Nogoonbaatar Eco Art Festival, the first of its kind in Mongolia, aims to change the critical situation of air pollution in the Ger District, notorious for heavy pollution through coal burning.
Half of Mongolia’s population lives in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolian for "Red Hero"), one of the most polluted capital cities on earth. fine particulate matter accounts for many health disorders and premature deaths, and is a high threat to younger generations. It grows with the expansion of the population and increasing rural-to-urban migration.
Nogoonbaatar ("Green Hero"), the first eco art festival in the country, hopes to change this critical situation. The festival is staged in the Ger District, notorious for heavy pollution through coal burning. Local artists, European artists-in-residence and environmental educators are using a people-to-people approach, developing art projects and events in community centres, schools and public spaces.
All festival activities highlight the effects of air pollution and promote best practices for a more sustainable lifestyle. The goal is to raise awareness about air pollution (indoor and outdoor) and its impacts on health, promote good practices such as prevention and protection methods, and to present cheap or costless solutions to diminish pollution (insulation, ventilation, planting trees, cleaner heating systems and fuels) using the learning by doing method.
From September until early November 2020, the curatorial team organized several trips to the Ger districts to understand the attitudes of the local community, logistics, to find potential places and people/community to partner with. Some findings:
- Coal distribution points are quite busy and intriguing places;
- Local residents do not easily collaborate, even some are reluctant, to improve their community;
- Local government, public centres and schools were identified as the best partners;
- Ger Hub Community Centre can collaborate with the festival.
Painting competition for school children “"Clean Air - Clear Sky"
One of the festival’s elements is a painting competition among primary school children to hear their voices on the prevention of air pollution. The twenty best graded paintings were selected, and the pupils will receive a prize. The painting competition gained visibility by placing large prints of some of the children’s works at several public areas of the Ger District and in bus stations. It should also lead to increased motivation among teachers at schools to organize more public awareness campaigns, together with school children, using artistic approaches.
Illustration workshop and competition “Talking Pictures - about air pollution”
A 7-day workshop and competition among Art & Design School students on how to develop techniques and ideas to pass their messages on air pollution by creating illustrations on the topic, led by German illustrator Julia Neuhaus. The ten best rated posters/illustration works were selected and published online and dis-played throughout the city.
Public and street art workshops
As a digital residency programme, European (Seth, France and Jitka Kopejtkova and David Strauzz from the Czech Republic) and 18 Mongolian artists explored the local context and co-create public and street art. 12 Mongolian street artists were selected to receive a grant for completing a site-specific art work, creating a 600 meter long mural at NogoonNuur Public Park and Ger Hub community.
Nogoonbaatar as European Space of Culture
The project convinced the selection committee with its clearly defined local needs, strongly built partnerships, and well argumented understanding of innovation in relations to the local context. It is important that such a burning issue for Mongolia as ecology is being addressed in a way that is not very known to the local context.
The jury agreed that this project can be seen as one of the models for European Spaces of Culture due to its turn to socially engaged art as an environment for knowledge and advocacy, as well as a platform of mutual learning and exchange between different partners. It is clear that the project is built on a thorough research and understanding between the partners.