York St John Students engage with Marton Wood

This Spring, Chrysalis Arts has been a part of a Second Year BA Fine Art project at York St John University. The project, Seeing the Wood from the Trees, aims to help the students respond creatively to Marton Wood and to consider their artistic practice in the context of ecological issues.

The project is being led by David Haley, ecological artist, researcher, eco-pedagogue and CAD Board Member alongside Carolyn Thompson our new CPD Manager, Christine Keogh Executive Director, Mark Hewitt an ecologist and Rebecca Chesney a guest artist on the project.

BA Fine Art Students from York St John exploring Marton Wood with ecologist Mark Hewitt

Earlier this year Chrysalis Arts agreed a 10-year lease with North Yorkshire County Council for Marton Wood, a 6.6 hectare woodland near Boroughbridge and the village of Marton-cum-Grafton.

Our approach at Marton Wood is to work collaboratively with the wood and with others to secure its long-term management, future and legacy. We have begun to work with artists and ecologists to explore and learn from the Wood.

The long term goal is to continue this alongside a range of artists, scientists, local and other communities, to conserve, protect and regenerate this resource, learn new skills, develop creative practice and enable the passing on of skills and knowledge to others.

Through this process, we aim to develop new approaches to community and artists’ engagement with place, to the development of green artists’ practice and to create opportunities for artists, environmentalists and specialists in other fields to collaborate in ways that extend the quality, impact and reach of their work.

Alongside an initial group of artists, the students of York St John are some of the first people to become involved in our Marton Wood project.

Ecologist Mark Hewitt speaking to students at Marton Wood

In April the students had the opportunity to visit Marton Wood for the first time. Meeting with ecologist Mark Hewitt, the trip provided ample opportunity to learn and engage. From learning how to prepare for a ‘field trip’, gathering questions and information to how to read and engage with a place.

In May, Artist Rebecca Chesney joined the students to talk about her work involving the politics of land and the impact of human activity on nature and the environment. Rebecca also took the students on a walk at their University. They explored the natural aspects of the University Campus and surrounding area, comparing and contrasting them to those of Marton Wood.

Artist Rebecca Chesney leading students in a nature walk on their campus

Throughout this project, students are working collaboratively in small groups to create a digital contribution to our Marton Wood project. In the coming weeks, they’ll share their contributions with us, and we look forward to seeing these final outcomes of the project. Above all, it’s promising to see and be a part of young artists being taught to engage with ecological issues, place and the environment so early in their practice.

Learn more about our Marton Wood project here.

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