Using Art to Promote a Greener and Cleaner World

The Food and Water Watch of New Jersey (FWWNJ) is coming together with Mason Gross graduate student Jessica Featherson, who is part of the inaugural MFA in dance cohort at Rutgers University — Mason Gross School of the Arts — Department of Dance to create a collaboration that explores advocacy through socially engaged art. This collaboration will be Featherson’s first time participating in the creation of socially engaged art, and she is excited because she strongly believes in “connecting human experiences to art” and hopes to achieve this through the construction of her performance.

Featherson states that “art has a purpose”, and that sense of purpose is the driving force required to enact change. Even though this is Featherson’s first time developing a performance of this nature, she is a naturally creative person who loves to explore all aspects of artistic expression and is confident that she will be able to create something that will positively bring together art and advocacy.

Featherson will be using carefully curated movements, breaths and sounds to convey the message of FWWNJ through her choreography.

Matthew Smith, who is an organizer for FWWNJ hopes to unite community and organization members to inspire creative thinking and take on the challenge of bettering our environment and consumption. Both Featherson and Smith hope that this performance will aid in creating an awareness for the impacts that humans have on the environment, and shed light on the issues that surround providing clean water and food as a basic human right.

FWWNJ was conceptualized by 12 members of the Energy and Environment Program at the organization Public Citizen in the Fall of 2005. The organization’s goal is to ensure that every human is granted the basic right to access healthy food, resources and clean water by challenging those who pose a threat to this right. To do so, they have made it their mission to challenge corporations that prioritize profit over people, and work to end practices that harm the wellbeing of humans and our planet. The core values of Food and Water Watch as stated on their website emphasize “Independence, Democracy, Human Rights and Sustainability.”

What started as a twelve-person organization with a mission has now grown to over one hundred staff members across the country. Food and Water Watch also works with several grassroots organizations around the world in places such as Latin America and Europe. Matthew Smith revealed that the organization is funded entirely by membership, individual donors and foundations that believe in their cause. They do not accept any funding from corporations or governments. Food and Water Watch is an organization for the people and by the people.

Since its founding, FWWNJ has made several big impacts on environmental legislation within the state and beyond. Smith stated that the organization was able to “gain support against Governor Christie’s proposal to privatize Atlantic City’s drinking water through extensive education and community outreach”. Furthermore, they were able to focus outreach on 30 communities in New Jersey that would have been affected by the construction of two oil pipelines transporting toxic Bakken crude oil across major drinking sources.

Socially engaged art has a way of uniting masses for a cause, and sparking feelings of togetherness and hope. It is imperative that communities come together to not only educate themselves on the importance of environmental protection, but to work together to target policies that may threaten the planet and human rights to properly use and conserve natural resources. The demonstration of these ideas will be carefully constructed around the ideals and message that Food and Water Watch wants to convey.

The art created shall encompass every aspect of what it means to protect and respect our environment, allowing viewers to appreciate and understand the struggle and the cause from an alternative perspective. Smith emphasized the importance of stories in the journey to bring together individuals for the cause. He stated that FWWNJ currently “relies exclusively on written and spoken word to share stories”. He hopes that the collaboration, which will conclude in a performance on December 8th and 9th, can help tell these stories through a different creative medium.