Biography – Philosophy

The journey: a personal search for ways to open the heart of both the artist and the observer – to find a creative process that not only uplifts – but also nourishes the human spirit and fosters peace and contentment. Alison’s exploration has, over many decades, focused on the visual arts and has ranged over many themes, different countries and cultures.

With a background/training in drawing, painting and print-making, as well as Chinese brush-painting – her creative activities have included exhibitions in a variety of media, including oil, acrylic, water-colour, monotype printing, pastel and collage. As an artist and teacher – art has been a vital, visual tool for engaging the viewer: for communication and understanding, for celebration of Nature’s wonders, abundance and fragility, for reflection of the human condition and mankind’s yearning to find his/her rightful and meaningful place in the Universe – with all its colour and variation, movement and rhythms.

Early teaching experience in Finland with silk-screen printing, Chinese brush-painting was followed by 4 years working with KEPA (Finnish NGO) in Nicaragua (1992-96) and included the creation of art courses (drawing, collage, paper-making, creative recycling) at the Cultural Center in Granada, Nicaragua (Fundacion Casa de los Tres Mundos). An abundant supply of natural materials in the immediate environment, at that time, provided the stimulus to demonstrate their inexpensive and creative potential in art courses.

The results included differing mud colours in the river bed close to Granada city – for use as colours or mask moulds; shards of Pre-columbian pottery gourds washed down along same river bed – for a mural; gourds for puppets; banana stem and organic wasted for hand-made paper; hair from the nape of girls’ necks – for use in paint brushes; charcoal – for drawing. These initiatives lead to the creation of children’s, adults’ and teachers’ courses and stimulated a heightened awareness and understanding – toward the protection of their natural resources, the environment – as well as the latent creative potential in us all…

These creative experiments attracted the attention of US scientists in Nicaragua (proyectoecologico.org,www.centroculturalapoyo.org) and led to collaboration at the interface of art and science and a greater focus on the relationship between art and the environment. An invitation followed – to carry out research and the creation of teacher’s courses in the USA at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; this included working with disadvantaged youth (14-18 year-olds from the inner cities of Washington D.C. and Baltimore (Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Virtue Program (University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore, USA) and led to courses in art and environmental education.

Collaboration with Dr. Kenneth McKaye, the University of Maryland and Malawi, led to an environmental education grant from World Wildlife Fund, USA - to use art, as a tool, in a course to heighten awareness among school children living close to Lake Malawi National Park. They would learn, through drawing on their own hand-made paper – about the connection between bilharzia (human disease) and over-fishing. In 2002, WWF Finland built on this earlier initiative of conserving the unique fish species of Lake Malawi National Park (LMNP) and initiated a number of projects related to environmental education – to conserve the natural resources of Lake Malawi National Park – (www.panda.org/africa).

This ongoing programme (established by WWF Finland) and active since 2006, is being run by HEEED Malawi – www.heeedmalawi.net and includes a HEEED Volunteer Programme ( E-Mail: heeedchembe@gmail.com). HEEED has been the recipient of funding from WWF Finland; Siemenpuu; GEF Small Grants Programme (UNDP); Ensome (Nicaraguan conservation organization); Rotary, as well various private donations. In addition, HEEED has collaborated with the Government of Malawi in producing two publications Lake Malawi National Park and The Hiding Hyena (authored by Antonia Ringbom & Alison Wiklund).

These various activities stimulated interest at Finnish Radio and TV (YLE) and led to a Documentary Alison I Stora Världen produced by Birgitta Wegelius, in April 2004 (watch full documentary here). This film focused on Alison’s artistic development and conservation work in Africa, Asia, USA and Central America.  More recently, Alison assisted in the inaugural exhibition of the Centro Cultural de Apoyo, Nicaragua (www.centroculturalapoyo.org) in August 2011 and was artist-in-residence with Heritage Expeditions (www.heritage-expeditions.com) during their 2012 season in the Russian Far East.  Currently,  Alison is also working as environmental advisor to HEEED Malawi,  preparing for her next exhibition in Helsinki and collaborating with www.solveiglindqvist.com.