Partners: Olafur Eliasson/Little Sun
“Educating kids about sustainable energy is a fundamental part of Little Sun’s vision. We needed to develop our narrative with a partner like Usdan, to develop the pedagogy with educators passionate about renewable design and the well-being of our planet. More inspiring, though, is that this happens at (Usdan) -- a camp that encourages the greatest ideas to come from the community of children themselves.
– Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun Foundation
Joining forces with noted artist Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun team, Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts kicked off its Sustainable Art and Design course in 2017.
Since launching, students have worked with instructor/artist Andre Feliciano, to examine environmental issues through art by using unconventional materials and experience. Some of the executed projects include solar powered balloons, bike-powered lamps, wind-powered air conditioners, and more.
Leveraging all of Usdan’s assets to inspire and create a dialogue—from the diversity of children from varied backgrounds and representing a range of ages, to its engaged staff of working artists from wide-ranging disciplines, to the beautiful campus and a dense canopy of trees—the aim was to help students learn that art-making and art-thinking can create change in the world. As well, to understand that thinking through problems with an art-brain, people can find practical solutions to big problems in our world. And, finally, that sometimes creating, or just being in proximity to an artwork, can inspire and create a depth of understanding in a way that even the most well-argued scientific facts cannot.
“Working with Usdan is helping us to develop our education programming – and it is helping us to shape our engagement with young people in general, around the world. For example, we can replicate the Solar Nightwalk or the camp out in a diversity of communities. And soon, we hope to use Usdan-generated activities as the basis for a dialogue between Usdan campers and children living in last-mile communities in Africa where there is no access to energy.”
– Little Sun
The Solar Nightwalk, a special public late night “happening,” was co-created by Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun project, Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts, and immersive theater artist/producer Nate Koch.
This magical free public evening event took place on Governors Island in August 2018, bringing together upwards of 200 people of all ages, including Usdan campers and their families, for an engaging, fun, and educational “off the grid” experience. The group gathered in a field to enjoy ice cream (it’s a Usdan thing!) before beginning their walkabout the island. Using Little Sun Solar Lamps to light the way, the participants embarked on a magical trek across, around and through the topography of Governors Island beginning at the magic hour of sunset. Usdan students led the charge, playing music, reciting poetry and creating light paintings along the way, transforming the act of walking into the art itself.
Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. He strives to make the concerns of art relevant to society at large. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Eliasson’s works span sculpture, painting, photography, film, and installation. Not limited to the confines of the museum and gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through architectural projects, interventions in civic space, arts education, policy-making, and issues of sustainability and climate change. In 1995, he moved to Berlin and founded Studio Olafur Eliasson, which today comprises more than one hundred team members, including craftsmen, architects, archivists, researchers, administrators, cooks, programmers, art historians, and specialized technicians.
In 2012, Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen founded the social business Little Sun. This global project provides clean, affordable energy to communities without access to electricity, encourages sustainable development through sales of Little Sun solar-powered lamps and chargers, and raises global awareness of the need for equal access to energy and light (www.littlesun.com).