Willoughby Arevalo is a interdisciplinary artist, mycologist and educator working on community-engaged projects that build relationships between humans, fungi and other members of our interspecies community.
Willoughby’s goals as a community-engaged artist are:
- To foster a place-based sense of belonging, agency and responsibility in our ecosystem.
- To decompose the social construction of separation between humans and nature by building an embodied awareness of the interconnectedness of all living beings, through artistic experience woven together with ecological knowledge-building.
- To restore ecological responsibility, caretaking and gratitude for the gifts of the earth in our human community.
- To heal the generations-old disconnect between humans and the land that has led to the climate crisis, so that we can create integrated, tangible solutions.
- To address concerns of ecological and social injustice, which are inherently interconnected. Just as every act is a political act, every act is an ecological act.
- To encourage right relations between settler and indigenous communities of this land with humility, gratitude and respect; to intertwine western science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge; to build capacity for traditional land stewardship, cultural practice, sovereignty and community development within indigenous communities.
- Increase opportunities for youth to access and build relationships with the more-than-human world around them.
Since 2014, Willoughby has been collaborating with interdisciplinary choreographer Isabelle Kirouac on community-engaged Art & Fungi residencies and projects offering diverse experiential arts activities to the public in relation with fungi. In addition to our work with North Van Arts and Mountainside Secondary, we are in residence at Kitsilano Community Centre in Vancouver through the City’s Artists in Communities program (artandfungi.org) and at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (walkingthemycelialweb.org). We recently offered a similar program (fall 2020) to students at Mitchell Elementary in Richmond, BC, gearing the activities to the grades 3-4 age group,.
Willoughby has been working with Still Moon Arts Society since 2013, as a lead artist in eco-community-engaged public art works (We All Belong, 2020, Fruiting Bodies, 2019; Mycelial Connections, 2018; and Reimagining into Reality: Collingwood’s Lost Beaver Lake, 2016), co-lead artist with Carmen Rosen on Still Moon’s newest eco-art project, Beaver Pond(er)ing Lodging, which intends to restore habitat along lower Still Creek by growing sculptures woven from living willow and turkey tail mycelium, while thematically connecting ecological and social justice.
I was raised with an ecological conscience in the Coast Redwood ecosystem in the southwestern tip of the Cascadia Bioregion (Humboldt County, California; traditional Wiyot and Yurok territories), where, like here, extractive industry and genocide of the indigenous peoples has degraded and fragmented the land-based and aquatic ecosystems. I developed a relationship with and interest in fungi at a young age and have continually studied them for over 30 years. While earning a BA in Studio Art at Humboldt State University, I took the opportunity to formally study mycology, as well as social justice, through which I gained an appreciation of fungi as grand interconnectors through all terrestrial ecosystems.