Art for Advocacy: CPAWS Art Retreat
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society -- Ottawa Valley chapter’s DRAW
From July 29-August 7, CPAWS-OV hosted its third annual artists’ retreat, DRAW (Dumoine River Artists for Wilderness), where selected artists enjoyed rough camping alongside Pontiac’s wildest, undammed river.
We artists painted, photographed and otherwise depicted the Dumoine specifically as an action to advocate for this watershed’s increased protection.
My husband, photographer Eric Fletcher, and I (as a visual artist and writer) applied and were subsequently accepted to join DRAW and joined the group from August 3-7. We took our canoe so we could paddle and otherwise discover the watershed in the company of DRAW’s organizer John McDonnell, Executive Director of CPAWS-OV.
McDonnell hopes to secure even more protection for the Dumoine. He said, “I’m always excited to connect new people to the Dumoine and to raise awareness about just how much of a gem it is to the Pontiac. The area currently has interim protection as a réserve aquatique -- a category of protection designed to protect watersheds. The area with protection covers about 1800 sq. km, which is not quite half the 4400 sq km watershed, but definitely a robust amount of land. CPAWS-OV launched A2A [Adirondack to Algonquin migration corridor] several years ago and given the Dumoine’s strategic location just north of Algonquin Park, it acts as a northern link between Algonquin and the boreal forest. With climate change, species will need to migrate, so these corridor-connections are vital. In fact, CPAWS’ vision of protection extends to the Noire and Coulonge.”
Art and advocacy: a venerable tradition
Art and politics enjoys a long, venerable history. Emily Carr painted clear-cut logging’s destruction of BC’s forests, where she called stumps and scarred landscapes “screamers”.
And consider the Anthropocene exhibition at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada, the collaboration between photographer Edward Burtynsky and acclaimed filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier. Their disturbing images brutally depict how humans are degrading Earth, provoking strong emotions and, hopefully, increased advocacy from us.
Dumoine River Artists for Wilderness (DRAW)
Therefore, CPAWS-OV’s art retreat represents another important addition to this venerable tradition where we artists are raising awareness about protecting the wilderness of the Dumoine watershed.
Says McDonnell, “DRAW is great as it helps raise awareness of the river, its beauty, fragility and importance for wildlife and for the Pontiac region’s future. I think the Noire-Coulonge-Dumoine as a complex can help spur new business in the Pontiac, create opportunities for youth, and help usher in a new era of prosperity based around tourism and eco-tourism/adventure tourism. The only caveat being that a plan is developed to ensure that this is done sustainably.”
Phil Chadwick is an artist who’s spent three years at DRAW. He and another artist, Mark Patton, were up and out painting most days, from 6:30 a.m. until suppertime. Art is hard work, Chadwick quipped, and these two men dedicated their time to art.
Chadwick explains, “The environment is long term and includes all current and future inhabitants of this fragile planet. The right and wrong ways to behave as stewards of this natural wealth are clear to those who are close to the land. This grass-roots list includes artists and they lead the way when politicians do not. Their art has even been branded as ‘ecological Art’ or ‘eco-Art’ which is defined as a contemporary form of environmental art created by artists who are concerned about local and global environmental situations. I have always been an eco-artist but just never knew it.”
He explained that politicians only have a “short-term horizon that does not extend beyond the next election.” To him, it’s you and me, the people, who are doing more to raise consciousness about environmental protection.
CPAWS-OV’s DRAW members are planning and will announce upcoming art fundraiser events in benefit of the Dumoine’s protection.
Learn more about CPAWS-OV and DRAW: cpaws-ov-vo.org. CPAWS-OV on Facebook: facebook.com/cpawsov/
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/