Expressive Arts in Partnership with Nature
“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
– Stephen J. Gould, Evolutionary Biologist
In early August this year Denise Incao, local artist and Mater of Arts student offered a multi-day program at Watson Woods Riparian Preserve to help people explore through art and experience their personal relationships to nature.
Activities during the program included education, service work, ‘wilderness’ immersion, reflection and group discussion. Oren Thomas, Conservation Projects Manager for Prescott Creeks, started the group off with a tour of Watson Woods Riparian Preserve that featured general ecology, natural and human history of the Preserve, and a focus on recent ecological restoration efforts. Program participants also enjoyed time with Filmer Kewanyama, a visiting Hopi artist. Filmer shared the spiritual relationship the Hopi people have with the natural world through art, the ceremonies/dances and their relevance in keeping harmony and balance in the world. He discussed reciprocity in relationship to the Hopi people, land, and the environment. He also spoke about gratitude, offerings, and prayers. The idea of the web of life and interconnected relationships show how each action affects another and others beyond that.
This introduction to Watson Woods Riparian Preserve was followed by a short service project helping Prescott Creeks to remove a non-native plant that out-competes native plants within the Preserve. After the group ‘earned’ its sweat-equity stake in the ongoing restoration work at the Preserve, individuals dispersed throughout the natural area for quiet contemplation of their own relationship with the natural environment in general, and with Watson Woods Riparian Preserve specifically.
Denise says, “The nature of the work done in this program is deeply personal and private, so I cannot share intimate stories.” However, the participants reported positive, meaningful experiences and expressed gratitude about the value of insights and inspiration they acquired as a result from the program. Incao further explained that exploring our relationship to ourselves in nature through expressive art activities leads to examination of how people can keep their relationships to nature alive. The elements of rain and wind (which were strongly present each day of the program) found their way into the group’s considerations of their time in relationship to the bountiful, rich place that is Watson Woods Riparian Preserve. She says, “In my opinion, the Preserve is a wild and wonderful treasure in our community. One with a recent history shared intimately with humanity…once degraded by humans, but now is healing with the help of humans.” She lauds the ecological restoration efforts of Prescott Creeks and hopes her work can contribute to an overall healing and grounding for humanity. “Leave your cell phone in the car when you visit. Be present with all of your senses. It’s all about relationship!”
Editor’s note: The Expressive Arts in Partnership with Nature Program has been independently offered through Denise Incao. The views or findings presented here are those of Denise Incao and do not necessarily represent Prescott Creeks or its partners. To learn more, contact Denise Incao at [email protected]