosocial supports.
During 2020, we have hosted five courses, and from the start, we have welcomed participants from Ireland, the UK, the US, Europe, Scandinavia and China.
For 2021, we are excited to be offering the Haumea Online 7-week Essential Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Professionals again — 5th January to 23rd February — whilst trying to consolidate and grow our ecoliteracy offerings further (no easy thing in this economic climate). As we are committed to a supportive online learning experience, our class size is a maximum of 20 participants. We are looking to build a larger audience around the course material, perhaps through a possible podcast series, and members network, friends of Haumea supporters scheme, and we are open to exploring collaboration with other education providers.
Best of all, sharing my knowledge has brought me joy in a challenging year, and increased my motivation for my ongoing ecosocial art practice and research. From the solitary years of doing a PhD in a rural area, I now have the coolest new friends from across the world who share a vision that creatives have a vital role to inspire a better world.
You can also download Cathy’s thesis The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests… (National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland, 2018), and explore the workk of ecophilosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis at Wisdom Love and Beauty.