Background The Engaging Visions Project identifies and evaluates best‐practice procedures for engaging visual artists with natural resource management (NRM) issues in communities along Australia’s Murray‐Darling River Basin.

Since 2001, the Australian National University’s award winning School of Art Field Studies program has partnered with the Murray Darling Basin Commission to create art that reflects the environmental values and concerns of river catchment communities in the Murray‐Darling Basin. Anecdotally, artists have found inspiration from their own reactions to the Basin and its NRM issues, and also from their interaction with members of catchment communities. Communities have been engaged in novel and inspiring ways, encouraged to think outside current and familiar disciplines and technologies and have experienced a broader, more personal engagement with NRM issues.

Objective In late 2006, the partnership, in concert with the Centre for Public Awareness of Science (Australian National University), received funding from the Australian Research Council to formally investigate the best ways to engage visual artists with catchment communities to assist with NRM, encourage innovative cultural practice, and facilitate effective science communication. A critical objective of the Project is to create an evidence‐based model procedure for engaging artists with communities to address communication issues critical to effective NRM in the Murray‐Darling Basin.

Methods Between 2007 and 2009, Engaging Visions is progressively evaluating the effectiveness of the interaction between community, art and environment in four catchment communities in Australia: St George, Tumut, Renmark, and the Kiewa River Valley. Evaluating the impacts of the Project involves a combination of in‐depth interviews with participating artists, community‐wide questionnaire‐style surveys, and interviews with key community representatives. In addition, media and website traffic monitoring provide broader context to the results of one‐on‐one interviews and community surveys.

Results This presentation outlines the results and conclusions of the first half of the Engaging V isions Project and the progress made towards the final product: a combination of community‐wide surveys with rich, participant‐observation data gathered from participating artists with a view to creating a model procedure for artist/ cultural practitioner involvement in catchment NRM.

Conclusions The outcomes and outputs of the Engaging Visions Project offer both strategic and theoretical insights that cross all four of the conference sub‐themes. First, effective, community‐wide management of natural resources in Australia has never been more critical. A focus on environment/climate is at the heart of the Project. Second, the Project provides for NRM issues to be expressed in ways that move beyond traditional, frequently word‐bound, and often specialist communication venues, facilitating a broad potential for public engagement. Third, the assessment of impact is central to the entire project, providing systematic and robust evidence to supplement the very positive, but still anecdotal, support of the past seven years. Finally, the Project connects a broad range of stakeholders in catchment communities, developing novel meeting places (e.g., gallery spaces) for interaction over NRM issues via engagement through visual art.

Ultimately, the model procedure for engaging artists and communities generated by the Project will be used to empower catchment residents and artists/ cultural practitioners to address communication issues critical to effective natural resource management in the Murray‐Darling Basin. It will ultimately underpin a partner 10‐year investment plan for broader cultural practitioner and community engagement to achieve increased adoption and accelerated up‐take of environmentally sustainable practices in the Murray Darling Basin.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Engaging Visions
Art, science communication, and natural resource management in Australia’s Murray‐Darling River Basin

Rod Lamberts   Australian National University

Background The Engaging Visions Project identifies and evaluates best‐practice procedures for engaging visual artists with natural resource management (NRM) issues in communities along Australia’s Murray‐Darling River Basin.

Since 2001, the Australian National University’s award winning School of Art Field Studies program has partnered with the Murray Darling Basin Commission to create art that reflects the environmental values and concerns of river catchment communities in the Murray‐Darling Basin. Anecdotally, artists have found inspiration from their own reactions to the Basin and its NRM issues, and also from their interaction with members of catchment communities. Communities have been engaged in novel and inspiring ways, encouraged to think outside current and familiar disciplines and technologies and have experienced a broader, more personal engagement with NRM issues.

Objective In late 2006, the partnership, in concert with the Centre for Public Awareness of Science (Australian National University), received funding from the Australian Research Council to formally investigate the best ways to engage visual artists with catchment communities to assist with NRM, encourage innovative cultural practice, and facilitate effective science communication. A critical objective of the Project is to create an evidence‐based model procedure for engaging artists with communities to address communication issues critical to effective NRM in the Murray‐Darling Basin.

Methods Between 2007 and 2009, Engaging Visions is progressively evaluating the effectiveness of the interaction between community, art and environment in four catchment communities in Australia: St George, Tumut, Renmark, and the Kiewa River Valley. Evaluating the impacts of the Project involves a combination of in‐depth interviews with participating artists, community‐wide questionnaire‐style surveys, and interviews with key community representatives. In addition, media and website traffic monitoring provide broader context to the results of one‐on‐one interviews and community surveys.

Results This presentation outlines the results and conclusions of the first half of the Engaging V isions Project and the progress made towards the final product: a combination of community‐wide surveys with rich, participant‐observation data gathered from participating artists with a view to creating a model procedure for artist/ cultural practitioner involvement in catchment NRM.

Conclusions The outcomes and outputs of the Engaging Visions Project offer both strategic and theoretical insights that cross all four of the conference sub‐themes. First, effective, community‐wide management of natural resources in Australia has never been more critical. A focus on environment/climate is at the heart of the Project. Second, the Project provides for NRM issues to be expressed in ways that move beyond traditional, frequently word‐bound, and often specialist communication venues, facilitating a broad potential for public engagement. Third, the assessment of impact is central to the entire project, providing systematic and robust evidence to supplement the very positive, but still anecdotal, support of the past seven years. Finally, the Project connects a broad range of stakeholders in catchment communities, developing novel meeting places (e.g., gallery spaces) for interaction over NRM issues via engagement through visual art.

Ultimately, the model procedure for engaging artists and communities generated by the Project will be used to empower catchment residents and artists/ cultural practitioners to address communication issues critical to effective natural resource management in the Murray‐Darling Basin. It will ultimately underpin a partner 10‐year investment plan for broader cultural practitioner and community engagement to achieve increased adoption and accelerated up‐take of environmentally sustainable practices in the Murray Darling Basin.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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