Daniel Dancer is the creator of Art for the Sky, a living art project that aims to re-create relationships between people and their environment. His idea started after his trip to Peru in the 80’s, where he observed giant images chiseled into the desert by the Nasca people 1,500 years before. His first attempt to bring the art form home involved working with Kansas field artist Stan Herd, using crops and a tractor to create a portrait of a Native American chief. Dancer used school children to symbolize the beads of the head piece and voila- his art form was born.
The Art for the Sky project goes into schools and offices and combines a curriculum on a relevant environmental/social topic with a planned, impermanent art piece. The chosen design is outlined in an outdoor space and participants use colorful shirts to create the full image. Dancer, an environmental photographer, then uses a crane or hot air balloon to photograph the image and show the artists their masterpiece from a bird’s eye view.
Art for the Sky has become a transformative way of gaining perspective on environmental issues a la the big picture, which Dancer terms “sky-sight”. Dancer sees our personal and societal problems as hard to grasp from our normal frames of mind- but when we use art to model the problems and height as the vantage-point, he believes we can come closer to understanding and form wiser solutions. Dancer says:
Training our imaginations to awaken our sky sight, to rise above our problems and see the elusive Grand Picture and how each part fits into the whole is a vital skill that can lead us to the most creative solutions. By embodying a bear, a salmon, an eagle, or other creature, we can begin to learn to see through the eyes of all beings and through the eyes of future generations.
Dancer believes that his practice not only aids in solving environmental troubles but also fosters community building and collaboration, which are necessary in decision-making. The Art for the Sky project uses every child/employee from a school/office and each body makes up a crucial part of the image, so there is no hierarchy and no exclusion. In addition, since studies show that experiential learning is most effective, Dancer hopes the projects have a lasting impact on their creators.
When Daniel Dancer isn’t creating large, living art, he is living at an intentional community he founded in the Columbia Gorge area of Oregon. Spurred by news that a pristine area he loved was being put on the market for mega-development, he decided to purchase the 200 acres and form a 10 parcel neighborhood called Rowena Wilds. The acreage is filled with nature lovers living in earth friendly, possibly recycled-material homes. The community, like his art, is the fulfillment of his desire to eliminate the illusion of separateness between human beings and our surroundings. They are both representations of his belief (and mine) that creativity can change the world for the better.