Art & Environmental Engagement


STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Spring quarter 2018

The aim of this course is to use the tools of art to actively engage with the natural world.  Students will be required to go beyond surface representations and dig deep with their work to uncover conceptual, ecological and historical meaning.  Whether the focus is on a plant, animal, mineral, or an ecological system, students will be encouraged to investigate and interact with their subjects.  Scientists who experiment in the field will be brought in to discuss their research and working processes.  Collaborations are welcome.  We will examine the work by artists, from past to present, who address the environment in a critical way.  Students will work on creative projects with the goal to open new avenues of dialogue between culture and nature.


1. Develop new skills of observation with the goal of seeing from a wider ecological point of view.

2. Develop the ability to use art as a tool to investigate the environment. 

3. Build familiarity with artists and artworks, from prehistory to now, that focus on the natural world. 

4. Develop the analytical and critical stills to look at the visual arts from an environmental perspective.

5. Become familiar with campus resources relating to art and the environment.

6. Create finished artworks and develop the ability to present and critically discuss the works.

What an adventure to create a curriculum from scratch and teach it at my alma mater.  Decades of experience as an artist working with plants, animals and ecological systems went into constructing the syllabus.  That I was able to engage and challenge a diverse and intelligent group of students for ten weeks was an achievement.  Here are a couple comments from the students' evaluation form:

"Such a great opportunity to look at art and the world around us from a new perspective.  Extremely interesting guest speakers, field trips, and Catherine is amazing!"

"This was my favorite class this year."