Arts in Conservation Education

Artists in Conversation with the World

Karen McCoy, artist and conservationist, studies the relationship between nature and culture. Her work is based on extensive research into geological, social, and cultural histories. Turning the Tide, a thirteen-day project with participation from the public, was created by McCoy and Melli Hoppe (choreographer) who constructed “new” stones from soil to symbolically replace ancient fossil stones that have hindered movement on the Ohio River. McCoy also teaches “Towards a Green Sculpture,” through the Sculpture Department and the Community Arts Service Learning Program at the Kansas City Art Institute. In her classes, she further emphasizes the role that artists play as culture shapers and how artists are operating in these times of global climate change. Each spring, McCoy takes her students on a field trip to eastern Missouri where the students study under Martha Younkin, an artist, botanist, and conservation educator. Students participate in a three-day workshop where they learn about peeling bark, prairie plants, and grasses that are part of Younkin’s restoration project. In the weeks after harvest, McCoy, Younkin, and other faculty members gather to teach their students how to turn the raw materials into artwork. With her culturally informed approach to conservation education, McCoy offers a fascinating look into the relationship between nature and art.

For more information please visit www.karen-mccoy.com

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Melli Hoppe (left) and Karen McCoy work on their project <i>Turning the Tide</i> for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration in 2003, Louisville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Karen McCoy

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The “soil stones,” made from ancient stone fossil molds, were produced by Karen McCoy, Melli Hoppe, and members of the public for their 2003 project, <i>Turning the Tide</i>, in Louisville, Kentucky. The soil to make the “stones” was gathered from Bagdad, Kentucky; Mount St. Francis, Indiana; and the Mingo Nation United Remnant Band in Ohio. Photo courtesy of E.G. Schempf

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Kansas City Art Institute students in Artists in Conversation with the World (part of Towards a Green Sculpture) gather in Martha Younkin's outdoor studio. Photo courtesy of Karen McCoy

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Kansas City Art Institute students with Martha Younkin (second from left in middle row) and Karen McCoy (third from left in middle row) are holding peeled bark. Photo courtesy of Karen McCoy