Did you know that China had National Cultural Ecosystem Conservation Area (NCECA) aimed at holistically protecting cultural patterns that are historically and culturally rich? I didn’t! In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was even aware that we now discussing things like cultural ecosystems. Where have I been… under a rock?
It was in Ottawa at the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) annual conference, held earlier this month, that I first heard the term ‘cultural ecosystem’ bandied about. I actually had to make a note on my iPhone so that I would remember it.
From what I could gather, the term seemed to be tied to ideas of art incubation, cultural percolation, and arts in the community.
I knew I liked the sound of it but was left wondering a little bit about these new buzz words. What does it all really MEAN!!! I asks yah…
So a quick flit about the Internet, a prolonged visit to dictionary.com, and voila! Here are the root definitions to these new interesting word combinations:
Culture: a) the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
or (I like this one…)
b) the cultivation of microorganisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientific study, medicinal use, etc.
Ecosystems: a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.
Community: a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
Percolate: to show activity, movement, or life; grow or spread gradually; germinate
Art: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
Incubation: to maintain at a favorable temperature and in other conditions promoting development, as cultures of bacteria or prematurely born infants.
It is interesting to me how many of these terms we can theoretically (and …well… creatively) apply to both the arts and the right-brained sciences. It is as if we are mad scientists, in some giant laboratory, experimenting with how to combine the arts and culture with our communities.
Honestly, I see no reason why the arts and the sciences… or social enterprises… or the corporate sector can not only exist next to each but also have a positive impact on how they deal with their own issues. I mean – can’t we all just get along? Or, should I say, move beyond just getting along to actually forming environments where we all grow and thrive together.
Ultimately, it seems to me, that the term ‘cultural ecosystems’ is a fancy way to say ‘arts in the community’. I’m encouraged to see that we are now discussing the ways in which the arts can be moved outside of its silo and used for the betterment of the bigger societal picture.
As we say at ACE, the greater the mix, the better the fix. Our communities and our art sector can only get stronger if we mingle together, cross-pollinate… and percolate.
And you thought I’d be talking about mold, didn’t you?