The significance of arts in community conservation: Lessons from Inuit art

CCRN Webinar #6

Inuit art reflects a cultural response to shifting sea ice and climate change.  The Inuit people are tightly linked to ecological systems that include both land and sea.  Vital as they are to community well-being, both land and sea ice are changing rapidly due to global climate change.  Conservation efforts see the importance of both the unique arctic sea ice and tundra as ecological systems, and the important ecological knowledge carried for millennia by the indigenous people of Canada’s north.  In this webinar, I present recent research that links Inuit art with community conservation and resilience.  I unpack how different artistic practices, and art objects, can make significant contributions to conservation practice in these communities.  Art making occurs both individually and collaboratively in Inuit communities. Art objects can travel between social worlds to influence governance and policy outcomes beyond the community of production. Inuit artists intentionally embed their traditional and ecological knowledge into their works. In this way, art functions as storage and maintenance of knowledge, and as mechanisms for social cohesion by connecting this knowledge amongst generations.  When used strategically, art and artistic processes can contribute to conservation policy and practice by generating novel insights about places, and by revealing community outlook and priorities.