The Phoenix Project: Artists & Educators Building Hope In A Changing Climate

September 20, 2019

Mendocino College visual and performing arts faculty, along with countless students, fire survivors, and community members, have been working together for over a year to bring to fruition The Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project is a multi-media community and campus-wide arts action, with over 100 locally, nationally, and internationally-recognized visual and performing artists joining fire survivors to confront human caused climate change and its effects on the community.

The ensemble of events that make up the Phoenix Project include workshops, a gala opening for the indoor and outdoor art exhibit, an original theatre production, a dance concert, and a choir and vocal jazz concert. The full schedule of events is as follows:

“The Climate Change Quilt” Plastic Upcycling Workshop with Renowned Artist Laura Fogg
October 5 & 6, 2019, 10am - 4pm, Mendocino College CVPA Building Rm. 5330
FREE, materials provided, no sewing experience needed! Just bring plastic bags and packaging to collage.
To register: jrthompson@mendocino.edu

Art Exhibit - Gala Opening
October 5, 7-9pm. Show open indoors and outdoors thru November 1, 2019; Gallery open T/W/Th 12:30-3:30 or by appt. Info: 707.468.3207, gallery@mendocino.edu

Original Theatre Production - Wild Fire, written by Jody Gehrman, directed by Reid Edelman
October 18 thru 27, 2019 (10/18-10/19 & 10/24-10/26, 7:30pm; 10/27, 2:00pm)
Info: 707.468.3172, Tickets: artsmendocino.org

Fall Dance Concert - Arise, directed by Eryn Schon-Brunner
November 21 thru 24, 2019 (11/21-11/23, 7:30pm; 11/24, 2:00pm)
Info: 707.468.3079, Tickets: artsmendocino.org

Choir & Vocal Jazz Concert - Earth, Air, Fire, Water, a free concert, directed by Janice Hawthorne Timm
Monday, December 9, 2019 at 7:30pm
Info: jtimm@mendocino.edu

The Phoenix Project began in response to the wildfires. The vision is to use many forms of art to reach out to fire survivors, students, and all cultures in the community, and bring them together to recognize the underlying issue of climate change. According to Art Instructor and Art Gallery Director Doug Browe, “The project has brought together artists and fire survivors in collaborative art projects in an attempt to build a better understanding of the tragic and transformative power the Redwood Valley Fire Complex had on our community. The Phoenix Project strove to bring all aspects of our diverse community together in a creative flux.”

These exhibitions and performances are designed to be more than just shows; they offer art as direct action towards the future. The college faculty guiding the various “Phoenix projects”- outdoor sculptures, the original play, the dances- agreed to a new kind of process: art that is participatory, collaborative, and proactive towards issues that affect human survival.

Instructors invited local Native American and Latino elders and students to help represent their cultures respectfully; the Indigenous perspective is particularly important because of their deep resonance with nature. Sculpture instructor and Phoenix Project Curator Jess Thompson was instrumental in drawing cultural groups into the project. “We all share concerns for the future, for our children and the land,” said Thompson. “The college can be our creative hub amidst challenges, with tools and workspaces that belong to all of us. Through art making, strategizing, brainstorming, and performing together, we build a network and accomplish more than we would alone. It’s also a fun, relaxed way to work through really difficult issues.”

The Phoenix Project is generously supported by Johnny and Gloria Keyes, who share the hope that projects like this can help the community work together for the future.