Meet the women-led group of eco-artists for environmental change – The Pioneer

This article was originally written by Hugo Quintanilla from The State Hornet of Sacramento Statecourtesy of The Cal State Journalism Newswirea platform combining newspaper coverage from the CSU campus.

The Women Eco Artists Dialog said it’s not just about creating art from waste

Studio art sculpture student Ember De Boer poses for a portrait April 8, 2022 at the Sacramento State Arts and Sculpture Lab. “The environment is something my brain can understand and keep working on,” De Boer said. (Photo by Hugo Quintanilla)

Sacramento State art major Ember de Boer moved to California from Kansas City, KS in hopes of continuing to express her creativity through art. During her senior year of college, De Boer said her uncle encouraged her to join a collective that fits perfectly with her mission as an artist.

Women Eco Artists Dialog, also known as WEAD, is an international organization based in Oakland, California that focuses on developing women’s unique perspectives through ecological and social art, according to its members. WEAD members say the organization contributes to this development by helping artists connect with each other, providing resources for their artistic work, and opening exhibitions for artists to showcase their art.

Artists can express their creativity through painting or music, but the women of WEAD find their way of art slightly different. WEAD artists express themselves by making art out of waste and by being respectful of the environment.

“It was a long trip to come to California, see Oakland art, hear allegories and stories from my uncle, and then he just told me to get involved,” De Boer said. “It’s such a simple step to become a member, but it’s so nice to have that personal reason to want to collaborate and join something.”

WEAD was founded in 1996 by Jo Hanson, Susan Leibovitz Steinman and Estelle Akamine. The three women said they shared a vision of creating opportunities for artists with exhibitions and ecoarts programs.

They met at each other’s house early and compiled the paper directories at Steinman’s. Later, a WEAD office was established in Oakland, according to co-director Mary White.

Jo Hanson, one of the founders of Women Eco Artists Dialog, scans a stock photo from the 1970s. WEAD was founded in Oakland in 1996 with the goal of introducing artists to ecoarts exhibitions and programs. Photo courtesy of Jane Chin Davidson.

“This is a coalition of long-time women-identified volunteers,” said WEAD editorial board member Jane Chin Davidson. “They made this initiative to fight against climate change and to fight against environmental pollution.”

Collaborating with WEAD is something De Boer says she sees herself doing not just early in her career with them, but her career as an artist in general.

De Boer said she believes her work and mindset aligns with that of the organization and that the environment will always be at the heart of her work.

“Deconstructing previously used objects and then reassembling them…it just showed up in my work even when I was a painter before I started making sculptures,” De Boer said.

De Boer said she looks forward to receiving mentorship from WEAD members and artists, as she knows it’s a two-way process. She understands that not only will they teach and guide her, but they will also learn from what she knows and believes.

One of WEAD’s goals is to make it easy for artists working on ecological and social justice issues to connect internationally, according to Davidson.

Davidson said she hopes the organization will serve as a bridge for artists to come together to collaborate and share their artistic skills and ideas to address social justice issues.

Sophie Schultze-Allen connected to WEAD while studying at Laney College in Oakland, California, where she was introduced to the Ecoarts Matters course by her father.

“WEAD is kind of connected to this course, and this course is connected to the community throughout WEAD,” Schultze-Allen said.

According to her, working with WEAD on this course allowed Schultze-Allen to connect more with the environment, which helped her create visual art and prints.

Studio art sculpture student Ember De Boer poses for a portrait April 8, 2022 at the Sacramento State Arts and Sculpture Lab. “The environment is something my brain can understand and keep working on,” De Boer said. (Photo by Hugo Quintanilla)

Schultze-Allen, De Boer and other WEAD members said they were happy to use their art to comment on environmental issues and show how to be more in tune with the environment.

“The environment is something my brain can wrap around and keep working,” De Boer said. “As someone with a big heart, this is my chosen way to affect change.”

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