WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVED SONGBIRD WEBSITE

1998-2002

 
 
  One of the important pleasures, for me, was meeting Nelson Gray and Beth Carruthers of the Songbird Project in British Columbia. It was very clear to all present that they are doing exemplary work...
You are lucky to have these two creative artists, and their colleagues, working on behalf of human-earth relations in Western Canada.

Dr. David Abram, cultural ecologist and author of "The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World"
     

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  Arts & Ecology In Practice - Creative Vision for Future Flourishing
In the mid-1990s Vancouver and coastal British Columbia seemed to exemplify the tensions and crisies of community, sustainability, and environment. Environmental protests and associated violence were daily media fair, along with rumblings of global disaster. People overall reported feeling "overwhelmed" or numbed by the size and complexity of environmental problems, unsure of how to respond, or effectively engage. In the general population there was a general tendency to leave such problems to politicians and instititutions, who were understood as being repsonsible for handling such things. New immigrants to the region were inclined to steer clear of anything "environmental", while development raced forward at break-neck speed.

SongBird was born from the shared vision and passionate commitment of two Vancouver artists, Beth Carruthers and Nelson Gray. Intent on subverting the common focus on problems and negative futures that engendered fear and the illusion of powerlessness, SongBird produced community and multi-sector events and initiatives focused on celebration, and a collective envisioning of alternative futures. A 6-year collaboration with the institute of Urban Ecology at Douglas College, Environment Canada, and a network of partners began in the spring of 1997, with the SongBird project launching officially May 1998 at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver.

Central to the SongBird ethos was community broadly understood as bioregion - a complex meshwork of interdependence greater than the human aspects alone. Viewing the city as an ecosystem community - in the words of Dr. Val Schafer, "nature within the city and the city within nature", meant turning certain suppositions on their heads. The way to do so, we believe (and still do), was by way of the creative imagination and experience of connection. Our approach was to link the arts, sciences and communities in innovative ways reaching across age, cultural and lifestyle demographics. Because we believe that the human/ecosystem relationship is central to our being in the world, and that our emotional connection is one that will ultimately change human behaviours, a primary focus for the project was developing and producing celebratory and non-confrontational strategies that capture the imagination and engage the heart and mind.

We chose songbirds, whose populations are in decline world-wide, to represent this work. Beyond being indicator species for ecosystem stability, songbirds were a metaphor, literally the canary in the coal mine, and present in the stories of almost every human culture.

SongBird won local, national and international support for its pioneering work in hybrid alliances and community initiatives.

This website holds most of the information on SongBird's initiatives and partnerships over the years the project was active. Please explore and address any enquiries to Beth Carruthers.

 

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