Ecological City: Cultural & Climate Solutions Action – SDG Project

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Earth Celebrations’ Ecological City: Cultural & Climate Solutions Action SDG Project addresses the need to mobilize community participation and action on initiatives to mitigate climate and environmental impacts flooding, carbon pollution, run-off, waste and sea-level rise throughout the gardens, neighborhood and waterfront on the LES, connecting local initiatives with global climate challenges and SDG goals. The low-income Lower East Side community has struggled against city neglect, lack of parks, increased pollution and toxins, reduced city services, displacement due to market-rate development, as well as location on a flood plain impacted severely during Hurricane Sandy that is poised on frontline of climate change impacts due to sea level rise. The community needs are often disregarded within large-scale city planning development plans. While the low-income community has been the victim of city neglect and targeted displacement over the years, it has also been the incubator of inspiring grassroots sustainability solutions and initiatives from the cultivation of the community gardens out of rubble-strewn vacant lots, to the effort to preserve the community gardens of which Earth Celebrations played a pivotal role (1991-2005) which led to the preservation of hundreds on community gardens with their transfer to NYC Parks. After Hurricane Sandy the gardens that we had preserved proved themselves in a new role for climate resiliency, as they absorbed floodwater. A federal grant of Sandy relief funds enabled the gardens to expand and implement green-infrastructure and climate resiliency projects within the gardens with an inspiring array of grassroots climate solutions. Yet, while the community has innovated and implemented these vital climate and sustainability initiatives, the city is still not acknowledging the importance of these gardens to city and global climate challenges. Many in the community outside the gardens had been unaware of these climate solution initiatives. Through Earth Celebrations’ projects the community is offered an innovative and creative forum to connect, collaborate as a neighborhood and take action on issues vital to their lives and sustainable future. With unsettling predictions of humanity’s future as a consequence of the climate crisis and dwindling timeline to correct our trajectory, people are seeking hopeful and tangible solutions that can be acted upon with changes in their lives as well as a community. Our virtual digital world has increased isolation and disconnection and there is an essential need to cultivate community and collaborative action locally within our neighborhoods across special interest and cultural sectors, to reconnect people to each other, the natural world and inspiring climate solutions that are part of a living model ecosystem of sustainability on the Lower East Side.

Earth Celebrations' Ecological City: Cultural & Climate Solutions Action Project, now in its 3rd year for 2020 has successfully been engaging the Lower East Side community of gardeners, residents, artists, youth, schools and diverse sector organizations through the arts to explore, bring together, amplify and mobilize action on current climate solution and ecological sustainability initiatives to mitigate carbon pollution, flooding, run-off, waste and the future consequences of sea-level rise throughout the network of community gardens, neighborhood and East River waterfront of the Lower East Side [LES] of Manhattan.

- The Ecological City project's goal of engaging community through the arts on local climate solutions was achieved reaching over 10,000 residents of the Lower East Side of New York City including adults, seniors and youth from diverse cultural background as well as over 50 partner groups from diverse sectors including: 48 community gardens, river-based groups, schools, cultural organizations and community centers. These diverse sector partners represented various constituencies and issues (gardens, community centers, schools (pre-K-through college), housing justice groups, coastal resiliency- waterfront coalitions, urban planning/redevelopment firms, and environmental and cultural organizations that intersected with ecological and sustainability plans in the neighborhood. Partners include: LUNGS (Loisaida Urban Neighborhood Gardens – representing 48 Lower East Side Gardens, NYC Community Garden District, Green Map, Lower East Side Girls Club, University Settlement, Sixth Street Community Center, Loisaida Inc. Center, GOLES, Lower East Side Ecology, Solar One, Waterfront Alliance, East River Alliance, Fabynyc Arts Loisaida, Infinite Movement, Theater for the New City, 4th Street Block Association, Times Up, Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space and NYU, Hunter College-School of Community Organizing, One Brick, Children's  Workshop School, Ps 63, and PS364 - Earth School.

- Participants though the series of Creative Engagement Workshops (45 workshops, meetings, artist/partner collaborative sessions) learned skills of creating visual art, giant paper-mache puppets, costumes and performance works exploring climate solutions and ecological sustainability initiatives being developed throughout the community gardens, neighborhood and waterfront on the Lower East Side. They learned techniques of how to apply the arts to address and impact change on issues affecting their lives.

- Participants learned how to engage in collaborative arts practices where diverse groups and people work together sharing talents, skills and resources towards the common goal of ecological sustainability for their neighborhood, city and planet.

- Participants that previously were unaware of these climate solutions throughout the gardens, neighborhood and waterfront have become active participants in these initiatives. They now recognize that their local model ecosystem of sustainability on the Lower East Side contributes to city and global climate challenges. Participants can collectively advocate for policy change towards preserving their community gardens and grassroots initiatives within the larger context of city and global climate goals.

- The creative engagement process of arts workshops invited the diverse constituency to learn about and explore these climate solutions within the physical sites of their own neighborhood. They also re-interpreted the information and data into artistic expression with emotional impact that could be shared within the public forum of the Ecological City pageant to an even larger audience.

- Participants learned how to apply visual arts of painting, sculpture, costume, dance, theater, music and poetry, outside of museums , galleries and theaters, towards a creative public action for social purpose and common goal within the public spaces of the neighborhood. They became co-creators of a procession with 20 site performances where the community revealed their ecosystem of sustainability and importance of these local efforts to city and global climate challenges. Participants learned artistic skills, collaborative arts practices as well as about issues of climate change and the local sustainability solutions being developed throughout their neighborhood.

- Our 5,000 core participants that attended workshops and played a role for the culminating theatrical Ecological City: Procession for Climate Solutions have remained engaged as volunteers now working on Ecological City 2020.

-10,000 residents and over 50 partner groups, as well as a larger group of people that follow the work of Earth Celebrations nationally and globally, have been inspired by the tangible local climate solutions made public through the artistic Ecological City pageant including: Garden-solar gazebos, permeable pathways, water filtration bio-swales, rain/pollinator gardens, permaculture, vertical gardens, sustainable urban agriculture, water-harvesting ponds, water catchment rain barrels, composting/recycling, plastic-free zones/bio-degradable packaging, green roofs, bee farms, community solar, wind energy turbines. On the waterfront climate solutions included: coastal resiliency design planning/emergency preparedness, oyster planting and bio-remediation projects to improve water quality, grey-water recycling infrastructure and a rolling hillside seawall berm and wetlands to buffer erosion and sea level rise.

- The culminating 6-hour procession, like a mosaic, brought together the climate solutions through visual art and performance works presented at the various gardens, neighborhood and waterfront sites. The Ecological City pageant was a community created cultural affirmation, revealing a powerful living model of sustainability and climate resiliency locally within the neighborhood and its important contribution city to global climate challenges.

For the 2020 Ecological City: Procession for Climate Solutions, we are developing an SDG - Arts & Climate Action Initiative which includes creating a visual map of the local gardens, neighborhood sustainability and waterfront sites visited connect local initiatives to UN SDG's through our partnership with Green Map Systems. We are also creating SDG visual arts projects including an SDG spectacular costume, an SDG Mobile Mandala Painting with ceremony marking local initiatives that connect to UN SDG's and UN SDG painted vision staffs and banners that will be carried in the Ecological City: Procession for Climate Solutions and hang on garden fences and sites throughout the neighborhood. We aim to continue this program in 2021 and beyond.

GOALS: The project aims to:

- build broad-based cross-sector partnerships through the creative process of developing a collaborative public art project to address and impact environmental / social justice issues, ecological sustainability / climate resiliency initiatives connecting local initiatives to global climate challenges and UN - SDG's;


- increase community engagement through artist/community partner art collaborations to build and support a cohesive neighborhood sustainability plan to be put into action;

- Change perceptions of these local public spaces, not only as needed open green park space and essential community building centers, but also as grassroots incubators of local climate solutions and ecological sustainability initiatives that help meet goals of reducing carbon pollution, run-off, impacts of flooding and climate change.

- inspire community members/groups to work together for common goals, utilizing the arts to mobilize action, examine issues for the future of the neighborhood and develop solutions;

-Engage community residents, youth and partner organizations to become active stewards of sustainability, advocating and taking public action on local climate solution and sustainability initiatives throughout their public commons of community gardens, neighborhood and waterfront park.

- Engage and inspire community participants to reveal their myriad climate solutions as a cohesive vision plan, shared value and inspirational urban model ecosystem of sustainability, connecting local initiatives with global climate challenges and UN SDG's.

- build support within the community and from elected officials to amplify these local climate solutions and connect these efforts towards sustainability policies and legislation.

IMPACT: The project aims to generate impact on multiple levels:

- individual participants who learn new skills, become more aware of community issues, gain sense of pride in personally contributing the communal effort, and are empowered to become active participants in civic processes where decisions are made impacting their lives;

- partnership building through the arts/cultural organizing, with the ability to bring together a broad diversity of people/groups working together, including people rarely included in spheres of city policy and decision-making;

- community organizations/neighborhood residents that learn creative approaches and methods to partnership building and mobilizing action that can be applied to various issues and problems;

- initiating actions towards policy change which can continue with goals usually achieved over time and our project which will continue beyond 2020 and 2021.

Earth Celebrations Inc.
BIO Nominee: Earth Celebrations [EC] was founded by social action artist Felicia Young in 1991 on the Lower East Side [LES] of New York City to apply the inspirational power of the arts to build community, collaboration and action on climate change, river restoration, waste management and the preservation of species, habitats, community gardens, parks and a healthy urban environment. EC has developed and utilizes collaborative art processes, civic engagement and environmental action to build broad-based coalitions and cross-sector partnerships with local organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, schools, and community residents to generate ecological, policy and social change. Our pioneering environmental arts programs include the 15-year Save Our Gardens project (1991-2005), which utilized the transformative power of the arts, creating a theatrical Procession to Save Our Gardens to mobilize a coalition effort that led to the preservation of hundreds of community gardens in New York City. The Hudson River Pageant (2009-2012) applied this creative model to engage community in restoration efforts of the Hudson River estuary and waterfront. Our current Ecological City: Cultural & Climate Solutions Action Project launched in 2018, engages community, through the cultural strategies of arts and collaborative action we have developed over the past 30 years, on climate solution initiatives to mitigate climate and environmental impacts flooding, carbon pollution, run-off, waste and sea-level rise throughout the gardens, neighborhood and waterfront on the LES. Ecological City engages the community to co-create a public theatrical pageant through 5 months of environmental place-based learning workshops and visual art and performance creation engage participants to explore and celebrate local sustainability sites, connecting climate solution initiatives as a cohesive urban sustainable ecosystem and amplifying their importance to city and global climate challenges. Earth Celebrations is creating various inspiring SDG visual and performance arts projects for the Ecological City: Procession for Climate Solutions on Saturday May 9th throughout the community gardens, neighborhood and waterfront including an SDG costume, A Climate Solution - Mobile Mandala SDG Painting, connecting local sites within the gardens, neighborhood and waterfront and their sustainability initiatives to global SDG's. We are creating a map of the procession route that will also outline the connection of site, local sustainability initiatives, and SDGs. /
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