What do you get when an environmental lawyer, a birth doula, a visual artist, and a dancer come together to discuss the environment? You get an inspirational, interactive, and unique experience. On June 21st, Human Impacts Institute hosted its first New York City Salon at Simone Subal Gallery. HII’s Salons are events that bring together a range of leaders from the community, including artists, writers, performers, environmental experts and more, to have a public conversation regarding a certain topic. HII founder and director, Tara DePorte, has previously hosted Salons in Europe while she was abroad last summer. She found that the community engagement and motivation that resulted from the Salons was something that our New York City community needed. Thus, Tara, along with Board Member Luisa Gui, created and organized Holistic by Nature.
The central focus of Holistic by Nature was human impacts on the environment. What was interesting about the discussion was that many of the panelists were not considered traditional “environmentalists.” They included: Mia Borgatta, a yoga instructor and birth doula, Jessica Mitrani, a visual artist, Solveig Fernlund, an architect, Panos Tsagaris, a visual artist, Evan Van Hook, a dancer and environmental lawyer, and myself, Melanie Griffin, a dancer and environmentalist. Many themes were brought forward during the dialogue. Panos talked about how his grandfather in Greece harvests his own olive oil and has a very personal relationship with the earth (the olive oil is delicious by the way; Panos brought some of his it all the way from Greece! You really can taste the difference). Evan argued, from an environmental law perspective, that a lack of governance is a significant contributing factor to many ecological issues. Several other points of conversation were presented by both the group and the audience. Salon volunteer, Krissy Jones, commented, “Each person on the panel presented their perspective on human impacts differently, which allowed the audience to identify with pressing issues through a multitude of lenses.” The discourse was truly informational, enlightening, and inspirational!
The Salon also incorporated performances. Mei-yann Hwang performed a Fire and Breath Ceremony. I found that this particular part of the event seemed to truly unite all attendees. The audience members were instructed to inhale and exhale in unison several times in a row as each panelist stood in front of the crowd and stated a personal intention, with which everyone in the room could identify, that would help them be more environmentally conscious. For instance, my personal intention was, “Be open and mindful to change.” Overall, it was a powerful moment during the event. Another performance was by Mai Ueda with Tristan Pollack Teshigahara and Sina Kashuk, in the piece, “Togetherness.” “Togetherness” combined technology and dance to create a mesmerizing act. Additionally, Lika Volkova contributed take-away work. Volkova took normal, everyday, plastic grocery bags and made them into intricate and beautiful art pieces.
The overarching goal of the Salon was to create a space where people of various backgrounds, careers, cultures, and values could assemble and examine issues relating to human interaction with the natural world. Each individual offered their distinct point of view, and each audience member was touched in a different way. The Salon was a truly moving event bringing together the community and motivating action!
Thank you to all who attended and helped put this Salon together. A special thank you to Luisa Gui, Simone Subal Gallery, Northside Bakery, HII staff and interns, Mei-yann Hwang, Mai Ueda, Likda Vokova, and all of the panelists.
Stay tuned for our next Salon this fall (you can follow us on facebook and twitter)!
By Melanie Griffin, Human Impacts Institute, Outreach Coordinator