What do art and the environment have in common? In the recent work of contemporary Ghanaian artist El Anatsui and related museum programs, the answer is a great deal. Last winter’s exhibition El Anatsui: GAWU featured visually stunning sculptures by the artist that were made from recycled materials. Anatsui uses recycled materials both because he believes in using whatever his environment provides and as a way to address issues of consumerism, globalism, and the environment. This provided a wonderful opportunity for the museum to collaborate with the College’s Sustainability Coordinator at the time, Jim Merkel, and the Dartmouth Sustainability Initiative. Together Merkel, sustainability and museum interns Caroline Burns ’08, Stefani Ruper ’10, and Deana Wojcik ’08, and curator of education Lesley Wellman developed a retreat called The Art of Sustainability. The program included a tour of GAWU and a workshop designed to train participants to lead their own workshops for their peers on how to lighten our environmental footprint on the earth.
Retreats were held for three different campus groups, including members of Greek Houses, a student environmental group called ECO, and staff members from eighteen different departments. The retreat format was also adapted and offered to regional public school teachers during a day-long workshop related both to El Anatsui’s work and the exhibition Thin Ice: Inuit Traditions within a Changing Environment. The museum’s programs are frequently interdisciplinary in nature and often serve both college and community audiences.