For a week in April, high school students from Interlochen Center for the Arts joined filmmaker and Interlochen artist-in-residence Lydia Hicks to highlight progress in the transformation of Riley Woods, a 10-acre red pine plantation forest located right on the Interlochen campus. The Riley Woods transformation is part of Ecology classes at Interlochen Arts Academy where students learn not only about biodiversity and the critical importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems, but also how to express these complicated issues through art. Wilsonart, a world-leading creator of beautiful engineered surfaces, provided funding for this one-of-a-kind class as part of the company’s commitment to escalate awareness of global forestry issues and end the use of endangered woods in architecture and design.
“Forests may be the lungs of the Earth, but they have been choking and shutting down for decades,” noted Mary Ellen Newport, PhD and Director of the R.B. Annis Science Division and Ecology teacher at Interlochen. “The pine plantation forest on Interlochen’s campus is basically a tree farm. Planted after it was timbered 100 years ago, tree farms are a monoculture which create a vulnerability for the forest and require thinning. Without thinning, the trees eventually fall and decay, releasing their carbon back out into the atmosphere. The pines need to be thoughtfully harvested to allow healthy trees to continue to stand. The next step is planting new native trees and ground cover to support the forest regeneration and ultimately a more biodiverse habitat for mammals and birds.” The grant from Wilsonart has provided funding for the necessary thinning, for tree replanting and given Dr. Newport’s students an opportunity to express complex issues of carbon capture, biodiversity, deforestation and habitat destruction through their art.
This year, the students’ expressed what they learned out in the woods through music, writing, filmmaking and dance, all intended to kickstart a conversation about an issue which is not just important – it’s urgent. Students have woven their understanding of local forestry issues with the global concerns around climate change. Ecology students presented their new-found understandings with the entire Interlochen Arts Academy student body. They created new and unique collaborative works of art to communicate to their arts colleagues the imperative of care-taking natural ecosystems. “Science and art aren’t as different as we often think they are,” noted guest artist Lydia Hicks who worked with the students on their projects. “The crux of being a scientist is to go through the world and wonder and come up with questions. It’s the same process for artists. These students have asked themselves very difficult environmental questions and expressed answers and a point of view as only artists can.”
For the second year, students also planted hundreds of native tree saplings and ground cover throughout the various sections of Riley Woods where trees have been thinned. They planted local genotypes of shagbark hickory, tulip poplar, American chestnut, American hazelnut and witch hazel. In some of the sandier, unstable areas, highbush blueberry and American beachgrass have been introduced to stabilize soil and encourage soil production.
“The Interlochen partnership is an important component of Understanding Wood: Sourcing Against the Grain,” noted Tammy Weadock, Marketing Communications Manager at Wilsonart. “This next generation of architects, artists and designers can play an enormous role in changing public attitudes and encouraging action on critical issues. High school students have already shown how their young voices can capture public attention and inspire change. We are thrilled that they are doing this for an issue Wilsonart is committed to.”
The transformation of the Riley Woods forest is being chronicled on video and on blog posts created by the students and teachers. Visit back and watch how the forest is transforming and for new works of art created by the students. Phase three will commence in September 2019, when the students return to Interlochen for another school year.
Wilsonart, a world leading engineered surfaces company, is driven by a mission to create surfaces people love, with service you can count on, delivered by people who care. The company manufactures and distributes High Pressure Laminate, Quartz, Solid Surface, Coordinated TFL and Edgebanding and other engineered surface options for use in the office, education, healthcare, residential, hospitality and retail markets. Operating under the Wilsonart®, Resopal®, Polyrey®, Arborite®, Laminart®, Bushboard™, Shore™, Mermaid™, Ralph Wilson®, KML® and Durcon® brands, the company continuously redefines decorative surfaces through improved performance and aesthetics. For more information, visit www.wilsonart.com or connect with us on Facebook, Houzz, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
About Interlochen Center for the Arts
The nonprofit Interlochen Center for the Arts is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the only organization in the world that brings together a 2,500-student summer camp for grades 3-12; a 500-student arts boarding high school; opportunities for adults to engage in lifelong arts learning; two 24-hour listener-supported public radio services (classical music and news); more than 600 arts presentations annually by students, faculty, and world-renowned guest artists; and a global alumni base spanning nine decades, including leaders in the arts and many other endeavors. For information, visit Interlochen online at www.interlochen.org.
About Lydia Hicks
With a background in zoology, Lydia brings a unique perspective to wildlife filmmaking and experimental art practices. She has contributed to wildlife documentaries as well as experimental art and film projects around the world. Lydia holds an MFA in film and video from California Institute of the Arts. Among other accomplishments, she has been an artist-in-residence at Interlochen Center for the Arts, an artist-in-residence at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and a Visual Journalism Fellow at Interlochen Public Radio.