LAGI Testimonial for the CA State Senate, Joint Committee on the Arts

Joint Committee on the Arts
Senator Ben Allen, Chair
Assembly Member Kansen Chu, Vice Chair

Informational Hearing: “California’s Creative Economy: Annual Update and Regional Breakdowns”
Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
State Capitol, Room 3191, Sacramento, CA 95814

Elizabeth Monoian (LAGI Co-Director) gave the below testimonial:

Good afternoon Senate and Assembly members of the Joint Committee of the Arts. Thank you for providing this opportunity to speak to you about my experience working in California’s Creative Economy.

The Land Art Generator Initiative has created a platform to re-imagine our future energy landscapes through a creative lens. Inviting interdisciplinary teams around the world to conceive of large-scale public artworks that have the added benefit of producing clean energy at a utility-scale.
In addition to a wide-range of programming we hold an international design competition on a biennial schedule:

Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2010, New York City in 2012, and in 2014 the site was an old shipyard visible from the Little Mermaid in the Copenhagen Harbor—all sites that inherently inspire and bring the greatest minds around the world to the table with the idea that renewable energy infrastructure can also be an enhancement to public space—that cities can meet ambitious carbon goals while creating new and exciting places for recreation and learning.

The outcomes of these past design competitions show that we can begin to think about renewable energy installations as more than just utilitarian objects. *And that by doing so, we can drive innovation and spark imaginations. Inspired by the way grass blades wave in the wind, Windstalk from LAGI 2010 can generate electricity for more than 1,000 homes without rotating turbine blades.

A number of things attracted us to bring LAGI to Southern California in 2016. We knew that renewable energy is a top priority in California. That, paired with the seriousness of the drought led us to choose a coastal site adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier and to expand our design brief to include drinking water harvesting technologies. The City of Santa Monica is a great partner to the project and the site is inspiring the world to imagine what our renewable energy and sustainable water future can aspire to be in its constructed form. *The competition closes in four days and in October we will announce the winning design at Greenbuild 2016 at the LA Convention Center and at an exhibition in Santa Monica.

For every competition we create unique educational materials like our Field Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies, Art+Energy Flash Cards, and others. Last year we launched a Youth Prize for middle school and high school students, with the intention of building a global community of young people equipped to design our energy landscapes. We were thrilled when we were invited to speak by the Museum of Art & History (MOAH) to the School Board meeting in the Antelope Valley of California, and overwhelmed by the reception we received. Donita Winn the Chair of the School Board, declared that the Antelope Valley was going to win! She took this seriously and reached out to the high schools throughout the valley encouraging them to participate. MOAH helped coordinate workshops, presentations, and meetings with many area schools.

The Creative Economy is what results when public policy is put in place to nurture a social environment ripe for innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration. This requires expanding public access to the arts and humanities and increasing opportunities for education that does not forsake art and creativity for a focus on math and science. Within the context of the work that we do, they all should exist together in a continuum of research and practice.

Science and technology provides the framework for the artistic and educational practice of the Land Art Generator Initiative. At the same time we are closing the loop on the art-science continuum as the design outcomes of LAGI influence the way that scientists and engineers see their work.

Biologist E.O. Wilson in The Meaning of Human Existence(1) makes a point about what is our most important possession as a species and concludes that it is the humanities rather than our scientific achievements. In fact, the sciences need the humanities in order to continue to advance. In the search for breakthroughs, scientific teams are expanding and becoming more academically diverse. Further advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, and energy science will all require creative thinking and a strong ethical foundation to ensure that they are aligned with our cultural values. This requires that the scientists of tomorrow find their education steeped deeply in the arts and humanities today.

The Land Art Generator Initiative is founded on this notion. To that end we provide project-based learning through programs like our Art+Energy Camps. The Camps provide participating youth with critical skills in STEAM subjects by implementing the design/engineering process for innovative solutions and built outcomes that provide sustainable energy to communities.

Providing STEM education to middle school and high school youth using the ARTS as the delivery vehicle is an engaging way to instill an early interest in the scientific method, provide useful technical skills, and introduce systems thinking. These are the types of skills that can help youth create positive change in their own neighborhoods and put them on a path toward innovative and fulfilling careers.

We held our first Art+Energy Camp in 2015 in Pittsburgh and this summer we are thrilled to be working closely with the Museum of Art+History in Lancaster, CA to bring this programming to youth in the Antelope Valley. Through the course of 4-weeks the 2016 LAGI Art+Energy Camp will provide youth with an education in energy science, climate science, art, design, and solar power. Youth will follow the design process to arrive at a pragmatic solution for a work of public art that generates clean energy utilizing solar panels for a roundabout in Lancaster, CA.

According to a recent report highlighted by the World Economic Forum(2), as automation continues to change the workplace, the highest valued skills are increasingly dominated by creativity, critical thinking, complex problem solving, cognitive flexibility, and emotional intelligence—all qualities that require the arts to be integrally interwoven into the fabric of our lives.

We are fortunate to be working in California, a state where this important conversation is being taken very seriously. Thank you all for the work that you are doing to increase support for the arts to the benefit of people and economic progress. We look forward to future projects in this State and to the opportunity to construct many of the design ideas you saw here today so that they can contribute to California’s renewable energy portfolio while attracting people from around the world to these new civic art inventions.


LAGI Founding Co-Directors, Elizabeth Monoian & Robert Ferry