Keynote Speaker

We Made it Up - Creativity as a Driver of Sustainability

Ian Garrett


F Building: Theater

When it's imperative that we draw down our carbon footprint to ensure our survivability on this one planet of ours, we often start from a question of what we're no longer going to do and what we must give up. But, while we must radically rethink the way we live, we must remember that we made up it all up to begin with and that the environmental crisis is also an opportunity to catalyze new ways of imagining civili​zation. 

Sound Hyperbolic? When we're talking about the fate of the humankind, it shouldn't. Looking at diverse approaches to sustainability from across the cultural sector, from reimagining organizational structures to community activists making eco-art, this talk sets the stage for imagining what's possible when we take a creative approach towards imagining the most sustainable world. From extreme intelligent building management to indigenous futurity in virtual reality to ways of embedding sustainability as a value when all your operations are only 5% of your carbon footprint to visceral ways of envisioning data, sometimes the most reasonable response to an existential crisis it to be impractical. After all, we made it all up.

About the Keynote:
Ian Garrett

Ian Garrett is Associate Professor of Ecological Design for Performance at York University; director of the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts; and producer for the mixed reality production company Toasterlab.  He is a member of Associated Designer of Canada, where he serves on the board of directors. He is a member of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, where he currently serves as the curator for the United States’ entry for the 2019 Prague Quadrennial, co-chair of World Stage Design 2021, and chairs the Education Committee for the Broadway Green Alliance. 

Ian maintains a design practice focused on the integration of ecology, technology and scenography such as the geolocated, mixed-reality project Transmission at the FuturePlay Festival in Edinburgh and Future of Storytelling Festival in New York. Recent work includes Groundworks with Rulan Tangen and Dancing Earth Creations, a collaborative media and performance project looking at native lands in Northern California through the collaborations with artists from Pomo, Wappo, and Ohlone communities; and with Swim Pony Performing Arts in Philadelphia on TrailOff which brings focus to the trails in watershed areas of Philadelphia through geolocated immersive audio and new writing.  

Other recent projects include the set and energy capture systems for Zata Omm Dance Projects' Vox:Lumen at the Harbourfront Centre, DTAH Architects’ installation Ravine Portal for the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s Toronto Site in 2014, and on the lighting team for the Crimson Collective’s Ascension, a 150’ wide, origami-style crane sculpture at the 2010 Coachella Music Festival. He has been involved with hundreds of theatre productions as a lighting and media designer. 

With Chantal Bilodeau, he directs the biannual Climate Change Theatre Action project, a decentralized new-play festival of over 200 sites which has received multiple awards for climate art activism. He has spoken and consulted on the arts and the environment around the world. His writing on the topic includes Arts Driven Sustainability, Sustainably Driven Arts in the journal Scene, the monograph Arts, the Environment, and Sustainability for the Americans for the Arts' New Community Visions Initiative; The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production, published in Readings in Performance and Ecology, from Palgrave Mac​millan, and the paper Theatre is No Place for a Plant in Landing Stages from the Ashden Directory. Garrett chaired the conferences Sustainability in Theatre and Staging Sustainability, 2014, and served as sustainability program coordinator for World Stage Design 2013 in​ Cardiff, Wales. At WSD 2013 he led the selection committee for the temporary sustainable theatre project built for that event, the Willow Theatre. 

Ian previously served as the executive director of the Fresh Arts Coalition, an arts service organization focused on awareness and marketing in Houston, and as consultant and staff for the LA Stage Alliance. Ian received dual MFAs in Lighting Design and Producing from CalArts and has a Bachelor of Arts​ in Architectural Studies and Art History from Rice University.