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"Traditional Arts & Ecology" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, January 2009

Traditional Arts & Ecology is the theme guiding events and activities at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead for the year 2009. As a non-profit service organization, we focus on researching, learning, and educating about rural living, skills of sustainability, and viable, small-scale economic alternatives. Art and imagination fill a significant role in our community, and for this reason we are using the upcoming year as an opportunity to highlight the link between land use and creativity.

We are envisioning a cultural vitalization of sustainable art by providing the public an opportunity to develop art-related skills that are functional and local resource based. The program will promote the creativity embedded in our work towards sustainability, highlighting the ties between artistic cottage industries, distinctive regional art, and rural ecologic living. Our society's conception of art is increasingly separated from the land, and increasingly homogenous across various regions. Functional, local, environmentally responsible art, however, empowers local living, illustrates our ties to the land, and strengthens community identity.

Sustainability, in our eyes, is not merely about producing our own food or minimizing our energy consumption. Sustainability is one word that encompasses a way of life. For residents of D Acres, this means an interest in living simply, in community, and in creating richness and texture in our lives from the resources immediately surrounding us. Simplicity does not require an absence of beauty nor of art. It does ask that artistry be created in response to the local environment. To this end, staff members and residents at D Acres engage in a variety of arts that reflect our habitat and local community – woodworking, blacksmithing, fiber arts, printmaking, and music. For example, D Acres residents carve wooden spoons from butternut, apple, cherry, and birch wood harvested on-site by our team of oxen; blacksmith products such as hooks, handles, pokers, and rings are made from recycled and scrap metals. Pursuing art that is local, distinctive, and functional encourages a community and an economy that is local, distinctive, and functional.

We hope to make this link between art and sustainability all the more tangible through the workshops, events, and films scheduled throughout the year here at D Acres (please see our website www.dacres.org). The Traditional Arts & Ecology theme will culminate in a Traditional Arts Fair during the month of September. This event will host a variety of local artisans and craft makers offering tutorials and demonstrations, as well as offering their artwork for sale.

Music is also a central aspect of our D Acres community, an art form that suggests continual creation and generation. Around the farm, in the barn, tucked into various corners, under tables, and on top of windowsills are four guitars, a banjo, a cello, a coronet, a fiddle, many harmonicas, countless drums, a recorder, a didgeridoo, a keyboard, an electric guitar, a couple of Jews harps, and a plethora of homemade noisemakers with various capacities for pleasant cacophonies. It is an understatement to say that making music is an integral part of the farm; it certainly contributes to a vibrant, creative, and spontaneous atmosphere. With an interest in fostering this within our larger community, D Acres hosts Open Mic Nights on the final Friday of every month. Making music and sharing a beat, it is a low-key and relaxed atmosphere in which to gather together and revel in the abilities of our neighbors.

In addition, D Acres will begin the year by hosting a special musical event. The African drumming band Black Bear Moon will be performing here at the farm in mid-January, as part of a celebration of democracy and our participation in this process. The event will be a means of enjoying live music, community, and hope for a new political atmosphere.

As a farm and homestead, D Acres is known for our agricultural and land-based endeavors. Yet art is a powerful means of underlining the ecologic connection to the land that is born of small-scale agriculture. Art is also instrumental in strengthening the community ties necessary for a distinctive, local, economically-viable culture. Therefore, with the New Year upon us, we are dedicating the following twelve months to Traditional Arts & Ecology, emphasizing the important role that functional art and creativity continue to play in the process of local sustainability.

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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