This sessions invited guest is Cathy Fitzgerald, an Eco Social Arts practitioner based in Ireland.
My name is Cathy Fitzgerald, and I’m an Irish-based New Zealander living in rural County Carlow in Ireland these past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, I have been inspired by the emergent art and ecology field in visual culture, which I deepened through doctoral contemporary ecological art practice and research. My intuition that the arts need to swiftly gain ecoliteracy comes from my early career in research science which connects to what I sensed as a child– that there is inexplicable power and magic in creativity to inspire wonder, awe, and gratitude for life. I was blessed growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand – remaining pristine, beautiful bird-filled forests there gave me experiences of ecological richness that many countries, like Ireland, no longer know. This art-science-forest-filled background means I realised sooner than most that informed-creativity can help convey new Earth-aligned values, ideas and practices to communities so they can address today’s many intersecting ecosocial emergencies.
I have unique insights to share with the creative sector now through an entrepreneurial approach. I deeply understand that the historical divisions in our education system that separates ecological learning from the arts and humanities is failing to prepare many of us in the creative sector for the unprecedented and accelerating ecosocial challenges we now face. Under-acknowledged as yet, the creative sector has a leadership role to inspire diverse communities to live well with others and the wider community of life.
Determined to address the poor ecoliteracy levels across the Irish creative sector, in 2019 following support from the Carlow Local Enterprise Centre and the Carlow Arts Office, I researched and received mentoring on how to develop, market and conduct engaging online ‘Essential Ecoliteracy courses for Creatives and Art Professionals’ – an idea that arose in the conclusion of my PhD (Fitzgerald, 2018). I received incredible advice from serial entrepreneur Mary Carty, former arts officer, now a leading Irish women-in-business tech-strategist and co-founder of Ireland’s new Awaken Hub (Ireland’s new women-led, for women, entrepreneurial business network), and cutting-edge learning from the Canadian online-learning course developer experts at MIRASEE.
In early 2020, coinciding with the pandemic lockdown, I successfully launched, marketed and piloted my #HaumeaOnline ecoliteracy courses through my new business Haumea – Ecoliteracy Services for the Arts. My online course offerings, now expanding with other collaborators, is the learning I wish I had access to when I began my contemporary art education in the late 90s. The course material is the distilling of hard-won experience and learning over many years, from developing a nationally-recognised eco-social art practice, The Hollywood Forest Story (Woodworth, Irish Times, 7 March 2020) and my doctoral research.
Crucially, I see my new business of teaching ecoliteracy as another facet of my eco-social art practice. For these urgent times, it’s my contribution, as the first Irish signatory of the international #CultureDeclares movement– of cultural workers working to radically renew and reimagine the creative sector to inspire society toward a better, more beautiful world. And already, due to the online nature of my work, I am sharing ecoliteracy with Irish and international creative professionals across the world.
If I could encourage other creatives along this entrepreneurial road in these challenging times, I would suggest that one beg, borrow or steals to get great business mentoring! Starting up a new enterprise is tough, exciting, extremely rewarding but also lonely as many may not know what you are trying to do. Entrepreneurial business mentors are experienced pathbreakers and your first-call supporters – they are eager to help your work make a great impact on the world. Entrepreneurship is all about risking and growing ideas– so it helps to have a great support around you.
Cathy Fitzgerald’s website: www.haumea.ie
Our Thriving Tribe aims to expand upon the current discourse on entrepreneurship within the arts in Ireland. A process of enquiry into the context of artistic practice by researching entrepreneurship from the perspective of arts professionals in order to generate new knowledge within this field.