“The Mosses unique character interweaves human and non-human stories. Not only is it an internationally important wetland, but it has played a significant role throughout human history in this area. I hope to share my own responses to this place with others, to ask questions, inspire conversation and to help raise awareness of these places at a time of huge environmental change”
Art and the Environment
The arts play a vital role in connecting people, encouraging curiosity and engagement with landscape and nature. They can help with understanding of issues of water, sustainability and their interaction with humans. The Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield NNR offers exciting opportunities as a centre of exploration and creativity.
Andrew Howe aims to be a catalyst for others to make and share their own responses to the landscape via:
- Collaborations with other artists
- Residency projects
- Engagement projects with schools and community groups
- Exhibitions and artist talks
- Walks, events and workshop activities
Andrew’s own research involves:
- On site observations and documenting through walks, collection of materials and recordings
- Reading of academic texts on local history, geology, wetland ecology and conservation
- Discussions with specialists and local community
- Study of water and ecological site monitoring data
- Creation of artworks presenting views of the interdependent relationships between humans, the land and its ecosystems
The Mosses and Marshes project
The Mosses and Marshes project spans two countries – the UK and Australia, both with Ramsar listed wetlands of international importance. It brings together artists, land managers and scientists to reimagine the future of these landscapes and the place they have in our communities.
In 2018, artists Andrew Howe (Shropshire, UK) and Kim V. Goldsmith (NSW, Australia) came together as part of the international art programme, Arts Territory Exchange.
Both artists have also worked for decades outside their practices in the natural resources and environment sector, and with their common interest in environmental issues, Howe and Goldsmith spent over a year exploring how they might create an international project presenting the areas of the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses (UK) and Macquarie Marshes (Australia) alongside each other.
On the surface, these areas are vastly dissimilar – one is a raised peat bog inundated with water, the other severely impacted by ongoing drought. In addition, the landscape, the issues and management of the Mosses and Marshes all differ in response to their respective climatic and environmental conditions. However, both are natural sites of international significance, and both have an impact on or are impacted by land uses.
The interpretation of water data for both sites, along with access to them from field trips, provides an opportunity to present these spaces creatively through a new lens, in a way not routinely experienced. This in turns gives managing bodies, and those with an interest in the Mosses and Marshes, a chance to put the spotlight on why they are so important and how they might be managed in future. As Ramsar-listed international wetlands of importance, these sites “are recognized as being of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.” Recent events, such as the bush fires across Australia, demonstrate how fragile and vulnerable these landscapes are to climate change.
Andrew Howe (UK) and Kim V. Goldsmith (Australia) are co-leading the project . Andrew Howe partnered with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England as they carried out their scrapyard restoration and EU funded BogLIFE peatbog restoration projects, while Kim partered with the Macquarie Wetlands Association, as well as tapping into the knowledge of various wetland and water management specialists to explore elements of the Macquarie Marshes.
On the back of funding secured in Australia via a grant through Regional Arts NSW and a two-month crowdfunding campaign, the artists were hugely grateful to Arts Council England for project grant funding from the National Lottery. This enabled Howe and Goldsmith to work with five other artists in the UK: Elizabeth Turner and Keith Ashford, Sue Challis, Kate Johnston and Lydia Halcrow, artist/curator Gudrun Filipska of Arts Territory Exchange, Mediaactive Projects CIC and local partners Wem Youth Club and Shropshire Wildlife Trust
The process of developing the project was via a series of on-site residencies, with the lead artists, consisting of field trips and other events to gather information and material. In later project phases, it is hoped that residencies may be extended to invited artists.
During 2021, the artists utilised available water data, studies, and the expertise of those who manage the Mosses and Marshes, alongside site visits, to create works that responded to issues of the day, and the projected future of the wetlands and adjoining areas.
The resulting works were presented in a range of formats for online viewing and in physical exhibitions within each wetland’s catchment, as well as internationally. See Events for updates on what is happening.
A full review of activities and achievements of 2021 and a look-ahead to 2022 can be found below:
Andrew is an interdisciplinary artist and project manager, based in Shrewsbury, working solo and in collaboration with other practitioners and community groups.
He uses walking and mapping to explore how people interact with places, informed by experience of over 30 years in engineering and environmental consulting.
His practice includes painting, collage, photography, printmaking, books, and digital media. Work has been shown in both solo and group exhibitions, and he has created commissioned work and curated exhibitions. A member of Meadow Arts’ network of creative practitioners, Andrew is experienced in delivering arts engagement projects with schools, community groups and in public workshops.
Visit his website for further information: andrew-howe.com
Contact Andrew for more information or to get involved.
Arts Territory Exchange
“The Arts Territory Exchange (aTE) comprises of a global network of artists and art practices which respond to the geography of their territory of production. Beginning with a simple correspondence programme in which artists are paired up to exchange works and ideas, aTE exists to both germinate otherwise impossible dialogue between remote and disconnected practices and to bring to an audience a global artwork in the form of an accumulating library of artefacts and debate”Arts Territory Exchange website
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