Ecotopian Toolkit Workshop: Austen Camille, An Exercise in Imagination


Text "ecotopian toolkit workshops" next to an illustrations of microscopic organisms.

It is very possible that over half of the world’s species live under the surface of the soil. Despite the importance of this diverse ecosystem, only a fraction of its inhabitants are known and named!

We will begin by working closely with soil: feeling its texture, talking about what healthy soil looks like, and learning about some of the species who live in and create the soil. You will get a chance to look through magnifiers and see some of the known soil-dwelling species. We will then open up the workshop to our imaginations! Since there is still so much we don’t know about this massive ecosystem, so many species that haven’t yet been encountered, let’s begin to imagine what they look like. How do they move? What sounds or vibrations do they make? What do they dream about? What type of soil are they residing within? There will be art supplies available for you to create your own imagined soil species.

Later, these community-made drawings will be animated and turned into augmented reality experiences around the city of Philadelphia so other people can learn about - and imagine the richness within - the ground underneath their feet.


**Please note there is a fee to enter the Morris Arboretum + Gardens. PennCard holders can enter the gardens for free. For more information about admissions pricing visit:

Austen Camille is Canadian-American multidisciplinary artist, writer, builder and gardener. Camille primarily makes site-responsive public work that aims to both build relationships with the local environment, as well as call attention to the relationships that already exist within that environment. They travel to project sites, stay for a period of research, get to know community members and learn the landscape, and create pieces that are in conversation with the place.

Recent public projects include a series of works in the Greenport Conservation Area (Hudson, NY) supported by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Water Resources Institute, and a series of works throughout the landscape of Sheridan, WY supported by The Nature Conservancy (WY) and a Puffin Foundation Environmental Grant. Camille is also part of an ongoing collaboration between artists and oceanographers working to raise awareness about cold water corals and undertake restoration work in the Gulf of Mexico. Camille received their MFA in Painting from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture (Temple University) in 2020.

This year, PPEH, in collaboration with the Morris Arboretum & Gardens, presents Ecotopian Tools for Multispecies Flourishing. These tools are designed to support diverse, multi-species communities, including humans, amidst the crisis of extinction fueled by habitat loss, climate change, and other Anthropocene woes.

This ongoing initiative to craft and share ecotopian tools across the Delaware Valley takes a utopian approach to ecological crisis as a way to confront feelings of helplessness and apathy that often arise in the face of global warming.