Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER


Sense of Place: Linking What We Know and Feel about Cities

Cities are complex places and have evoked a myriad of emotions over the last 9000 years. Aristotle, writing in the 3rd century BC, commented that “a great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.” This was one of the first, but certainly not the last, recorded reflections on the city. The Phoenix metropolitan area, a collection of 26 municipalities in the Sonoran Desert, elicits a range of responses from appreciation of its beautiful setting to questions about incongruity of a thirsty city in a very dry place.

While CAP LTER is a research program centered on ecological science and engaging a range of academic disciplines, the arts and humanities are critical for articulating what Phoenix means as a place to the diverse population that lives and visits here. Through the arts and humanities, we will build an experiential portrait of the Phoenix area that goes beyond what scientific data can portray. In doing so, we hope to link what we know and feel about cities.


Current and Ongoing CAP Collaborations

Artist collaborations
  • Edgar Cardenas

Public History: Culture, Values, and the Water Dynamic in the Desert City. A new collaboration with Cody Ferguson and ASU’s Public History Program research. Though environmental public goods problems concern concrete scientific issues, they are historical and evolve from human social, economic, political, and cultural systems Historians and humanities scholars are especially suited to consider culture and the values that precipitate many environmental problems and the changing relationship of humans to their environment and environmental change over time.  By examining the human dimension, the humanities help illuminate the social and cultural elements vital to achieving the third, social, component of sustainability.  

Environmental Memories of South Central Phoenix  pairs research on environmental change, urban vulnerability to climate change, and environmental justice in Phoenix with stories and photographs from residents of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. The exhibit will be displayed at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center, just south of downtown Phoenix, from September 6-December 7, 2012.  The exhibition was produced, and designed by a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of graduate students and co-sponsored by ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and local community partners.

The Science of Water Art: A Citizen Science Project is an art exhibit that is part of Global Ethnohydrology project lead by CAP scientist, Amber Wutich. The exhibition was created through a collaborative research project that brought together professionals, community members, college students and children to think about the role that water plays in each of our lives. This study used a sample of fourth-grade classrooms across Arizona in collecting more than 3,000 drawings of children’s perception of water today and in the future. The nine- to 11-year-olds were asked by their teachers to draw two pictures with the following prompts: 1) Please draw a picture showing water being used in your neighborhood; and 2) Please draw a picture showing how you imagine water will be used in your neighborhood 100 years from now. The study was conceptualized in partnership with Salt River Project and the Maricopa County Education Service Agency.

At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place is a a multi-disciplinary performance initiative.  This project is a collaboration between CAP’s education program, the Ecology Explorers, and ASU’s Institute for Design and the Arts. It is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.  In the pilot phase of this initiative ecology teachers worked with dance students at a local High School as they explored the desert ecology to create a “moving field guide” that were performed at venues in Phoenix. The next phase of the project will involve Girl Scout troops working with the high school dancers to create movements interpreted from desert ecology.  These will be videotaped and shared online as part of a national program led by the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

Past CAP Collaborations

ASU Art Museum: Defining Sustainability  (2009) was a diverse series of dynamic and interactive events organized by the ASU Art Museum and its Ceramics Research Center to illustrate sustainability ideas. In this nontraditional art museum project, artists, designers, faculty, and students engaged the greater Phoenix community in their creative processes and in conversations about sustainability. In Defining Sustainability, art and the museum were the catalyst and site for campus and community members to gather and further the conversation about sustainability.

Phosphorus, Food and Our Future: A Collaboration between Artists and Scientists (2010). Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for life – without it, we could not grow our food nor build our bones. Yet our current use of it relies on mining it from the earth to make into fertilizer and then letting this fertilizer leach into our waterways and act as a pollutant. In Phosphorus, food and our future, artists and scientists collaborations explored current use of phosphorus and how it could be made more sustainable.

External Website: http://caplter.asu.edu/outreach/arts-and-humanities/

Contact Person: Barry Sparkman