Regeneration: A Virtual Series

The Nature Lab is pleased to announce the Regeneration virtual series. Taking place once per month from October 2020 — May 2021, this online speaker event will explore diverse perspectives on how making can integrate with natural, cultural, and social systems in a way that influences creative practices for the benefit of communities and the planet. One of the main goals of this series is to focus on the voices that drive and lead many of the equitable and environmental movements, but that still tend to not be seen or included in the advertised discussions and innovations around sustainable making, climate change, community development, ways of being, and more.

Join us on Thursday, January 28 at 12 PM ET for the fourth Regeneration session with Shey Rivera Ríos, an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and arts administrator working at the intersection of creative practice, urban planning, and racial equity in their community and beyond.

Moderated by the Nature Lab’s Operations and Engagement Coordinator, Dora Mugerwa, this conversation will explore a range of the following questions: How do we ensure and maintain a sense of belonging within the connective worlds of art/design, nature, and culture? What can creative practices and visual work teach us about environmental justice and regenerating through community?

This session is co-sponsored by RISD's Center for Social Equity & Inclusion
Register and stay tuned for this fourth conversation in the Regeneration series!

RSVP HERE for Regeneration with Shey Rivera Ríos.

Shey Rivera Ríos (pronouns: they/them)
is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and arts administrator. Their artistic creations span a myriad of topics, from home to capitalism to queerness and magic. Rivera has 10 years of experience in the nonprofit arts sector intersecting creative practice with urban planning and racial equity. Today, Rivera is an independent artist and consultant specializing in arts management. They serve on the City of Providence’s Design Review Committee of the Dept of Planning, appointed by the Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, as well as Mayor Elorza’s Latinx Taskforce in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Rivera is also on the Board of Directors of the Alliance of Artist Communities. Key artistic projects are the LUNA LOBA performance series and the FANTASY ISLAND transmedia project.

RECAP: Regeneration with Karen Washington

December 18 hosted the third conversation in the Regeneration series with Karen Washington, a farmer, community activist, and food advocate. Make sure to take a look at this document with resources that were mentioned during the conversation to further your learning.

Karen gave a passionate and informative presentation on how inequitable and fragile the food systems are in the U.S. She shared how she and her community try to dismantle the current systems, and what we can do within our own communities to move towards food systems that are just and equitable. She says “The food system doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be changed.”

She argues that “food itself cannot stand alone. There are intersections with economics, history, housing, environment, health, and more.” In order to truly change our unjust food systems, we must begin by asking “What does food security truly look like for people of color in low income neighborhoods?” If we take this more holistic approach, and focus on organizing within our communities at the grassroots level, we can begin to dismantle the current systems and create a more regenerative future.

Karen encourages individuals to start with small, compassionate actions. Connect with your neighbors, go out into your local community, and see who needs help. Cook an extra meal for someone who is struggling. Get involved with your local community garden. She says, “Can we have more love and compassion in 2021? Can we say ‘I love you, let me help you, let me feed you?’ Now is the time we need each other more than ever. We need to be the people that make sure our communities are fed. When you see something that is unjust, say something. Your voice is your power.”

Watch the recap video above for more.

RECAP: Regeneration with Esme Murdock

November 19 hosted the second conversation in the Regeneration series with Esme Murdock, a philosopher focused on African American, Afrodiasporic, and Indigenous philosophies and environmental ethics. Make sure to take a look at this document with resources to further your learning, plus several answers to questions that were not answered during the live event.

How can we unlearn dominant western teachings in order to build a better and more inclusive environmental movement? And how do we relearn in the most thoughtful way? Esme’s work strives to deconstruct the monolithic, Eurocentric narrative of the environmental movement. During the talk, she says, “when we center one type of story and repeat it over and over again, we are actually compounding our harms and compounding our errors over time.” Esme encourages the exploration of “Black and Indigenous philosophies and ways of knowing,” while stressing the importance of acknowledging the origins of these philosophies.

She implores us to focus on “unlearning” by actively questioning the ways in which we have been taught to think and make, and critically apply non-dominant ways of thinking to our own creative practices and the larger environmental movement. We can start by building daily practices of land and water acknowledgements, choosing to disrupt tendencies for control and mastery, reading texts from scholars outside of the mainstream discourse, and speaking with people who challenge our embedded modes of thought. As a community, we can relearn histories, re-center Indigenous and Afrodiasporic narratives, and build a more equitable future of environmental ethics.

Watch the recap video above for more.

RECAP: Regeneration with Billy Almon

October 22nd hosted the kickoff conversation of the Regeneration series with Astrobiofuturist and biomimicry expert Billy Almon, who shared how biomimicry can create restorative futures for black and brown communities. This line of thought began while he worked in the field and learned that a man had been shot in his grandmother's backyard; the police thought that the man had a gun when he actually had a cellphone. This changed the direction of Billy’s research, where he asked himself, “if biomimicry can't help my community, then what's the point?” During his talk, he emphasized the importance of exploring the narrative and how this investigative process can help change the monolithic story of police violence. This led him to study different animals’ reactions to perceived threats and where similar responses occur in the human body.

“What’s the actual biology taking place in these instances of police shootings?” Billy asked. He challenged us to look at this violence through a broader lens and understand the “historical, socioeconomic, and biological history of these occurrences.” What is the officer and the person at the other end of the barrel experiencing physiologically in this heightened state of stress and perceived threat? How can understanding this, together with knowing the historical existence of the police and the propagandized fear of "other", lead to biomimetic solutions that can help reduce violence against communities of color?

In thinking about regeneration, Billy encouraged designers and artists to observe patterns in both nature and human behavior in order to “discover new narratives that will help realize our ideal future.” He explained that in order to bring humanity closer to a better tomorrow, we need to focus on “restorative futures,” which he defines as “rehumanizing people, places, and systems through empathetic designs informed by biology and nature.”

Watch the recap video above for more!

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