Turning to Art for Climate Solutions

July 5, 2022 by Madeline Miller

Indigenous Fire Story from Zeke Magazine by Kiliii Yuyan

Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court makes meaningful climate change mitigation at the federal level more difficult, at least in the immediate future. The ruling strictly limits the ways in which the Clean Air Act, the nation’s main air pollution rule, can be used to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Even a momentous Supreme Court ruling is just one data point in a very discouraging climate news cycle: temperatures of over 123 degrees were reported in Pakistan’s agricultural regions last month. The American West continues to dessicate and burn. Closer to home, decades of redlining in and around Boston are putting economically vulnerable communities at particular risk of climate-related flooding and other hazards. 

Where do we turn at a time when climate anxiety might be considered a rational response to the state of the world? And where do we turn now for real solutions? 

At The Umbrella, we turn to the arts. Whether they are illuminating the emotional impact of climate change or documenting climate progress, the arts can uniquely help us understand, interpret, and respond to the climate emergency. The arts activate our engagement with issues that are difficult to understand or hard to reckon with, and expand our shared vocabulary and common purpose. 

Toward these ends, this month The Umbrella is hosting several brand new climate-related arts program offerings, with community partners Zeke Magazine and The Thoreau Society.

Opening this week and running through the end of July, our main gallery features Sustainable Solutions: Documentary Photographers Explore the Climate Crisis. Presented in partnership with Zeke Magazine, the exhibit captures the care, creativity, and beauty of climate mitigation, from Indigenous fire management practices to underwater gardening to upcycling plastic waste.

The exhibit opens on Friday, July 8 with a free, public reception from 6-7:30pm. The reception will include remarks by Glenn Ruga, publisher of Zeke Magazine; participating photographer Lauren Owens Lambert; Mike Frederick, Executive Director of Thoreau Society; and myself, Madeline Miller.

Later that evening, The Thoreau Society will host climate activists and musicians Jesse Paris Smith and Alana Amram in concert on The Umbrella mainstage. (Concert tickets on sale here!) Smith, who takes inspiration from Henry David Thoreau’s poetry, founded Pathways to Paris, a network of musicians and other artists mobilizing to turn the Paris Climate Accords into political reality. 

On July 12 at 2pm, Zeke Magazine will host a virtual panel with the three featured photographers from the Sustainable Solutions exhibit: Kiliii Yuyan, Giacomo d'Orlando, and Sarah Fretwell, with Antonia Juhasz, a renowned climate and environmental journalist, moderating. This event is free and open to the public.

These events are among the first in a series of pilot programs exploring new kinds of Arts & Environment programming, as we begin a strategic planning process to expand our environmental art programming. Stay tuned for more offerings from Arts & Environment in the coming months.

If you’d like to get more involved or learn more about our Arts & Environment strategic planning process, please contact me at madeline@theumbrellaarts.org.


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