LJM hosts Arts Festival 'Ocean Waters' on World Earth Day, with Digital Presentation of Short Films by Int'l Youth plus Concert and Exhibition

LJM hosts Arts Festival 'Ocean Waters' on World Earth Day, with Digital Presentation of Short Films by Int'l Youth plus Concert and Exhibition
In support of the World Earth Day on April 22, the Ling Jiou Mountain (LJM) University for Life & Peace (ULP) co-organized an arts festival entitled Ocean Waters as a part of the Here-on-Earth 2021 initiative of the New York Chan Space Meditation Center. The festival opened with a screening plus a concert in New York on April 23, then celebrated a multi-site happening in New York/London/Taipei on April 24. Live streaming was the format to highlight short films produced by international youth and introduced digitally via screenings and an exhibition. Online interactions between the audience and the film production teams further enlivened the Ocean Waters arts festival to help optimize the message that the LJM's ‘Loving-the-Earth’ long-term commitment has now incorporated efforts for marine ecology.

Dharma Master Hsin Tao as the founding abbot of LJM is known for his long-term dedication to environmental protection. ‘Loving the Earth, Loving Peace’ is the cornerstone of his environmental philosophy, which spearheads LJM's relentless efforts in pursuing sustainability while promoting world peace by virtue of ‘peace-at-heart first’. A grassroots program dubbed ‘Media Boot Camp for the Young on the Environment’ received support from the ULP to kickstart in November 2020, with participants coming from New York, London, and Taiwan. The media program aimed at grooming environmentally-sensitive youth with media skillsets, in order that their later exploration of ocean-centric topics will help drive the message home and reach young audiences of their age for direct impact. The 6-month program netted a total of 13 short films for a rather impressive outcome.

When the Zoom-meeting shone the spotlight on Taiwan at 9P.M. on April 24, online viewership covers New York, London, Hong Kong, Taiwan and many are enthusiasts of art and environmental activists. Arts Festival curator from the New York Chan Meditation Space, Ms. Chih-lan Lu, asked all participants to identify themselves first to facilitate direct interactions online. Dharma Master Hsin Tao sent a pre-taped congratulatory video clip with the following key message -- "The Earth is our shared home, and to heal our planet, we must first awaken spiritually to empower the transformation of all organic lives in the world."

Here-on-Earth 2021 art director Alexis Raskin shed light on the background of the ‘Media Boot Camp for the Youth on the Environment’, which started out as a platform for young people to approach environmental issues artistically. And since the originating destinations of the participants - New York, London, and Taiwan - are by far no strangers to the sea, Ocean Waters emerged as a natural pick for the theme. By way of learning what it takes to produce films, the theme for the youth's film production got them to know their living environment really well and, in turn, enriched their exchange of topic-centric information along the way of rapport-building.

Pinny Grylls was responsible for the London part of the arts festival and she spoke about the background of the screening and the exhibition. While the ocean was the common denominator, young students took their respective shots from angles ranging from marine ecology, over pollution, to stories between people and the sea. There are also productions as the results of international co-operations notwithstanding widely different realities. Grylls also called to people's attention that central to the arts festival is obviously the awakened awareness of issues at stake and a sharpened sense of ownership of the issues. The students have learned to motivate people for collective efforts and that is really quite meaningful and truly empowering.

The 13 short films shared via screenings display a wide range of genre ranging from documentaries focusing on urban pollutants, over a sentimental mini-movie about the ocean, to a cartoon-like animation that appeals for saving sea creatures. All are creative works that unanimously tell of the inseparable relations between people and ocean waters, between man and Nature. In the Morning Stars as a co-operation between Zoja Misut of New York and Buo-Hsih ‘Boss’ Huang of Taiwan that records their respective observations of the sea and shared concerns, they both agree that it was good teamwork that they enjoyed the most and that element came across vividly during the post-screening interaction with the cyber audience.

To further spread the footprint of the arts festival, the ‘Here on Earth: Ocean Waters’ website was constructed. Nicola White, who is responsible for the ‘Letter in a Bottle’ feature of the site shared her stories of how her design helps to attract more visits from all over for interaction via virtual letters from drift bottles. Photographs and poems relating to the sea also qualify for entries and posts on the site. Kent University Poetry Center Director David Hassler used a tutorial for hands-on for site visitors to author poems for such virtual letters-in-a-bottle for digital interactions.

Towards the end of the digital arts festival, Master Guan Guo as the New York Chan Space Meditation Center Executive led the online audience to practice the popular One Minute Meditation to appreciate peace of mind. Master Hsin Tao stayed the duration of the livestreaming and reminded everyone about the significance of spiritual ecology, tolerance for differences and altruistic love for all lives, besides thanking the event curator and all those for making the arts festival a success.

Master Hsin Tao presented his viewpoint that it requires the employment of spirituality-based technologies to heal the Earth at the 2018 Parliament of World Religions (PoWR). The recent Ocean Waters Arts Festival was a physical embodiment of that vision. Amanda Driscoll was another film-maker at the festival and she quoted A Plastic Ocean director Craig Leeson in saying ‘With knowing comes caring and with caring comes change’ to open her story-telling Between Me and the Water. The short films of the arts festival display the youth's views of environmental issues and showed their approach via the art of media. As such, they mark yet another milestone of what the LJM ‘Loving the Earth, Loving Peace’ ideal is all about, and with their films they invite the world to join in future actions for sustainability.