The Hollywood Forest Story is an ongoing ‘eco-social art practice’. It explores a new story for Irish forestry in transforming the short-rotation conifer plantation I live with, in south Carlow –’the little wood that could’– to a species-rich, permanent, productive and beautiful forest. Place-based creative practice-led work foster transformative insights on how to live well with forests and the wider community of life (Fitzgerald, 2018). Begun in 2008, and featured in The Irish Times (7 March 2020), The Hollywood Forest Story explores new-to-Ireland continuous cover forestry ecological forestry practices, transversal dialogue, visual art activities, and activism. Blogging is a key creative activity and over the years my transversal practice evolves ecoliteracy, soliphilia (love for this and other forests), and hence confidence and agency for ecological forestry: in 2012, I advocated continuous cover forestry for Irish Green Party forest policy and unanimous Green Party support for the developing international law against the crime of ecocide in 2013. As a longstanding committee member of Pro Silva Ireland, I work with professional foresters and ecologists currently advising the Irish Government on permanent forestry. For the international #CultureDeclares Emergency movement, I offer ecoliteracy to creative workers and art professionals via online courses at Haumea.ie
Previously I developed a solo exhibition The Local Project Revisited (2006) at The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon which celebrated 25 years of the community broadleaf tree-planting NGO Crann, with Crann founder Jan Alexander. I developed an innovative participatory Art Council funded art and science residency with genetics Prof. Paula Murphy in the Zoology Dept at TCD during 2004-5. My work remains in the Zoology Dept at TCD on permanent display. I have also exhibited at the Royal College of Surgeons in 2005.
From 2007 to 2010, I was the inaugural ArtLinks Director helping to deliver professional development courses to creative practitioners across the South East which has given me insights to the struggles faced by artists to establish livelihoods and learning. In 2009, I was part of the UK RSA art and ecology network and attended the inaugural Culture | Futures summit held alongside the 2009 Copenhagen UN Climate Summit. I was nominated to the International EcoArt Network in 2016 by Dr. Richard Povall and Prof. David Haley. In 2017, I was an NUIG Galway Moore Institute Visiting Fellow – The Tim Robinson Archive.
In 2018, I successfully defended a PhD by Creative Practice, The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests To Articulate Eco-Social Art Practices Using a Guattari Ecosophy and Action Research Framework, National College of Art & Design, (NCAD): Supervisors: Dr Paul O’Brien (NCAD), Dr Iain Biggs (UK) and Prof. Jessica Hemmings (NCAD). I was fortunate to have Dr Richard Povall (Dartington, Devon Art & Ecology programme Director) as my external examiner.
In May 2018, I was invited by Dr. Karen Till and Prof. Gerry Kearns, Maynooth University, and Dr. Nessa Cronin, NUIG, to share my art and sustainability research and lead a workshop on the urgent need to develop art and sustainability policy for Ireland for the 2018 Irish Geography conference in Maynooth University. At an international cultural policy level, my research reveals that behavioural science, moral environmental philosophy and UNESCO, IFACCA and others recognise culture is the under-acknowledged 4th pillar to promote sustainability across civil society. Culture has immense social power to translate and localise environmental science so as to engage communities in diverse urban and rural regions about sustainability, in ways that are unavailable to science. In May 2019, I have been invited by Dr. Nessa Cronin, NUIG, to again present the findings of my art and sustainability policy research, ahead of the 2019 EUGeo conference. At this conference, I have been awarded a Conference Enrichment Fund – EUGEO/CIG 2019 bursary to present other research from my eco-social art practice: ‘Good-Bye Anthropocene – Hello Symbiocene: eco-social art practices for a new world’.
In 2019, I was also awarded a feasibility study grant from the Carlow Enterprise Board and a Carlow Arts Office Award to develop an innovative online course, and local seminars, on essential ecoliteracy for the arts. In recognition of growing up in beautiful inspiring Aotearoa New Zealand, I am developing these courses under the name of Haumea, the name of the earth goddess of the Pacific, see www.haumea.site All my other past work can be seen at www.cathyfitzgerald.ie
Selected and In Press Publications:
Cathy Fitzgerald, ‘Ecopornography versus the slow deep art of place’, EarthLines, 2013
Cathy Fitzgerald, ‘The Hollywood Forest Story: a slow, eco-social art practice for the Symbiocene’, Minding Nature Journal, The Centre for Humans and Nature, Fall, 2019.
Cathy Fitzgerald, ‘Goodbye Anthropocene – Hello Symbiocene: Eco-Social Art Practices for a New World’ in: “Plasticity – The Global Reader” (2019), editor Magdalena Ziolkowska, for Human-Free Earth, [International exhibition] U–jazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 15/3 to 22/9/2019.
Cathy Fitzgerald, ‘Living Well with Forests: A Guiding Guattari Ecosophy-Action Research Framework to Explain Eco-Social Art Practice’, in: Provocations, Pedagogies and Other Strategies: Teaching Ecology Art, Guidance from the International Ecoart Network, editor Aviva Rahmani, Chris Freemantle (In Press).
Cathy Fitzgerald, ‘The Hollywood Forest Story: Understanding Why Placemaking Develops Ecoliteracy and Social Power for the Symbiocene’, in The Placemaking Handbook: Research, Theory and Practice. Editor, Cara Courage, Taylor and Francis, Routledge (In Press, 2020).