I have always dreamed of traveling to the remote north and when I learned about an artist residency to The Arctic Circle, I applied. As part of the 2013 expedition, I am one of 25 international artists, scientists, and educators selected to board a historic tall ship that will sail around the Svalbard archipelago, which lies in international waters midway between Norway and the North Pole.
The program runs from September 26th to October 13th, 2013. My school district has granted me a sabbatical leave for these two months so I can fulfill this dream. Now, I need your help getting there.
Why the Arctic? Participating in The Arctic Circle program would allow me to explore the intersections of my art, my interest in sustainability and my teaching philosophies, in an environment like no other that I’ve experienced before in my life. My mission is to share this vulnerable part of the Earth with my elementary students through my photographs and journals. The children will experience the beauty, history and vital role the Arctic Circle plays in our survival.
As an artist whose media is deeply rooted in humankind's connection to the natural environment--hollowed tree trunks, found detritus from nature--I am intrigued by the thought of traveling to the frozen tundra and discovering new media with which to interact and make connections.
After the life-altering events associated with Hurricane Sandy, I began collecting wooden debris from the devastated communities—floorboards, cabinets, dressers, exterior siding—anything that I could find that evoked life before the storm. With this salvaged wood I create abstract pieces of art, taking my inspiration from traditional American patchwork quilt designs—designs I find familiar and comforting. Transforming this salvaged wood into something meaningful helps me restore some order and perhaps some dignity to a landscape filled with disorder and loss. For more of my artwork, please visit - www.lauracheney.com
I am also an avid gardener and beekeeper. I believe that my own gardens- vegetables, native plants, butterfly garden, and fruit trees- show a spirit of solidarity for more a humane, inhabitable earth. I am also a beekeeper.
After keeping bees several years, I have become more sensitive to the rhythm of the seasons than ever were before. Also, the loss of honeybees to Colony Collapse Disorder and other problems the last few years have received a lot of press and elevated the status of beekeepers in the mind of the public. Essentially, I hope to save the world one bee colony at a time.
I am an art teacher in an urban New Jersey public school whose students are economically and socially disadvantaged.
My students struggle with feelings of societal alienation and I have made it a goal of my teaching to connect these students with something that all humankind must share in- the health and well being of the planet.
My goal is to create an environmentally literate citizenry who understand the importance of such environmental issues as climate change and consumerism. My classroom lessons endeavor to connect students to the natural world, foster a new understanding and respect for the planet, to know our past in order to imagine solutions to our most pressing challenges of climate change and to inspire each other to work together to make a difference.
In an era increasingly fraught with environmental crises, I believe that my participation in The Arctic Circle program would give me the opportunity to be re-enchanted and awed by nature, and to bring my first-hand experiences back to my students, who so need to understand our collective responsibility to preserve the beauty and bounties of the natural world.
My project is only leave footprints- impermanent artifacts that I will document with my camera and sketchbook. I intend to show that I may leave my mark - make my presence known- without permanently altering or destroying the beauty of the land. I will photograph and journal my trip in order to remind us that we can explore, engage with, and seek out the beauty and mysteries of the natural world, all the while mindful that we are guests and stewards of a planet worth saving for current and future generations to experience.
How you can get involved- I am inviting you - friends, family, colleagues and other environmentally conscious people- to support me to help off set the cost of this trip. In exchange, I am pleased to offer you a limited edition photographs of the Arctic Circle, postcards from Svalbard, or even a 20 page photo book filled with amazing photographs of the trip. More importantly, your help will have a direct impact on my students as I plan on sharing this trip with them in my art lessons for the 2013-14 school year.
You can help by sending me to The Arctic Circle to explore my art, as well as provide me with a better understanding of the importance that fragile ecosystems such as the Arctic play in the health of the planet and to share this with my elementary students.
I know that my students would benefit directly from my first-hand experiences in this learning experience of a lifetime. Please consider a donation.
Risks and challenges
Funding is limited and I must raise money to pay the fees associated with attending The Arctic Circle residency. Svalbard is the most expensive part of Norway. The amount I am requesting will cover a portion of the amount to attend the program. Any donations above the funding goal will help pay for air travel to and from the residency. The Arctic Circle has successfully run interdisciplinary expeditions in Svalbard for years - I am just hoping to secure the necessary funding to make this dream come true.
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- (30 days)