April 4, 2011

{Boulder Event} Communikey Festival: Artists as Agents of Change. ~ Lauren Higgins

Discover your own bridge between the creativity you have to offer and the genius the world needs.

My artist instincts have always been a reliable guide. Even as a child, developing my creative expression and perception inevitably heightened my concern for the world around me. Before long, everything from global social injustice to the sprawl of luxury homes and golf courses replacing local farmland near my childhood home were striking chords within me. As an artist, I sensed an intimate relationship between the struggles, terrors and beauties of life. Yet, in the world around me, I felt the tendency of our culture and educational system to fragment the arts, sciences and civic engagement, leaving my artistic and creative capacities mute in the conversation of what was to be done about the future.

As years passed, the gap between my artistic expression and social, environmental and political concerns grew into a ravine. Pragmatic social change strategies seemed to be relegated to the sphere of concrete intellectualism—the “business” and “policy” of the world—while aesthetic rapture, playful collaboration, reflection, self expression and visionary ideas remained exclusively in the domain of the arts. I accepted this dichotomy for many years and focused my studies and career in what I considered to be more realistic approaches in engaging civic and environmental issues while confining my art to evenings, weekends and the dreaded “hobby status.”

Wherefore art thou?

As my education and career in sustainability brought me into dialogue with some of the most pioneering and creative minds in the fields of social, environmental and economic progress, I became aware of a voice seldom present in our discourse—the voice of artistic creativity. This sudden awareness left me wondering, what is the artist’s role in building a sustainable future? Surely there was one, and I had a sense that the reflexive, divergent and experimental creative capacities normally associated with the mind of an artist could become vital tools in transforming the greatest challenges facing humanity.

With time, I felt less and less separation between the roles that artistic creativity and pragmatic problem solving could perform in the creation of a better future. By favoring “pragmatism” I had turned a blind eye to artists as a source of models and tools for activating imaginative thoughts on complex global issues. For example, why was it that artists were rarely at the same table with city planners, or government officials implementing strategies for citywide recycling programs, addressing homelessness or planning for climate change to name a few. If art is a direct link to our cultural lifeline and complex global issues require careful cultural navigation, then artistic input and creativity could not remain confined within the Arts. Knowing this, I made it my new mission to reconcile these internal and external cultural disconnects whenever and wherever possible.

Synchronicity is the muse of creativity and just as I committed myself to bridging these worlds I found the Communikey Festival. Cutting edge music and adventurous arts ready to push the boundaries of cultural expression and group participation married with a curiosity over how a festival can become a platform for designing a sustainable future. It was here that I found the interdisciplinary freedom to explore these relationships and the Yes, AND…? sustainability program was born—a chance to challenge how a festival could inspire people to explore creativity, art and what we feel matters in our world.

Meet the Communikey Festival’s Yes, AND…? program:

Yes, AND…? is the 100% volunteer program driving the sustainability efforts of the Communikey Festival and the broader arts advocacy organization that is Communikey. During the annual festival, this year held April 13-17th, fellow organizers and I deploy Yes, AND…? as a platform for engaging attendees with current and creative approaches to a myriad of issues ranging from climate change to waste mitigation, the global energy crisis to a pervasive shortage of magic.

In this day and age, gathering environmentally conscious people together presents paradoxical challenges, especially when presented with figures that illustrate the serious impact people-gathering has on our world. On the dance floor, in a film screening or discovering new music, Yes, AND..? unites artists, festival goers and volunteers to participate in ecologically sound, low-impact festival practices, including zero waste, alternative transportation and renewable energy use. Communikey and Yes, AND…? know that gathering together in large groups, for better or worse, magnifies the scope of our actions but it simultaneously offers an incredible opportunity to implement and experiment with new ideas. We are curious how a festival, in all of its celebratory nature, can create an arena for experimentation that allows us to preserve the ecological diversity that enables our community to push the boundaries of cultural expression.

What Yes, AND…? is excited about for 2011.

The Communikey festival becomes lower impact each year and 2011 will be no exception as Yes, AND…? embarks on the full scale measurement and mitigation of our carbon footprint, tracking the impact of energy use in venues, artist accommodations, internal transportation and artist’s air travel. At roughly 80 metric tons, the footprint of the festival will be offset through the Colorado Carbon Fund with support from Communikey Green Pass sales. The 2011 festival will also feature a bike program for staff and artists, bike parades, zero waste stations in every venue, biodiesel-powered parties, magic and many pre-festival campaigns engaging our community around new creative ways to increase the festival’s ability to promote a healthy livable planet.

Yes, AND…? is also enthusiastic to partner with the CU Environmental Center to feature two distinct events exploring the relationship between art, culture and climate change. Yes, AND…? will screen Burning Ice, a film directed by Peter Gabriel following 45 artists, writers and musicians, including  Feist, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jarvis Cocker, Robyn Hitchcock, Susan Lori Parks, and Andrew Revkin, as they embark on a 10 day artist-led polar expedition off the coast of Greenland to explore the effects and realities of climate change. Following the film screening, Creative Climates, a conversation between German techno legend ATOMTM, Kirsten Stotlz of Yuma based art collective M12, Boulder-based designer Todd Berger, NYC based mixed-media artist Elena Ailes, and CU educator and earth scientist Jason Neff, will carry the inspiration from Burning Ice into a conversation exploring the relationship between art, creativity and re-visioning a more sustainable world.

2011 and Beyond

Communikey and I invite you to join us April 13-17th to discover your own bridge between the creativity you have to offer and the genius the world needs. Of course, Communikey may not have all of the answers, but we are happy to share our efforts and spark joyous positivism in all who attend this five day spring celebration.

Future Forward!

Click here to learn more about the Yes, AND…? program and the 2011 Communikey Festival.

Listen to the Communikey Festival 2011 Mixtape.


Burning Ice Film Screening
April 14th, 2011
1:00- 2:30 PM
Location: CU ATLAS Black Box Theater

Creative Climates Discussion
April 14th, 2011
2:45- 4PM
Location: CU ATLAS Black Box Theater

Lauren Higgins is a Boulder based 26-year-old artist, possibilities cartographer and social strategist with a personal commitment to holistic design, transformational change in human systems, the arts and cultural exchange. As director of Communikey Festival’s  Yes, AND…? program, she establishes an intersection for Ecology, Technology and the Arts and creates educational events and low-impact eco-options for event organizing that merge a sustainable and artistic future. As Organizer of All Things at The Geek Gene and MetaCurrency Project, Lauren manages various software design and alt-currency related ventures that are developing new tools for building sustainable economies, businesses and communities. Some of her favorite things include inspiring conversation, dance, riding on motorcycles, strong coffee, long dinners and spacing out in her garden.

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