top of page
Place-Based Learning in Art Education:
Toward Reciprocal Ecologies
  1. Socially Engaged Art Practice:

    • Daniel Tucker, Suzi Gablik, Hillary Inwood

  2. Bioregionalism, Place-Based Education & Integral Transformative Learning

    • Planet Drum, Edmund O'Sullivan, Bell Hooks

  3. Cultural Sustainability​​​

    • The Lapland Institute

1. Socially Engaged Art Practices: Daniel Tucker, Suzi Gablik, Hillary Inwood 


One of the first formative texts I encountered was Daniel Tucker’s essay Communiversity: Inside and Outside Art Education. Tucker is an artist, educator, and documentor of social movements who runs a graduate program called “Social & Studio Practices” in a small art program in Philadelphia. The education around socially engaged art practices that Daniel offers through his program speaks to a wider trend happening in the art world presently (which art historian, Claire Bishop, speaks to in her text Artificial Hells). That trend being: the turn of the artworld toward the Social Sphere. In his essay, Tucker quotes the art critic Pascal Gielen who, on behalf of present and future looking art education, says that even though there is “a nostalgic longing for a new elite and the training of artists in isolation [...] art education cannot isolate itself from the world, like the classical academies did.” (pg.85). Rather, art education, as Daniel Tucker believes, must emphasize, or at least really consider, its context. Is it relevant to and engaged with society? 

As Okwui Enwezor, a curator wrote, while serving as the Dean of Academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, “The task I see for art schools lies in reconciling the experimental, radical practices of the individual artist with the unruly, unpredictable, asymmetrical relations that constitute the world in which such art is fashioned and realized.” (pg 86-87) This quote resonates on a personal level as I have always felt something lacking in my private studio practice, hence my pursuit of an MAAE (as opposed to an MFA).


In a section titled “Ecologically Minded Art Education,” Tucker asks, “What does art education in the anthropocene look like?” Tucker’s responses are twofold:

1. to ”encourage and orient attention toward practices that will ameliorate the effects of climate change” ...“this is how art must be taught in the anthropocene” (87) 

2. To consider possibilities for place-based arts pedagogy that take place inside and outside the school setting. 


What might this look like in practice varies greatly, from “aesthetic experiments with mapping to planting and maintaining vegetation” (87) In Mapping Eco-Art Education, Hilary Inwood “proposes that tools such as empathetic listening, dialogue, and collaboration are key to a “contextually situated” arts pedagogy that takes into consideration the needs, ideologies, values, and sociopolitical concerns of specific places and communities.” (87). In such initiatives, learners assess and address issues central to their specific context and place, making learning relevant. This entails a philosophical and practical shift. 


Tucker elaborates on the need and potential for a fusion of disciplines, particularly between art and science when it comes to ecological education. Tucker “sees art reducation as a means to broaden the boundaries of environmental education that have been rooted so broadly in the past.” (89) He goes on to introduce Suzi Gablick’s concept of “connective aesthetics”. 


Toward the end of his essay, Tucker establishes three distinguishing features common of independent educational initiatives (from which he builds the premise of what a “Communiversity” would entail). (p. 115)

  1. Connective Aesthetics - Seeing and engaging beyond the self. Moving beyond individualism. Finding a balance between self-assertion and embedded integration. (Susan Gablick)

  2. Third Places - informal public gathering spaces

  3. Production of Space - understanding production and space through a social lens to consider the possibilities for where and how knowledge is produced. 

From this essay, I went on to read, with great attention, Suzi Gablik’s Connective Aesthetics and Hillary Inwood’s Mapping Eco-Art Ed. 

-Mapping Eco-Art-Ed Hillary Inwood

-Connective Aesthetics -Suzi Gablik

2. Bioregionalism, Place-Based Education & Integral Transformative Learning

In her text, Engaged Pedagogy, Bell Hooks calls for holistic approaches to education; taking into account not just the mind, but the body and the spirit of the student. Hooks intersects Brazililan educator and philosopher Paolo Friere’s notion of “conscientization” with Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nat Han’s framework of engaged Buddhism. “Conscientization'' embraces education as a tool toward freedom; to come into consciousness of one’s agency in the world. Both Friere and Han emphasize the importance of active engagement and reflection in the learning process, linking awareness with practice. Further, it is Thich Nat Han’s buddhist philosophy that offers a refreshing emphasis on wholeness; a union of mind, body, and spirit. This emphasis on wholeness helps cultivate knowledge about how to live in the world. Carrying notions of reflection and active engagement outside the classroom and into the natural world can have a huge impact. The outdoors become the teacher, forcing us out of anthropocentrism. Continuing this thread of holistic education as a means to address how we live in the world, I would like to carry us over to Edmund O’Sullivan’s text regarding Transformative Education.


A deep rooted shift toward sustainability, in the way that Nick Neddo exercises, entails a transformative criticism that is so immense, most people/institutions may not feel prepared or up for responding to. Transformative criticism, as defined by Edmund Sullivan, is “a form of criticism that calls into question the fundamental mythos of the dominant cultural form and indicates that the culture can no longer viably maintain its continuity and vision”...maintaining that “the dominant culture is no longer “formatively appropriate” (O’Sullivan, Integral Transformative Education).


There is immense capacity for healing to occur when taking up bioregional engagement at this level. That healing may happen on a communal level, for instance, working toward autonomy through direct connection to resources. It may happen on a personal level, such as the repairing of one’s relationship to their environment or the wide array of psychological and emotional benefits that are commonly appreciated to result from time spent in nature (see “ecotherapy” of “forest bathing” to learn more). And further, it may happen on an environmental level, such as the repair of ecosystems. 


When we talk about the growth and well being of any person, we must also recognize that their growth and well-being is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of the environment which they are embedded in. To not appreciate the health of the land is literally in-sane. In the least because we are demarcating ourselves from the livelihood of our future kin. Considering the fractalized sense of self/community and resource insecurity exacerbated by globalization it is necessity to take into account bioregional awareness in contemporary education. 

3. Bioregionalism, Place-Based Education & Integral Transformative Learning

Crafting Sustainability: Handcraft in Contemporary Art and Cultural Sustainability in the Finnish Lapland (notes)

-art/craft making as a tool to cultivate cultural sustainability

-”All of a place” slideshow 

-connecting schools, youth and community

-Place-based Art Ed CIA workshop curriculum


bottom of page