Students Transform 10-Acres of Forest & Highlight Forest Protection
On May 9th, high school students from Interlochen Arts Academy and California artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien unveiled two large art installations created within the pine tree plantation on Interlochen’s campus in Northern Michigan. McCormick and O’Brien, who collaborate on ecological art installations that respond to environmental issues many communities face, worked with Interlochen teachers and students throughout the school year on a curriculum for visual artists and math/science students called “The Art of Ecology” and “The Ecology of Art.” The artists helped the students understand critical environmental issues from an aesthetic point-of-view, as they addressed the desired characteristics of a healthy forest versus the monoculture of a tree plantation.
The project was funded by the Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs and Wilsonart, a manufacturer of engineered surfaces, committed to escalate awareness of global forestry and help end the use of endangered woods in architecture and design.
Each year, Interlochen holds a spring celebration for the faculty and the entire student body to raise awareness of sustainability and environmental issues. This year’s event, held right before Mother’s Day, honored Mother Earth and focused on Phase One of an ambitious reforestation project; the transformation of the 10-acre red pine plantation forest, located right on the Interlochen campus.
“This was one of the largest collaborations we have ever done,” said Mindy Ronayne, Director of Visual Arts, Interlochen. “Johnson Hunt, our visual arts instructor, led the charge, working with foresters, loggers, land management specialists, biology experts, scientists, teachers from both our art and ecology departments and guest artists as we began the process of thinning the forest. It was an experience the students will never forget.”
“The students not only learned about biodiversity and the critical importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems,” noted Mary Ellen Newport, Director of R.B. Annis Math & Science Division at Interlochen, “but also how to express complicated issues through art. Experiencing the forest firsthand, helped the students understand the role art can play in raising awareness of actions needed.”
“The Interlochen partnership is an important component of Understanding Wood: Sourcing Against the Grain,” noted Tammy Weadock, Marketing Communications Manager at Wilsonart. “This is an educational initiative we created to raise awareness among architects and designers about endangered woods, protected forests and alternative materials. At Interlochen, we are reaching the next generation of young artists and designers. Their voices can play an enormous role in changing public attitudes and encouraging action on these important issues.”
At the entrance of the tree plantation, McCormick and O’Brien created a 200-foot hyperbola-shaped sculpture titled “Sky Opening” as a remedial environmental work made with the tightly-planted plantation trees. Its design advances reforestation processes and becomes a portal to the further restoration of the pine plantation. Deeper into the plantation is a large oval area where the students’ art projects were installed. Here, plantation trees were also cut to allow the introduction of new, native species. Within this approximately 90 feet by 70 feet area, the students created benches and signage with lumber cut during this first phase. They also fashioned plaques out of wood to help with wayfinding and explain the history of the project for the benefit of future visitors. The celebration also included performances and displays representing several arts divisions from Interlochen students. Phase Two of the forest transformation commences at Interlochen in the fall of 2018 when students return for the next school year.
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About Interlochen Center for the Arts
The nonprofit Interlochen Center for the Arts is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the only organization in the world that brings together: a 2,500-student summer camp program; a 500-student fine arts boarding high school; opportunities for hundreds of adults to engage in fulfilling artistic and creative programs; two 24-hour listener-supported public radio services; more than 600 arts presentations annually by students, faculty and world-renowned guest artists; and a global alumni base spanning nine decades. www.interlochen.org.
About Artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien
McCormick and O’Brien collaborate on ecological art installations that have remedial qualities. Working in both urban and agricultural watersheds they respond to environmental issues by moving away from an anthropocentric view of nature to create ecological sculptures that work with natural systems. Their work is often ephemeral and intended to give advantage to specific environments, so that when their interventions are completed a restoration cycle is established. www.watershedsculpture.com.