LAUREN ELDER is an Environmental Artist and Landscape Designer whose work appears primarily in public space as a partner/instigator in community design-build processes. The most frequent outcomes are gardens and parks for public schools and community groups. In addition to independent commissions, she facilitated the same process for 11 years through the Center for Art and Public Life at California College of Art. She has been professionally active for over 40 years, blending education and activism into the creative mix. Her works also appear in art museums and galleries, science museums, theaters, conferences, street actions and online. Since 2009 she has divided her practice between North and South America, building understanding and connections across cultures and ages. The projects seek to develop awareness of the urgency of restoring/maintaining the health of soil and water ecosystems for the benefit of both non-human and human inhabitants – and also the offering the “dignity of beauty” in our everyday lives. Another key concern is the impact of climate change on ecosystems and working with young people to imagine and model adaptations. A great dream is to launch a permaculture-based “ranchito” in Mexico which can serve as a participatory model of earth stewardship and a canvas for land art. Recent group exhibitions in the Bay Area include the Bioneers Annual Conference, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Oakland Museum of California and Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. Elder’s work has been recognized and supported multiple times by the Potrero Nuevo Environmental Prize, the City of Oakland Cultural Arts Division and Public Art Program, California College of Art Faculty Grants, and the Havana Biennial (2011). Work has been published in “Asphalt to Ecosystems: Schoolyard Transformation” by Sharon Danks (2011), “Urban Homesteading”, by Kaplan & Blume (2011) and “Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity” edited by L. Lawson, published by Island Press (2017).
I am committed to the power of the creative process to assist us in confronting the biggest challenge imaginable: the current radical transformation of our planet through climate change. Since our clever, but short-sighted capabilities produced this crisis, I remain hopeful that we can apply an equally great amount of insight and invention to reverse destructive trends and establish a new equilibrium. I want to encourage us to remain focused on possibility and actions that can be implemented locally. The health of our soil and water ecosystems is one things that all of us can positively affect. A simple example: There is transport energy embodied in our drinking water. Find two to three consecutive uses for potable water before it goes down the drain. It all comes down to perception, mindfulness and commitment.
The Water Rights Residency broadened my network of connections to include wonderful artists from across the US and internationally. It also provided an opportunity to meet numerous environmentally active individuals and organizations in Northern New Mexico, as well as local landscapers and artists. I hope to return to work on a project with the Quivira Coalition. Through my research I came to a much deeper understanding of the complexities of water management in arid regions and I trust this new knowledge will serve me when I return to work in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. During my stay, I produced a daily Water Journal investigating watersheds from Embudo in the North to La Cienaga in the South. The image-text pieces were developed out of site visits, conversations with residents and stakeholders in the local “water community”, ecological research and the historical background provided by Hilario Romero and William Mee. I hope that this overview may prove useful to incoming residents.