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The Oak Project announces a new partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the University of Derby. Can art save us from extinction?

The Oak Project has recently announced a pioneering partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) and the University of Derby. The Oak Project is a programme that explores our relationship with the natural world and builds connection to nature through arts, culture and creativity. This initiative aims to inspire and motivate public action for nature and climate in up to almost half a million people through its first year of programming. The Oak Project will launch its first artist commission, to be hosted at YSP, in late spring 2021.

The Oak Project has been developed in response to recent psychological research1, which demonstrates that art can play an important role in motivating people to take action to protect the environment by building a sense of connection to nature.

The Oak Project is a partnership between Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), the University of Derby and the Bronze Oak Project Ltd, a not-for-profit that promotes art as a way to create nature connection. Over the next five years, the project will pioneer arts-participation to create kinship with nature.

Charlie Burrell, owner of the Knepp rewilding project and co-founder of The Oak Project, comments: “We are living in an environmental crisis. The science is unequivocal – unless we take drastic action, and soon, we face both ecological and climate collapse. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how rapidly change can happen in response to a crisis, and how quickly nature can recover when given space to do so. We need to build upon these glimmers of hope and work to rebalance our relationship with the natural world for the long term, and we’re excited about the role the arts can play within this.”

Prof Miles Richardson, Professor of Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby, comments: “Wildlife loss and climate crisis show our relationship with nature is failing. Our research shows the power of arts-based, sensory and meaningful emotion-based activities in building a closer connection to nature. When people are connected to nature, they are much more likely to do more to help the environment. These pro-environmental behaviours could be anything from buying a reusable coffee cup, recycling waste, feeding the birds and planting wildflowers through to signing petitions or joining a ‘clean-up’ activity. Nature connection is key to a more sustainable lifestyle and a new relationship with nature.”

Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at YSP, comments: “The Oak Project follows a significantly increased awareness of the climate emergency. It is therefore extremely well placed and timed to create positive action in response to climate-anxiety and compromised mental health highlighted by COVID-19. The aftershock of the pandemic will be with us for many months, if not years, and The Oak Project will sit precisely in this period – giving people access to art and nature in a way that will support mental, physical and spiritual health as well as catalysing terrific new projects by practicing artists.”

The Oak Project announces a new partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the University of Derby
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