Feet to the Fire


In the 2014-2015 academic year, Feet to the Fire was dedicated to the theme of the anthropocene (the age of humans) and the influence and impact humans have had on the planet and each other.


The Common Moment 2014, which is part of the University's First Year Matters program, featured music and movement from around the world. Students embodied the traditions of these cultures through dance, movement, traditional, and non-traditional sounds. All new students were assigned to a cultural group and spent time rehearsing before performing their dance with their respective musical styles.


In the fall semester of 2014, Visiting Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Studies Kim Diver offered students in her Introduction to Environmental Studies (E&ES 197) course to research and create art books that illustrate environmental topics related to the Connecticut River. Over 20 books were researched and produced as part of the class. Several Wesleyan scholars and staff volunteered their time to demonstrate artist books to the students including Kate TenEyck, art studio technician and visiting assistant professor of art; Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives; Rebecca McCallum, cataloguing librarian; and Joseph Smolinski, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment.

In the spring semester of 2015, Mellon Environmental Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow Helen Poulos and Choreographer Jill Sigman Research will teach Methods in Environmental Studies: River Encounters (ENVS201), which will give students an opportunity to explore the Connecticut River, its ecology, culture and history in order to understand the role it plays in our lives. Students will explore these topics through scientific data, hands-on learning and movement. Final projects will be presented as part of the Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter Festival.

In the spring semester of 2015, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment Joseph Smolinski will teach Art in a Mediated Landscape: Contemporary Issues of Art and the Environment (ENVS295). This interdisciplinary course focuses on contemporary issues of art and the environment and will provide an overview of the history of cultures and artists working with the land as a medium, as well as contemporary artists that address human impacts of the environment. Students will create studio projects that seek to develop new ways of looking at the landscape using interdisciplinary approaches to art making.


On October 30, 2014, playwright Leigh Fondakowski gave a talk about her piece SPILL, inspired by the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This peice was originally commissioned as part of Feet to the Fire in 2011.

A Body in Fukushima was a haunting series of color photographs and videos presented in a groundbreaking exhibition across all three of Wesleyan’s galleries during the spring semester of 2015. Dancer-choreographer Eiko Otake and photographer-historian William Johnston followed abandoned train tracks through desolate stations into eerily vacant towns and fields in Fukushima, Japan. Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the explosions of the Daiichi nuclear plant made the area uninhabitable. A project of witness, remembrance and empathy, A Body in Fukushima grapples with the reality of human failure. Hear more about the project from Otake and Johnston in this video.

The Nile Project, on April 10, 2015, features a dozen musicians performing collaboratively composed songs drawn from the diverse styles and instruments of the countries along the Nile Basin—including Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda—exploring themes of identity, regional solidarity, intercultural relationships both between and within their respective homelands, local music scenes, and living in the diaspora.

On May 9, 2015, the Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounters Festival will take place in Harbor Park, Middletown, CT. It will be a community festival celebrating the Connecticut River.


Kate Weiner ’15 and Wesleyan’s Environmental Organizers Network is creating a cookbook that will utilize the herbs planted in the Wild Walls, a vertical pallet gardens.

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Contact: Andrew Chatfield