The Role of Art in Conservation Engagement
Conservation is a complex and sometimes controversial endeavour, which occupies a unique position at the junction of science, society and the natural world. Increasingly, conservation practitioners are using art as a way to engage with communities and with the wider public about their work. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the role of art in conservation engagement. This is achieved through an academic research component, and through practical exploration in a creative component, for the completion of a Masters in Science Communication. The thesis is centred around a project on Stewart Island/Rakiura, New Zealand, where a bold proposal to eradicate introduced predators has met an ambivalent response from the community. In terms of science, the thesis focuses on applied conservation, which is defined as the practical management of landscapes that is informed by research to protect native biodiversity. The thesis comprises five chapters. The first four chapters encapsulate the research that makes up my academic component. They examine the controversial nature of applied conservation, how art has helped to communicate elements of conservation as well as engage communities in the past, and how art can help conservation organisations to achieve specific goals. This examination was achieved first through a brief review on the perceptions of applied conservation in New Zealand, second through a case study of conservation and perceptions of conservation on Stewart Island/Rakiura, third through an exploratory review of the communicative value of art for conservation, and fourth through an evaluation analysis of artist programmes that have been used by conservation organisations to achieve specific goals in the past. The fifth chapter outlines my creative component – an art exhibition that was staged on Stewart Island/Rakiura to engage people with conservation. This exhibition was created by myself, and was informed by the first four academic chapters of my thesis. In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates that art can be a useful tool for supporting conservation goals, and engaging communities with applied conservation.
Advisor: Rock, Jennifer
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Conservation; Community; Art; Science; Islands
Research Type: Thesis