use this credit Joy Morgan

Photo by Joy Morgan


“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
– Eleonora Duse

Discovering the Ecological Self

In a world where billions of tons of waste is produced annually, it can be easy to forget that we are part of nature. That is why Discovering the Ecological Self (D-Eco-Self), a Social Practice project developed and led by artist Kimberly Callas, is centered around reconnecting people with the world around them. D-Eco-Self is a collaboration with artists, college students, faculty, community non-profits and volunteers. Current collaborators include Aslan Youth Ministry, faculty and students from the Science Department at Monmouth University, Callas’ Sculpture II art class, Artist for Change members and area environmental volunteers. D-Eco-Self leads workshops with universities, non-profits and communities and has held workshops and residencies in New Jersey, Maine, Nebraska, California and Spain.

Callas has recently become the Urban Coast Institute Artist-in-Residence. During this two year residency, D-Eco-Self workshops will focus on symbols and research around the theme: OCEAN.

Through working in sustainability, Callas realized that it is our emotional attachments to nature, rather than data, that are the real motivators to change. In order to access these attachments, she used contemplative art-making practices and went in search of an ecological self, a self that still understands itself as part of nature.

Discovering the Ecological Self shares this transformative experience with others, exploring the ecological self across institutions to foster environmental stewardship and create environmental leaders.

The project is organized in afternoon workshops, field research as well as group and individual research projects and art making. The process is to:

Identify personal and culturally significant nature-based symbols, patterns and images through contemplative art making practices, on-site field exploration and scholarly research.

Once a subject is identified, we research its personal, scientific, cultural and historical background. For example, if the subject is a bee, we look at personal experiences with bees: what’s my relationship with the bee? Where does the bee live in my memory? Then we address the broader questions: what has the bee meant throughout history, to various cultures? How has it been used in art, literature, religion, politics, and healing? And scientifically we ask: what is the bee’s life cycle? How is honey made? What about its sting? We visit bees in their natural habitat, observe their behavior and draw from them.

From our research, we create art works, eco-masks, and a narration that can be either scientific, poetic, mythical, mystical, or all of the above. We speak our narration through the masks and use them as statements with our artwork to give voice and vision to our ecological selves.

We then share our work through performance, video, art exhibits and environmental actions.

Recognizing and understanding our Ecological Self and our strong connection to nature is a key factor in not only promoting, but taking sustainable action. Discovering the Ecological Self is meant to re-awaken our relationship with the world around us and create a deeper understanding of our role in nature as a participant, along with our responsibility to care for it.

This project is funded in part by The Pollination Project and an Urban Coast Institute Grant. It was recently featured in the Huffington Post.Kimberly Callas is a Monmouth University Assistant Professor of Art and Design where she holds a Service Learning Faculty Fellowship for this project.

To get involved
To participate in Discovering the Ecological Self, start with the Eco-Self Survey. Discover your own significant images and symbols in nature, start to dig deeper into your own ecological self, and find where you want to place your care for nature. Volunteer or sign up for a D-Eco-Self Workshop.  Realize your own call for environmental and sustainable action.

To read more about Discovering the Ecological Self and Social Practice
Visit our About page. There, you will find a video, detailed description of the project, read about the basics of Social Practice, learn about the artist and collaborators, and more.


Recent Blog Posts

D-Eco-Self Trees Exhibition 2019

2019 D-Eco Self theme was Trees. Monmouth University, AR 218 Sculpture 2 class collaborated with Aslan Youth Ministry for Discovering the Ecological Self, as well as on their own individual artworks. Monmouth University seniors Grace Roeder and Taylor Donovan volunteered their time to guide the science teachings, with support from Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Pedram Daneshgar. […]

Student Scholarship Week – D-Eco-Self 2019

AR 218 Sculpture 2 Students participated in the 2019 Service Learning Scholarship Week Poster Session sharing their work about their D-Eco-Self collaboration project and artworks that they made with Aslan Youth Ministry and MU Science. Denice Michalchuk, our D-Eco-Self 2019 Research Assistant, created the poster, and Daniella Russo, our D-Eco-Self 2019 Project Assistant, presented to a […]

A Walk Through Weltz Park 2019

We went for a nature walk through Weltz Park, where the science students identified different things that we had previously learned about trees. They showed us the different stages of growth in plants and trees throughout the park. Some of the new things we learned about trees were specific to this landscape. We learned about an […]

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