Exploring Arts & Nature in Northern New Hampshire

Although I may not have been able to articulate it six months ago, I think one of the areas in which the Arts Alliance most distinguishes itself is environmental arts. Between showings of the documentary “Mother Nature’s Child”, workshops on Environmental Literacy & the Arts (where lessons included the creation of nature journals and discussions addressed ways to develop writing and other curricula with students in an outdoor learning environment), and of course the White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence summer program, I’ve gotten to learn about and experience the power — and natural fit — of arts in nature in myriad ways since I began my work with the Arts Alliance last fall.

Living where I do in Franconia, I am closer to – and more in dialogue with – nature than I’ve ever been. As a kid, I felt connected to the outdoors, spending entire days in the woods by my suburban home, communing with caterpillars and writing journal entries and stories by the light of the sun filtering through the trees. Now I am constantly bombarded by new experiences in the North Country. From starting my car at -8 degrees, to walking across the street to go for a hike and a picnic by a waterfall, to seeing my first moose cross the road by my apartment, to standing in our driveway, surrounded by fields and fields of fireflies — we are so lucky to have these incredible nature-based experiences at our fingertips. Not to mention that while I could see lots of stars growing up, the skies here definitely have suburban New Hampshire beat!

It’s no wonder that artists have been coming up here to capture the beauty of our area throughout the past two centuries. We of course continue the tradition with our White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence – Susie O’Keeffe is this year’s artist, and I can’t wait to see what insights come from her time in the Wilderness! She’s an artist of many talents and interests, and her main area of study explores the power and importance of spending time with and in nature – a good bit of therapy for all of us! You can learn more about her here.

This summer, we kick off a new youth arts program at the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. We’ve wanted to do this for a while: the goal is to give high school students interested in the arts a place where they can meet other young people from around northern NH, get hands-on opportunities working with professional artists of all types and become more connected to the arts organizations in the region. We anticipate that volunteer options, job shadowing and lots of leadership opportunities will come out of this, and we’ll be designing the program with the students themselves.

Why do I mention this here? Well, we’re actually beginning with an arts & the environment program this summer. Students entering grades 9-12 can join us in Bethlehem, where they’ll work with a photographer, a poet, two painters and an eco-artist and curator. By the end of the program (which starts July 1 and meets over four days in July), they’ll have worked together to create a variety of artwork inspired by the environment – and they’ll have curated their own art show to share with the community. You (and any youth who might be interested) can learn more about it here. I can’t wait! (We’re also partnering with the “Girls of Summer” program in Lincoln, offering participants time with the same artists.)

Do you ever make art in, or inspired by, nature? I’d love for you to leave your comments here. We’re also looking for adults interested in helping us to craft the youth program, so don’t hesitate to reach out on that either. Thanks for reading, and enjoy all of the beauty around you this summer!

 

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