Sedimentations: An Art Culture Nature Conference
18th - 20th of May 2007

Conference Site: Kettle Pond Visitor Center in Charlestown, Rhode Island
Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Conference Directors: Ana Flores and Petra Kuppers

This Art Culture Nature conference addresses connections between time, ecology, human history and the histories of the land.

ACN is an interdisciplinary organization which brings together artists, environmentalists and educators in the humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences who are interested in the study of the connections between the arts and environmental studies.


Together, we will ask questions, engage in exchange, and present practices:
1. How can we make meaningful connections between contemporary audiences and the sedimentations of time in our local, regional, national or international environments?
2. What are the violences, connections, opportunities and transformations of history in particular landscapes, and how can we or should we address these in art making and environmental practice?
3. What are the roles of art practices, community performances, museum display, pedagogies, refuge creation and environmentalist policy today?
4. What are exemplary models of full engagement between the arts and the environment from the past and present that can help us promote engagements between artists, environmentalists and educators in the future?

Our conference site addresses multiple issues of time and space, and we want to keep our local connections in mind while we are thinking regionally, nationally and internationally.
Here are a few of the local themes that inspired proposals for the 2007 ACN conference.

We want to know: How do these local specificities echo for you and your sites? How can stories, practices, sights leave traces, how can these be shared? What other stories about locales can be told or shown?

- The Fish and Wildlife center, where the conference takes place, models the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources.
- The Center is sited on the remains of a glacial moraine. In the woods are erratics--huge boulders moved by the glaciers, evidence of the ancient planetary sculptural forces that shaped the land. The many kettle ponds in the area were created by isolated chunks of melting ice.
- Charlestown is part of territory of the Narragansett people - the 'people of the sea'. The tribe has maintained its strong presence in the town despite four centuries of colonial history. In the 1970s, they were one of the first tribes in the nation to reclaim portions of their lands and win in Federal court.
- Europeans arrived soon after 1660. The flat, fertile coastal plain of the town was developed into large plantations by the 18th century. As a consequence the town had an extensive slave population. Rhode Island was a core site in the circumatlantic triangle trade, and much historic wealth is based on slavery practices.
- Post 1860, the water energy of the Pawcatuck River in the area served as a focal point for the textile mill industries, transforming the area with its specific histories of land use, water pollution, industrial transformation, effecting local and national economies, and becoming a magnet for migration
- A World War II Naval Air Base, closed in 1973, became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge, an example of positive transformation of land use.
The refuge restores more than 30 acres per year into grasslands and other early successional habitat, thus helping stem the tide of migratory songbird decline within this habitat type.
- The area encompasses the Rhode Island's only undeveloped salt pond, hosts the largest black duck population, and is the state's only habitat of the Fowler's toad.
- The Charlestown environment is part of a complex bird migration pattern with many endangered species visiting and living in the area.
- Closer to the ground, Charlestown is today a popular tourist site, struggling to maintain open space, and balance attendant development issues.

Who We are: Conference Steering Committee

Ana Flores, is a sculptor who has designed parks, created environmental projects and commissions for public and private spaces that address our relationship with the natural world. Two of these projects currently on national tour are Poetry of the Wild and Cuba Journal.  She is Artist in Residence at Kettle Pond Visitor´s Center, the headquarters for U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Charlestown, Rhode Island.

Darlene Trew Crist is an author and editor, whose freelance work has specialized in translating scientific findings into language that can be understood by all.  She is currently the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Census of Marine Life, an international collaborative effort that involves 1700 scientists from 73 nations with the shared mission of quantifying life in the global oceans-- from microbes to mammals-- and how these populations are changing over time.

Janis Nepshinsky's career has always involved the environment.  From serving as a director and educator at a nature center, researching the Florida manatee and sea turtles, working as an environmental engineer, cleaning and protecting Florida's vital waters, to connecting visitors of national wildlife refuges with their natural surroundings. Protecting and connecting people with the environment is more that a career for Janis, it is her passion.

Laura Landen is a nature enthusiast, photographer, environmental activist, and professor of philosophy at Providence College.  She continues to encourage study of and commitment to protecting the environment--locally, nationally and globally--and serves as treasurer and web master for the Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island.

Petra Kuppers is a community artist, a disability culture activist, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan, and president of Art Culture Nature. As artistic director of The Olimpias, she collaborates with fellow disabled people in the creation of site-specific performance events. The Olimpias have worked in most Rhode Island nature parks. Petra explores access and landscape: not only physical, but also aesthetic access, finding means of touching in difference, and living in beauty.



The conference site is fully accessible. If you have specific access needs and want to check that they are met, contact the conference directors.