Warming up for Feet to the Fire

by Gabriel Sessions and Andrea Domanick, Arts Editors

While students will likely spend the upcoming week thinking of little else besides tests and textbooks, Kira Akerman ’10 will be putting the final touches on her grass-covered sculpture, to be displayed in Saturday's first-ever Feet to the Fire Festival. The Festival intends to bring together students, local scientists and artists to address the consequences of global climate change through interdisciplinary artwork.

For her project, Akerman created plaster casts of a male and female embracing in a kiss. The feet of the figures, however, will be covered in grass, the bodies in moss and soil, and the hands in bark where they rest on a tree trunk.

“The fact that the bodies are covered in soil is to show that we are of the earth, that the earth is to where our bodies will return and from where they are from,” explained Akerman.

Akerman's piece is one of the many exhibits to be displayed in “Feet to the Fire: Exploring Global Climate Change from Science to Art,” held May 10 in the Veterans Memorial Park. The event will also include live music, a farmer's market and interactive performances as part of the culmination of an 18-month project presented by the University's Center for the Arts and Environmental Studies Program.

The project began early last year after the CFA received a $200,000 grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program. Co-sponsored by the City of Middletown and the Jonah Center for Earth and Art, the festival will also feature a sculpture garden, a labyrinth, theater, dance, music, poetry and art.

Akerman's sculpture is her final project for the student forum “Environmental Art: Artistic Responses to Global and Local Environmental Issues,” led by EON member Alex Provo ’10 and dance major Rachel Fishoff ’09.

“It's about regeneration and the sexuality and sensuousness of nature,” Akerman explained. “My sculpture is meant to bring together man and his environment and show that really man and the environment are inseparable, and that the environment does not just surround, but that it is within and without, and that there is no way to extricate it.”

Seeking to study visual and movement-based artwork in relation to the environment, the forum culminated in each of its members creating a work of art for the festival.

“The root of the word ’environment' is ’environ,' which means to surround,” Akerman said. “So as a class we thought about how the environment was never integral with life and with urban environments and their spaces, and that environment is something separate.”

Saturday's theater and dance performances will include “Planet Next,” a series of works by award-winning choreographer Ann Carlson. Featured in these works will be “Green Movement,” which compels the audience to deal with the consequences of our everyday existence while retaining, at times, a lighter tone.

“I look forward to understanding the science, the politics, the predictions, the resistances, the messy mixture of capitalism and environmental policies as well as personal issues of longevity, sustainability, individualism, deep denial of death, urbanity, industrial production, and in general the impact of our lives on the life of our planet,” Carlson said in an interview with the Wesleyan Connection.

Feet to the Fire encourages attendees to seek out alternative methods of transportation, such as bike riding, walking and carpooling, to travel to the event.