Impolitikal contributor Adelle Rodda manages the environmental and educational side of Art in the Dark, a free, four-night light-art festival that happens annually in Auckland, New Zealand. The event, which happens this week, sees one of the city’s oldest urban parks illuminated with over 30 artworks, ranging from large-scale installations and light sculptures through to video projection and performance works. Adelle talks to Sarah about her role, and why protecting urban biodiversity, the theme of this year’s AITD, is so important.
How did you come to be involved with Art in the Dark?
I’ve had the privilege of being involved with Art in the Dark since its inception in 2010. The event is Creative Director Celia Harrison’s brainchild, it originated from her university honours project as a way to catalyse community. Celia and I have been friends for ages and we were both at university – I was studying science – together when she had the idea for Art in the Dark, she asked if I wanted to be involved and I have been taking care of the environmental and educational aspects of the event ever since.
What’s the Art in the Dark education programme about?
Each year, in conjunction with the event, we run an education programme with local schools that teaches youths about environmental issues and enables them to make an artwork for the Art in the Dark event to raise awareness of these issues to the wider community. This year’s theme is urban biodiversity and I have been running educational workshops teaching high school and Nga Rangatahi Toa students about this topic, with a key focus on some of the nocturnal species native to the Auckland area and how we can encourage them to flourish in our backyards and urban centres. The students are also creating an artwork from SeedPaper as part of this year’s project.
How does the SeedPaper work?
The students involved in this year’s education programme are creating an artwork that will actively contribute to biodiversity by providing food for pollinators. We have teamed up with social enterprise Lovenotes, who have crafted SeedPaper – made from recycled paper and embedded with wildflower seeds – for the students to create lanterns from. After the Art in the Dark event, the students will plant their lanterns in schools, backyards and neighbourhoods across Auckland, sprouting pollen-rich flowers, which in turn will help other species to flourish.
Can you explain what biodiversity is, and why it’s important to promote and protect it?
Biodiversity is the variety of all living things in an area, from microbes through to insects, plants, animals and people. Every organism has an important role to play in maintaining the balance of nature, so much so, that if one species disappears the knock-on effects are felt by every other species in an ecosystem – humans included. Urban areas generally represent habitat and biodiversity loss and as our cities continue to spread native habitats are diminished further. Humans can’t survive without the services that nature provides, so it seems rather counterintuitive to confine nature to national parks and sanctuaries. The simple act of planting some native plants or trees in the backyard is enough to help encourage biodiversity in urban areas and this is the message we want to get across to young people, and the rest of Auckland.
Who are Nga Rangatahi Toa, and how did your relationship with them come about?
Nga Rangatahi Toa is an incredible creative arts initiative that empowers rangatahi (young people), who have been excluded from mainstream education, through mentoring and the arts. I had the privilege of working with Nga Rangatahi Toa for our environmental education programme this year, the rangatahi are truly awesome and the work that Sarah Longbottom and the rest of the Nga Rangatahi Toa team do is incredibly inspiring.