Art & Mycology is a collaboration with artists and youth using various visual, experiential, movement, literary, and performance art practices focused on fungi to build awareness of how all our lives are connected in society and the natural world. Interdisciplinary choreographer Isabelle Kirouac and artist/mycologist Willoughby Arevalo have been working side by side with students at Mountainside Secondary School since 2018, guiding exploration of the natural world, exploring the intersection between art and ecology.
Using arts-based experiences, Art & Mycology helps promote the health and well-being of participants. The guiding principle of the project is to share knowledge of the mutualist symbiosis of many fungi, demonstrating how mutual dependence is necessary to social well-being, creating a metaphor for culture and society, and the important place that each individual occupies in society. As a community engaged project, the artists have been working alongside the youth, adapting the programme to meet the needs of the participants, students aged 13-19.
The Art & Mycology group is awesome and every Friday I wake up in the morning like: ‘Awww man, I have school’ and then, I remember the mushroom people are here and INSTANTLY I leap out of bed and get ready to go. I would be lost without this group. Literally.
-student participant, 2018-19
The Art & Fungi project has been the catalyst of change I needed this year. Willoughby and Isabelle are wonderful role-models with a wealth of knowledge and their passion for nature-themed creative projects is infectious! Learning about the complexity of the fungal kingdom inspired me to go out on my own mushroom forays. Observing mushrooms is a way to motivate me to go outside and connect with nature and this has a dramatically positive impact on my mental health. I could not recommend their programs enough!
-student participant, 2019-2020
Examples of activities include:
Connecting with the natural world, interacting with fungi in art practice: mushroom foraging for pigments and culinary arts, Indigenous plant walks with traditional knowledge keepers, land art, mushroom cultivation for sculptures and design, spore print art, needle felting inspired by fungi.
Observation, reflection, understanding the importance of belonging: land reading, sound walks, macro mushroom photography, storytelling (podcasting), field assignments, taxonomy, identifying local species.
Improving body awareness and comfort through movement: mushroom costume play, stilt-walking, embodied meditations in nature, ritual performance.
The spring 2022 project was to create a sculpture with used clothing inoculated with mycelium. The students explored fast fashion and mushroom cultivation, learning lots of new skills along the way.
Timelapse video by Isabelle Kirouac and Willoughby Arevalo shows lion’s mane mushrooms growing out of myceliated soft sculptures, in collaboration with the students of Mountainside Secondary School, spring 2019.