Considering Environmental Issues from the Perspective of Artistic Practice

Judi pearl - low res (photo by andrew alexander)
Judi Pearl © Photo: Andrew Alexander

In September, 2023, the National Arts Centre released its Environmental Sustainability Action Plan titled Walking Gently on the Land. As a national leader in the performing arts, the NAC has a vital role to play in the fight against climate change.

As part of that commitment, English Theatre is proud to announce a newly expanded role for Judi Pearl as Associate Producer, Artistic Programming and Environmental Projects, a portfolio which will consider environmental issues from the perspective of artistic practice, a first for a large arts institution in Canada. 

This builds on the 2022 innovation of Caravan Farm Theatre in Armstrong, B.C., when that company appointed Vicki Stroich to the newly-created role of Artistic and Environmental Programs Manager, the first of its kind anywhere in the country.

Working both within English Theatre and alongside the other artistic disciplines towards the implementation of the artistic aspects of the Action Plan, Judi will focus on harnessing the power of artistic practice to change public perception and responses to the climate emergency. Her work will encompass the integration of environmental and climate considerations into artistic planning, while supporting work that engages with climate action. In her new role, Judi will also be working with external artistic partners in the development of new conceptual frameworks around the intersection of arts and climate, with the aim of advancing English Theatre and the NAC’s artistic leadership in the domain of climate and sustainability. 

Envisioning sustainable futures

“I believe the creation of this new position, with its focus on the artistic dimensions of environmental sustainability, marks a significant step forward for the NAC’s commitment to ‘Walking Gently on the Land’,” said Judi. “For our responsibility lies not only in the reduction of the environmental impacts of our own operations, but also, crucially, in how we use our influence as a leading cultural institution to bend hearts and minds towards regenerative futures. Seeding and nurturing this profound shift in how we humans understand our relationship to the natural world is the unique and essential role of our sector in the climate crisis.”

English Theatre’s artistic work in this area has already begun with the launch of Irresistible Neighbourhoods: Ottawa 2044. This project commissioned four local emerging playwrights to create radio plays envisioning possible futures for their neighbourhoods. Since the fall, the playwrights have been working closely with Climate Dramaturg Vicki Stroich to help them bend their stories and thoughts towards climate justice. This pilot project asks the artists to use the full scope of their imagination to focus on how we change fundamental values to shift to a sustainable future. The radio plays will be released on NAC platforms this summer.

Judi has been a passionate environmentalist since her early teens. In addition to her long-standing role as Associate Producer, Artistic Programming for English Theatre, she formerly served on the boards of The Only Animal and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. Judi is also a Co-founder and the former Operations Lead at SCALE (Sectoral Climate Arts Leadership for the Emergency), a non-profit network of artists, cultural practitioners, and arts organisations committed to addressing the climate emergency, founded in 2021.

“We are thrilled to welcome Judi into this groundbreaking role,” says English Theatre Artistic Director Nina Lee Aquino. “In this new position, Judi will ensure that climate sustainability is no longer a mere footnote in our work but becomes a central focus in our artistic practice, integrated into everything we do here. The impact of her work will provide us with the tools to envision exciting regenerative futures in the stories we tell on our stages and beyond the borders of the NAC.”

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