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BCEEAN Kicks Off BC Arts Festival Again This Year!

By BCEEAN Newsletter Staff

Climate SmART event
Climate SmART event

Establishing the beginnings of a tradition, BCEEAN has twice opened the Arts Festival, BC’s annual showcase of the arts for the University and the larger community, with a program educating the public on climate change through art. 

In 2013, BCEEAN invited James Balog ꞌ74 to present Chasing Ice, the award-winning documentary about his glacial photography.  This year, BCEEAN turned to Honoring the Future, a new nonprofit project dedicated to harnessing the power of art to educate, empower, and engage the public on climate change.  In a program entitled “Climate SmART” moderated by Frances Dubrowski, four artists presented slides of their artwork and discussed how contemporary artists respond to climate change.

Panelists included:

  • Peter Handler, award-winning craft artist and creator of “The Canaries in the Coal Mine,” sculptural works about the impacts of climate change.  Handler carved the “Maldives Table,” dedicated to the world’s lowest-lying country – now endangered by rising sea levels due to climate change.  Handler also carved a “Reliquary to the Golden Toad,” the poster child of amphibian decline.  Once abundant in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest, the toad is believed to be extinct.  An unusually warm, dry spring caused the toads’ breeding pools to evaporate, disrupting reproduction. 
  • Mags Harries, creator of nationally recognized, award-winning public art projects and a faculty member of the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Harries and her partner, Lajos Heder (who joined the discussion during the audience Q & A), designed the WaterWorks at Arizona Falls, which serves the threefold purpose of being a well-used public space, an art environment, and a community focal point for a functioning hydropower plant.  The project connects the community to the site, once walled off by chain link fencing, and invites visitors to explore water as a utilitarian commodity (generating irrigation and electricity) and a beautiful, sensuous, transformative substance in its own right.
  • Lillian Ball, internationally recognized environmental artist and creator of sustainable stormwater infrastructure projects.  Ball showed images of WATERWASH ABC, a sustainable wetlands garden and park she created in a degraded commercial strip of the South Bronx to slow and filter stormwater runoff from a parking lot.  Local students, organized through the nonprofit Rocking the Boat, planted 10,000 wetlands plants to make the garden a reality and they continue to maintain the garden.

Panel discussion explored the role of art in educating the public about climate change as well as the interrelationship between artists, engineers, and scientists as storytellers about our natural world. 

The panel was one of Honoring the Future’s two inaugural programs.  The Philadelphia Inquirer favorably reviewed the earlier program, co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice in Philadelphia (see article).  Honoring the Future is a fiscally-sponsored project of the Open Space Institute, Inc., a leader in environmental conservation, which has served as fiscal sponsor to over 130 organizations.  Co-sponsors of “Climate SmART” included the Arts Council, Sustainability Office, Environmental Studies Program, Institute for the Liberal Arts, and Arts and Social Responsibility Project.  

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