Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre adds its voice to the climate change discussion

SAINT ANDREWS – The Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre (SSANC) is hosting its first EarthFest.

The idea for EarthFest, which will be held Sept. 28, was Muriel Jarvis’s brainchild. The concept is based on an idea that began in the UK called Neighbourhoods for the Earth. The idea is to create festivals around the world so people start to change the way they think about the planet and how they interact with the planet.

“I came to Sunbury Shores to ask if we could partner on it because Sunbury is an arts and nature centre, and (executive director) Angela (McLean) was keen,” said Jarvis.

The discussions between Jarvis and Sunbury began this past January. The objective of the event is to bring awareness to our interdependence with the planet and a call to action to alter our relationship with Earth to one of healing and reverence.

“To try and change people’s mindset so they start thinking differently about the planet,” explained Jarvis, adding and so we no longer take for granted that the planet will continue to give us what we need.

The event is being held in conjunction with an exhibit titled Shadow Ecology. New Brunswick painter Emily Phillips and glass artist Heather McCaig created Shadow Ecology with the purpose of environmental conservation in mind.

McCaig’s glass sculptures illustrate the seven disappearing ecosystems of Canada and the shadows that are left behind. Phillips’s large scale paintings aim to connect viewers to well-known places in the Fundy region.

SSANC was founded nearly 60 years ago to provide “a space where artists and scientists could come together, converse and be inspired by each other,” explained McLean.

McLean believes EarthFest falls perfectly in line with the remit of SSANC to further conversations about the confluence of art and nature, of nature as art and the relationship we have with our natural world.

“I knew that this Shadow Ecology exhibit would be in place. In particular Heather McCaig’s work shows the shadow of what is remaining after we’ve had an impact on Earth,” said McLean.

There are activities lined up throughout the day and evening. During the day, events will be centred around students who will be visiting the gallery. They will be making seed packets and learning about the importance of the need for protecting future food sources and food security. The children will also learn about the inoculation of mushroom spores and will be able to take home mushroom culture kits.

In the evening, events include a slam poetry session, drumming circle and solar cycle workshop led by Maria Recchia.

Both the day and evening sessions will end with the groups making an Earth promise.

This is not the first event with a climate theme at SSANC. In March, the gallery hosted an exhibit called From Harm to Harmony in collaboration with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. The message of the works in that exhibit was to change the conversation about climate and nature from fear and negativity to one of hope and positivity through action.

Last month, the centre hosted a two-week pop-up exhibit titled Ecology Inspires Me. Artists descended on Saint Andrews to create plein-air in locations in and around the town with the theme being how the artists were inspired by the ecology of Saint Andrews and the surrounding area.

”We do see ourselves as having a responsibility for facilitating that conversation, providing a venue and inspiration to continue that conversation. And perhaps encouraging people to make change of their own choice,” said McLean.

The intention is to make EarthFest 2022 a springboard for future events and to make EarthFest an annual event. Beginning as a one-day event this year, the hope is to make it bigger in future years, whether that is a weekend, or a week with different events scheduled over the timeframe.

Louise Comeau, Director of Climate Change and Energy Solutions with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB), worked with artist Juliana Bedoya and SSANC to develop the From Harm to Harmony exhibit.

Her goal with CCNB is to move the discussion around climate change from one of technology and economics to be more sociologically and culturally based. Her objective is to move communities in New Brunswick to socializing solutions through cultural engagement.

“Very few people know what they can do and what will work,” with respect to solutions for managing climate change, said Comeau.

The focus of the From Harm to Harmony exhibit was to concentrate on the interconnections between people and communities, and the natural world and moving the conversation from one of anxiety and uncertainty to one of hope and action.

She is pleased that SSANC is continuing to add its voice and use its platform as a leading arts venue in the province to continue to foster those cultural and community discussions about climate change.

B.C.-based environmental artist Bedoya worked with the CCNB to facilitate the From Harm to Harmony exhibit. Her work involves incorporating plant matter, reimagining and repurposing it as art.

“It’s incredible that Sunbury is investing the resources and allocating the space for this to happen,” Bedoya said of the role SSANC is taking in facilitating discussion and thought to foster action on climate change.

“We need creative spaces to have these conversations,” she continued.

Change happens “from the individual to the family to the community,” said Bedoya.

“The more people come together, the bigger the voice,” concluded Jarvis.

EarthFest is free to attend and is being held at SSANC in Saint Andrews. Information about the event can be found on the gallery website at

*Editor’s note: EarthFest was originally scheduled for Sept. 22, however postponed until Sept. 28 due to the forecast.