habitat for artists


Bumbles Bounce: Odin Cathcart on Resilience

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.20.52 AM (1)Rudolph: "But you went off the side of the cliff."

Yukon Cornelius: "Didn't I ever tell you about Bumbles? Bumbles bounce."

—   Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


This week in Portland, Oregon the temperatures have been hitting lows of 29 degrees and highs of only 35, when the normal average temperature here is 40 to 50 degrees in range. Last Thursday (13th) our schools closed due to freezing rain and snow. Spring now comes earlier by a week or two and weather shifts on a moments notice well outside modeled predictions. Climate change is creating a new normal and that normal is constant change. This new flow will force us to be more inventive, more creative than ever before in human history.

That creativity will be borne out of an emerging concept called resilience. As the environmental movement grew out of Rachel Carson’s manifesto  Silent Spring, the concepts of preservation and sustainability became the clarion call to motivate, inspire and even scare people into reversing the human affects on the environment. For the first time we began to see that we could have a direct and lasting impact on nature and that the planet was a holistic system.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

Despite our best efforts for the past five decades, we have not reversed our impact on this planet. And although we have managed to preserve pockets of precious landscape and protect some endangered species, the overall result of our insatiable hunger for energy has resulted in astounding devastation. I will not quote the numbers we have all read regarding that devastation now, but they are staggering. Our ability to sustain the resources we have and preserve our natural landscape has largely failed. It is no longer enough to think in terms of sustaining, or preserving that landscape; we’re well past that.

Still, there are models emerging that we can use to build a hopeful future. They are reactive and passive, long-term and short, slow and fast. The term for this new and yet very, very old way of thinking is resilience. Resilience according to the futurist Andrew Zolli consists of four key components; building, sensing, responding, and learning. These four components of resilience form a living, changing dynamic that mimics the living dynamic of our Earth. The first, building, focuses on regenerative capacity, a slow, long-term planning model based on architecting flexibility into our societal structure. Sensing involves a keen sensitivity to emerging risks. The proverbial shout that the British are coming. Next up is the common idea that resilience tracks the reaction and response to disruption. Finally, comes learning in order to transform current practices into more resilient ones.

Resilience has greater meaning in today’s world not just because we are living under the threat of global warming but because older models of environmentalism have fallen short. Unfortunately, the impact we have already had on our environment, even if we shut everything off tomorrow, will have a lasting effect on us for decades. Year after year we set new records with global average temperatures, super storms and unusual weather patterns. It is simply too late to preserve what we once had and even in many ways to sustain what we have now. Our ability to combine the slow practices of building and learning combined with heightened sensitivity to change, and rapid response will allow us to adapt to the way the landscape has changed and will continue to change.

Many of the principles of resilience live within the unwritten construct of Habitat for Artists. Small structures are built with recycled materials and placed in communities to create interactive spaces for exchange and learning. The tiny studios are later taken down only to be recycled in a new way someplace else. The sheds have evolved into a variety of forms ranging from performance spaces to hops dryers, and all the while we learn from their presence and the artists who occupy them. Their flexibility and relative lack of rules make them an ideal model for how we can understand the principles of resilience and begin to apply them in our own lives, day by  day. It is precisely this sort of creativity that offers the greatest promise for a brighter future because it embraces the fast and slow, and lives in the present. Resilience teaches us to thrive in an ever-changing world, not just to survive.


Erik Odin Cathcart is a member of Habitat for Artists. He is an artist, writer, and a thinker committed to green construction and development, and green resilience.


Habitat and Community: Climate, Buildings & Behavior at the Garrison Institute

This is the continuation of the series of "guest" posts by a member of Habitat for Artists. As such, it's not really a guest post at all, and Odin knows that better than anyone.


In a former Capuchin monastery, turned contemplative locus for change, I listened to three days of ideas aimed at changing the human behavior that has led us to our present state of affairs—global climate change. After listening to and speaking with a wide range of leaders in the world of sustainability, an underlying theme emerged: community. Whether a futurist research scientist studying systems, a social scientist studying design models or a school principal igniting change by growing vegetables in the South Bronx, the persistent solution to diminishing the impact of climate change was seated in forming or reforming meaningful communities.

PopTech’s Andrew Zolli opened the conference with a discussion on resilience, the latest buzz word in the world of sustainability. Loosely translated, resilience is a purposeful attempt to create human systems that have much greater flexibility so they can respond more effectively to the problems that we, ourselves, have created. Zolli included a discussion on the artist Christian Nold who created Bio Mapping. Nold’s art monitors real time "emotional" states of communities as they interact with their surroundings and provides a visual map of those responses. It was no accident Zolli emphasized the intersection of art, technology, and science. As a futurist, he understands the role that art plays in civilization. As an artist myself, I thought of the work of Hans Haacke, Mel Chin, Agnes Denes, and Richard Long, to name just a few pioneers. These artists, and many more, have explored the intersection of humanity and environment and their work inevitably led to shifts in our collective thinking about how we interact and caretake our planet.

Artists are often the first to consider ideas for change based on their place in their community. In 1969 Richard Long made A Line Made by Walking to reconnect us to our impact on the planet. Today we have Walk Score®. In 1982 Agnes Denes created Wheatfield - A Confrontation in a brownfield at the southern end of Manhattan. Today we talk about creating urban greenspace. In 1972 Hans Haacke made Rhinewater Purification Plant to highlight declining ecosystems and the pollution of the Rhine river. Today the Living Building Challenge pushes development toward net positive energy and water for self-contained building systems that contribute to local ecosystems, rather than destroy them. The common theme in this art work is a focus on place. How is humanity impacting its surroundings? Are we building with an eye to advancement and technology, or are we also invested in lasting, durable, healthy and sustainable entities that have a deep investment in the communities they inhabit?

I believe the future of resilient, sustainable development is rooted in the collaboration between culture, food and community. Ongoing projects like Habitat for Artists that provide a place for artists to connect with both their local communities and visa versa, as well as other makers—farmers, carpenters, chefs, educators, and even technologists—provide a foundation where sustainability becomes a natural outcome rather than a planned enterprise. By asking “How much, how little?” Habitat for Artists sets a template for not only how we live but how we create. The increasingly collaborative interactions like the current one at Obercreek Farm are proving to be a model for more resilient, sustainable communities.

The beauty in resilient design is that it takes into account all the functions of a healthy society including dwellings, transportation, natural resources, energy, education, and culture in order to create systems that will last without adding to the current debilitation. Ultimately, these designs putting culture at their center, are the most economically viable as well, something repeatedly proven in the green building industry. Sustainable buildings not only use less energy and resources, they provide a healthier more comfortable environment to the people that occupy them, in turn making them more productive citizens. By productive, I mean thoughtful. People who understand that providing agency and beauty to the entire community, means mutual, sustainable prosperity. Habitat for Artists uses a similar lens for buildings by looking a footprint, reusability and modularity. The symposium at the Garrison Institute on Climate, Buildings and Behavior and Habitat for Artists will hopefully serve as the templates for future generations to create the integrative, beautiful, and lasting communities we and the planet should be creating.

Erik Odin Cathcart is a member of Habitat for Artists. He is an artist, writer, and a thinker committed to green construction and development, and green resilience.



HFA at Greene Art Gallery, Guilford, Connecticut

HFA is doing a longish run studio residency at the Greene Art Gallery in Guilford, Connecticut. We'll be there from June 21 to September 7th, 2014. Here's some of what's in store, with thanks to Greene Art Gallery:

"The Greene Art Gallery welcomes Simon Draper's Habitat for Artists (HFA) for a four month installation in our sculpture garden of an artist studio/garden shed where many activities are planned for your enjoyment and engagement....

painting • sculpture • growing • poetry

storytelling • tea garden • herbs

photography • cooking • brewing

music • ecology"

Here are some pics from our installation. They involve HFA collaborative captain Simon Draper, along with Phil Steinberg of Green Up Group. Come join the fun!


Phil Steinberg of Green Up Group (installed vertical gardens
and roof garden on studio/shed) and Simon Draper of HFA unload the truck and begin to build.


The vertical and roof gardens, filled with herbs, are put in place.


Simon installs the window, door and wall panels.


Ready for artists, creatives and you!

For more on this announcement and work, check out this link. And pass it onto friends!

Pictures and captions: courtesy of Greene Art Gallery.


HFA Micro-res with Obercreek Farm, Comin’ Right Up

Oh, and one more thing, my friends: We're beginning a new turn in our HFA-way. A short term residency program is on the cards with our collaborators at Obercreek farm:

Here's a postcard we're setting up to use for that. A glance, verily a peek: HFA postcard 5-14

Here's picture. Click on it--you'll see, embiggened, it's worth at least a 1000 words:



HFA at FOODshed at Smack Mellon this June to July!

Andpostacrd another thing:

HFA is proud to be a part of the FOODshed exhibition, at Smack Mellon, a show curated by Amy Lipton:

The exhibition is on view from June 7th to July 27th 2014.

The opening reception is on June 7th from 5-8pm, in Brooklyn at Smack Mellon's space.

A tidbit about the show:

"FOODshed: Agriculture and Art in Action focuses on sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and artists' use of food as subject matter or medium. The exhibition and programming include 14 exhibiting artists in the gallery at Smack Mellon, 3 public projects in the nearby DUMBO community, as well as public workshops in collaboration with the artists in the exhibition. The gallery exhibition features artworks and inventive projects around agriculture and food that address farming as both activism and art form. Many of the artists in this exhibition are known for bringing community-specific issues into their work and are exploring the real-world implications of small-scale farming and raising community awareness about our food systems. Their varied practices include growing food, cooking food, raising animals for food, and engaging communities around local food production as well as instigating new artist-based economies.

The artists working in New York State today in the realm of food and farming coincide with a larger cultural awakening regarding the ills of our present system, such as the distances food travels to supermarket shelves and the effects of shipping and transport on climate change. Brooklyn has become the epicenter for food activism and culinary explorations. Artists have joined food activists in focusing on environmental problems such as lack of biodiversity in mono-cultural farms, the loss of top soil and nutrient-poor soil, the abuse and poor conditions of feedlot and factory raised animals, the conversion of farmland into housing, and the waste of un-harvested crops. Artists are now farming not only to raise their own food in order to become self-reliant and to eat more healthily, but also to offer alternative and sustainable approaches within their local communities.

For the artists in FOODshed, the acts of cultivation, growing, and by implication educating have evolved to a deeper level of activism where the boundaries of real world and art completely disappear. Their projects present new paradigms regarding the growing, production, distribution and consumption of food. The artists in this exhibition advocate for an organic, regional and local approach, which they are manifesting in their own lives."

ps: Click on the "postcard" to embiggen it!


This Weekend May 30-June 1: HFA at Arts Brookfield Round 2

HabitatForArtists Eblast R5.indd

Quoth the good folks at Arts Brookfield, on our upcoming second turn (we had a blast last year inhabiting our Art Pac-Kit!) at Residency and Habitatry there:

"Kids and their parents can expect big DIY fun with Habitat for Artists! Starting at 12 noon, the Artists-In-Residence will create special works of art in HFA’s unique temporary/reusable artist’s studios built from reclaimed materials: fiber works by Donna Sharrett; paintings and drawings by Marion Wilson; design projects that effect environmental change by Natalie Jeremijenko; rafts, play houses and forts by Michael Asbill; a “mending wall” by Jessica Poser; and reclaimed wood art objects by Simon Draper and Marnie Hillsley. Workshops for Kids start at 3:30pm with artists guiding everyone in drawing, painting, papermaking, knitting, assemblage, and collage activities designed for young artists. Bash the Trash joins in the fun with their instrument making workshops, musical performances, and parade finale!

Curatorial support for this event provided by Amy Lipton of ecoartspace."

Come join! For more info to inhabit a Habitat, see: