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A Sweet Relationship with the Natural World

by Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director, The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

Who was the first human to discover the sweetness of honey?

How did they take the leap from simply stealing honey from a hive to actually cultivating the bees?

Our relationship with the natural world has been formed over time by creative surges. 

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Every tool we’ve designed, every plant discovered, every recipe concocted, every animal domesticated, every continent explored represents a mixture of imagination and trial and error, which are in turn the building blocks of art and science.  From this foundation, history pollinates the future.

The Garden of Fire program celebrates the artist and scientist in all of our children!

Introducing 2018 Garden of Fire – Powerful Pollinators

By Elaine Spacher, Executive Director
Tanglewood Nature Center & Museum

We have had some great themes over the past 5 years the Garden of Fire has been in operation. Water, wind, earth, fire…but this year’s theme of Powerful Pollinators is by far my personal favorite! Partners in the Garden of Fire will spend the summer teaching local youth about the importance of pollinators on Earth; a timely and essential subject.bloom-blossom-butterfly-158617.jpg

Pollinators play a powerful role in the functioning of our food web and humans literally would not survive without them. Pollinators range from many types of insects – bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and flies, to bats and birds. Pollination happens when pollen is moved within individual flowers, or carried from flower to flower by pollinators. Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, drink, fiber (for clothing and other uses), spices, and medicines have to be pollinated by animals.

Food and drink made with the help of pollinators includes: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, honey, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila. Most crops that our ag animals (cows, pigs, chickens) eat are also here because of our pollinators.

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Garden of Fire Festival attendees “shop” at the produce market (2017)

In the US, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products every year.

The most prolific pollinators are the honey bees. Honey bees are not native to the US, they were originally brought here in the 1600s by colonists from Europe, mostly for their ability to produce honey. Most of the honey bees we see today are of Italian and German descent. Honey bees have a fascinating life history and once you know about it, it’s hard to not love them. Although some people have bee fear, and some are allergic, honey bees often get a bad rap for being dangerous. Honey bees are pretty docile and will only sting when they feel threatened. They die after they sting, so stinging is saved for something serious.

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In a honey bee colony, the girls do most of the work (thus are called workers) – they are the nurses, the cleaners, the guards, the collectors, the honey-makers, and the keepers of the Queen. The males, called drones, must leave and mate with a queen from another colony. The workers only allow the drones to live if there is enough food available. The Queen is the longest-lived in the hive and she lays all the eggs so that the colony can multiply and thrive. The communication between bees is sophisticated and efficient. They can communicate where food is, when they need to make a new queen, when to swarm, when danger is near, and much more. Honey bees collect pollen and nectar for the survival of their colony, and in the process, their hairy bodies deposit pollen and facilitate fertilization so that plants can make fruits and seeds and therefore new plants.

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Images courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography, 2016.

Learning about bees and how to keep them numerous and healthy is a smart thing to do. If you have been paying attention, you might know that bees are in trouble. There is evidence that the worldwide decline of bees is happening due to a variety of factors- all human-related. Bees suffer from habitat loss, chemical poisoning, disease and parasites. The United States has lost more than half of the honey bee colonies managed by beekeepers in the past 10 years. This is an alarming thing and we need to do all we can to reverse this. So, if you like to eat and drink, and you want to do something to help our honey bees, what can you do?

  1. Plant for pollinators – especially plants that provide nectar and food for pollinators
  2. Install houses for bats and native bees, or even become a beekeeper yourself!
  3. Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife
  4. Reduce or cease pesticide use
  5. Put in more flower beds and less lawn

And most importantly, educate yourself and others so we can all work to keep our Powerful Pollinators alive and doing their good work for our survival.

 

 

Garden of Fire Festival: Celebrating the Summer of Earth

The Garden of Fire festival held last Friday, August 18th at CareFirst was fabulous! The festival was tremendously successful, thanks to the outstanding support from the community, amazing educators, talented artists and volunteers.  Here are some pictures from the day. Thank you to Dan Gallagher for documenting the festival so well and capturing the essence of the program through incredible photography and video!

 

The Native American Council of Corning Incorporated joined us for the opening ceremony.  Musician Sue Spencer lead us through the chants she previously wrote with the youth participants during one of the sessions, drumming to the chorus, “Thank You Mother Earth”.

The activities were a blast.  Thank you to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, SSC Library, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Corning Museum of Glass, Wegmans – Corning, Zumba Instructors Gianna Lutz and Amanda Wylie and to all the collaborators who made this day so special!

Corning Catering generously supported the festival by providing a tasty lunch for everyone!

Thank you to the Addison and Corning-Painted Post Area School Districts for supporting this program and making Garden of Fire an incredible experience for all the youth participants!

The adobe mud sculptures on display at the festival were created with artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley at one of the sessions leading up to the event.  Watch the Adobe Clay Creation Time Loop Video here.

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The closing ceremony brought everyone together for one last musical chant honoring mother earth.

This program is supported in part by The Triangle Fund, Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes and Rose’s Youth Philanthropists.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to make the event so wonderful!

Amy Ruza
Youth and Family Programs Educator
The Rockwell Museum

 

 

 

 

Creativity and Change

CareFirst has always participated in Garden of Fire with a clear focus of incorporating lessons about life, death, grief, and healthy coping. This year, the Summer of Earth, was no different.

The summer workshop sessions provided by CareFirst staff and other community artists focused on change.   The earth changes with the coming and going of each season just like our emotions and experiences fluctuate over our lifetime.  We can use creativity as a way to adapt, adjust, and even promote change within ourselves.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

In one of the workshops this summer CareFirst instructor, Carly Cushing, and artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley were talking with the students about the changes we see on the earth and in our life while building benches made from natural materials.  The project is a collaborative effort by the four different youth centers, and tends to grow and change as different centers add their own creative touch to it.  By the end of the first session with the Addison Youth Center, they found that their bench had become a Hippo!  The lines and shape of the bench took form and reminded the children of a hippo lumbering out of the water.  This was the perfect inspiration as the instructors were able to reflect on a beautiful story about the experience of change in the natural world.

The students and instructors shared together about the story of Owen and Mzee, a well-known and amazing true story about a close animal friendship (see children’s story “Owen & Mzee” by Isabella Hatkoff).  Owen was a baby Hippo when he was stranded in Kenya after the 2004 Tsunami.  With his mother and the other hippos in his pod having been swept away by the waters, Owen was deserted and almost died.  Villagers tirelessly tried to rescue him but it wasn’t until making it to a Kenyan Animal Sanctuary that he finally started to recover.   It was there that Owen met Mzee, a 130 year old Tortoise.   They became fast friends and Owen started looking to Mzee for support in adjusting to this huge change in his life.  When Mzee ate, Owen ate; when Mzee swam, so did Owen.  Their story of friendship, kindness, and resilience served as the perfect symbol for how all animals found on the earth can cope with the changing seasons throughout our lives.

The natural art the children had created, again, began to morph into exciting possibilities.  By the time the Laura Richardson Houghton Corning Youth center arrived later that day, a plan was put into motion to give our “Owen” his very own “Mzee”.  The children worked hard to create the foundation for a beautiful tortoise.

On day two, the Salvation Army group moved and sifted dirt to create natural clay from our local earth to put the finishing touches on the pair.  As the conversation of growth continued, one of the instructors reflected on the Iroquois belief of how the earth was created.  According to the story, before the earth was created, there was an island floating in the air where the Sky People lived.  A Sky Woman fell from the island where she landed in the vast, open, ocean.  The animals in the water helped the woman on the back of a turtle swimming nearby.  They helped to gather mud and place it on the turtle’s shell, where it grew and grew, eventually changing shape and creating the earth under our feet as we know it today.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

The Hornell Area Concern for Youth were the last group to add to the beautiful creation.  They decided that Sky Woman and the story of how the earth was created should be honored with the sculpture of Mother Nature.  Thus, the work of art changed yet again, leaving a collective group of meaningful sculptures representing CREATIVITY AND CHANGE.

CareFirst welcomes you to come see the sculptures that the children made at the Garden of Fire Festival being held at CareFirst (3805 Meads Creek Road, Painted Post, NY) on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Carly Cushing and Chelsea Ambrose, CareFirst

Gifts from the Earth

The Garden of Fire program is in full steAm! We are now in week five of the six-week summer program, and youth seem to be fully engaged and enjoying each special earth-themed workshop provided by professional artists and educators.

The Earth theme for this year’s program provides ample opportunity to create enriching lesson plans, covering topics of pollution, conservation, sustainability, geology, animals, plants, growth and more.

Incorporating arts and science, engineering and sculpture, natural patterns and math, wellness and wisdom, drumming and rhythm provides a unique, educational experience. It is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to teach the youth in the program, knowing that we are impacting and influencing their lives in a positive way.

During the first week of the program, we created 2-dimensional animal habitat scenes using recycled materials – repurposing trash into art!  The youth were very imaginative in their renditions of the animal habitats, transforming the recycled materials into nature and animal textures in their scenes.

In the third week of the program, we sculpted vessels out of clay, the mud of the earth, and decorated them with designs inspired by nature. The completed fossilized vessels resemble actual fossils found in rocks on the earth’s surface.

It is a gift to spend time with each other to discuss, communicate and share ideas.  Encouraging the youth and staff to speak openly without criticism, to make new friends, to interact with peers they do not typically interact with, to try new activities and learn new skills are all gifts to treasure and grow from.  These experiences provide us with the foundation and strength to power our mind, body, and soul.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

It is our responsibility as artists and educators to give back to the earth by teaching the youth participants to care for, appreciate and respect the beautiful and irreplaceable earth we live on.

Mother earth gives us the gift of nature and the Garden of Fire gives us the gift of spending time together connecting to nature. Through the Garden of Fire collaborative, it is a shared effort to teach and support the children in the community, cherishing the time spent together, and making every teachable moment count.

Amy Ruza, Youth and Family Programs Educator
The Rockwell Museum

STEM to STEAM

At this point in our history, educational priorities are focused on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. This is a lopsided view of values in education. We need to encourage our school districts and educators to prioritize STEAM: science, technology, engineering, ART and math.

Artwork is the application of many of these other areas of education. Artists deal with physics and chemistry because they work with materials that have specific properties and limits. They deal with mathematics as they confront geometry, measurements and mechanics. Technology and engineering are utilized as they are in every other arena of production – the thing produced must work! It must be stable and function.

Artwork has been devalued as impractical. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, at the same time, artwork is creative.  It can be fanciful. This should not be used to denigrate art, but rather to reveal what it has to offer to other disciplines. Engineers and scientists must be creative. They must be inventive. Like artists, they must explore the boundaries of what has already been done to see what might be done.

Education must encourage creativity in all its forms. This will help our children build a world that can address unforeseen challenges including repercussions from climate change, population pressures and changing social, political, and environmental situations. Now, more than ever, we need our artists to give us the vision – a practical vision – for the future.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire are not worried about any of this. They are simply learning and having fun. It is our job to think about this on their behalf.

Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

 

 

2017 Garden of Fire Kick-Off

The Garden of Fire is back!

This year, with the Summer of Earth, we’ll be highlighting projects and themes related to life cycles, animal habitats, gardening, and so much more.

As always, the program kicked off with the reading and puppet show of the Garden of Fire Story. This week, Londyn (age 10) and Knightly (age 7) from the Addison Youth Center tell us their interpretation of the Garden of Fire story, as well as what they did this week at the program!

Friendship is a topic in the story of the Garden of Fire. It is important in the story because you need to treat your friends nicely. The characters in the story are the fox, eagle, dragon fly, bear, turtle, deer and Pauline, and they are all friends. They treat each other nicely. We have friends too and we treat them kindly. When one of us is sad or someone is being mean we stand up for one another.

We also learned about habitats and animals. Knightley’s favorite animal was Sophie the great horned owl because she has lots of ways to adapt to different habitats. Londyn’s favorite animal was the chinchilla because it was fluffy and it was the softest animal in the world. We also did a art project.

The art project was about the animals that Ian from Tanglewood Nature Center brought today. Knightley made a owl she thought it was a fun and exciting project. Londyn’s  favorite part was making a habitat for a owl. We also talked about what animals do for us.

Thanks, Londyn and Knightly – see you next week!