April 30, 2019
By: Jothsna Harris, Director of Community Engagement

The Influence of Art: A Vision of What’s Possible

With scores of opinions in the media on climate change, and misinformation rampant, art has the power to cut through the noise with a raw clarity that brings in emotion, creativity, and imagination.

At Climate Generation, we have found that balancing the science with the arts is an influential combination for engaging people on climate change. In order to effectively address climate change, we need to supplement scientific, analytical, and technological solutions (though we need those, too.) We can do this by creating more spaces and opportunities that connect left and right brain thinking, elicit the use of our senses, and inspire us to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.

Art is a true reflection of reality; it speaks to the time we are living in and dares us to make meaning of it. In doing so, it connects us to an issue that for a long time has felt disconnected from our lives.

The ways in which we talk about climate change in mainstream society has shifted, with the majority of Americans now feeling the worry of climate change, even if our levels of action and comfort talking about it don’t yet match the scale of the problem. It makes sense — climate change is emotional. As with any meaningful and long-lasting behavior change, information alone is not enough to sustain motivation. Looking introspectively and feeling that there needs to be a change is the first step. In order to move into empowerment and action, we must first begin to unpack and process through the ways that it makes us feel, and art can help do this.

The creation of art itself is not passive; it is activism in the most visceral way. Impressions, whether through dance, paint, or spoken word, from the bleak to the beautiful, become interpretations. In seeing yourself in someone else’s expression there is an intimacy, a sense of solidarity and the potential for empowerment.

Beginning one person at a time, the influence of art can provoke a mass response.

To bring others along, we need powerful translators that help us understand this challenge in new ways. This is the role of artists, storytellers, poets, and musicians: to bend traditional ways of thinking and paint the vision of what is possible.

This year, Climate Generation has been amplifying the role of the arts in our programming as an intentional way to spark conversations on climate change in ways that resonate.


Beginning in the fall, the art exhibition World In Flux: Visions and Voices of a Changing Planet at the Vine Arts Center provided an open call to artists to submit works on their perspective of climate change. The show received an overwhelming response and was one of their most successful art shows to date.


In February, we held the second conversation of the award-winning Climate Conversations series at Silverwood Park, in partnership with Three Rivers Park District, to weave in the theme of art as a vehicle to bring climate change data and science to life. The event highlighted the stories of three local artists and offering creative opportunities for the public to engage in actions such as writing poetry for politicians.


In March, we held our Talk Climate Institute in Duluth, MN, centering the role of storytelling as a compelling tool to facilitate meaningful conversations and action on climate change. We also released our newest curriculum resource, based on the importance of humanities in underscoring that the causes, impacts, and solutions to climate change lie in both human dimensions as well as science.

This year we have also had an unprecedented number of requests from institutions, organizations, and local communities to highlight the important role that storytelling plays in building empowerment, through writing workshops and presentations.

You can view our storytelling collection here. As we look towards the fall, we are excited to share that Climate Generation will host an evening of live music and storytelling performances at a benefit concert, Band Together, this November. More details to come!

In each of these initiatives, there is something required of participants so they see themselves in this issue and are challenged to think about solutions in unconventional ways.

Climate Generation is continuing to weave the arts into programs that elicit dynamic change-making.

We invite you to join us through the following opportunities:

  • From now until October, we are calling for submissions for EYEWITNESS, a collection of of stories, poems and artwork that speak to the range of ways that Minnesotans are experiencing climate change. Printed and bound, this publication will be circulated in the MN Legislature in spring 2020, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Join the chorus of voices that will be featured in this exciting piece of literary activism. Submission are now being accepted. Click here to learn more.
  • Two upcoming productions are elevating the human perspective of climate change, including themes of climate refugees and the immigrant experience — join us at the following local theatres: Mixed Blood Theatre’s Autonomy, May 9-12 at Saint Paul RiverCenter, and Pangea World Theatre’s Masters of the Currents, May 17-18, at Mixed Blood Theater. Climate Generation is proud to partner on these creative and timely works.