From Foraging to Forging Communities

by Gabriella Solti

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From Foraging to Forging Communities
A community-engaged art project by Lynette de Montreuil and Gabriella Solti

From Foraging to Forging Communities, is a community engaged art project that culminated in an ecological artwork through the transformation of raw materials and hands-on workshops at Satellite Project Space (Satellite), a public art gallery in downtown London (Ontario, Canada) from June 25th to July 17th, 2016. The project was funded by the London Arts Council with in-kind support from Satellite’s operating partners, Museum London, Western University, and Bealart.

First, we organized expert-led foraging walks in London’s parks and forests where Londoners learned to identify plants, learn about ecological practices and examine how organisms work in unison. The collected grasses were then transformed into handmade paper at Satellite, that we turned into a low-tech, DIY paper making studio. 246 participants (age 3-80) produced 935 sheets of paper in two weeks facilitated by the artists. The last week, working with the newly created paper, participants carefully weighed their choices as they transformed them into sculptural forms that reflected how people perceived themselves in nature. They developed an increased appreciation not only of London’s ecological heritage, its flora and vegetation but also of the value of collaborative labor.

Our project blog, with daily entries and plenty of images, is available for everyone to view: forgingcommunities.weebly.com. The blog presents the immediacy of the experience as it unfolded, the poster above, on the other hand, illuminates the project from the perspectives of our reflections and learning. We presented the poster at the College Art Association Annual Conference in New York, February 15-18, 2017.