Earth Day@50 Arts Initiative celebrates the intersection of arts and the environment

November 11, 2019

The Seldoms
Photo: William Frederking
Courtesy of Carrie Hanson: The Seldoms

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and its partners invite you to attend one of the upcoming Earth Day@50 – Arts Initiative events. These lectures, films, performances, and art exhibits are a celebration of the past fifty years of environmental stewardship, and will honor the power of artistic expression in connecting people, transforming perspectives, and igniting action. The initiative, which is in partnership with the UW-Madison Division of the Arts, the Overture Center for the Arts, the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), the Madison Arts Commission, and Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission (Dane Arts), will also seek to expand understanding of the concepts related to critical environmental topics and our collective environmental future.

“The arts are an important avenue for transforming perspectives,” said Emily Reynolds, the Nelson Institute Assistant Director of Community Engagement & Alumni Relations. “This collaboration aims to highlight environmental arts events for the community during this 50th anniversary of the Earth Day year.”

In fact, the Earth Day@50 – Arts Initiative is a part of the Nelson Institute’s Year of the Environment, which is a year-long celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of the Nelson Institute and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The Earth Day@50 – Arts Initiative events calendar showcases environmental lectures, films, performances, and art exhibits happening on campus and in the greater community. An upcoming highlight includes performances by The Seldoms, a Chicago-based dance company under the direction of Carrie Hanson, who is serving as the fall 2019 Division of the Arts Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence.

The Seldoms
Photo: William Frederking
Courtesy of Carrie Hanson: The Seldoms

Their performances will explore climate change and its impacts on communities from the Gulf Coast to the Arctic Circle through dance and multimedia from November 14-16, 2019 and January 22-24, 2020 along with a final residency event on November 21 – all on campus. Community members are encouraged to browse the calendar or submit an event.

“The Nelson Institute is a supporter for Carrie Hanson’s residency this fall and Ben Barson and Gizelxanath Rodriguez’ residency in the spring and they are all referencing the impact of climate change during their residencies,” said Heather Owens, Communications Specialist, Division of the Arts and committee member of the Initiative. “The arts have a powerful ability to inspire action and empathy from participants. It is wonderful and inspirational to see so many artists and organizations who are emphasizing environmental-related art in all forms during this critical time to encourage others to learn and to take action on being better stewards of the Earth.”

In addition to performances, there will also be lectures, including Everyone’s Earth: The Power of Storytelling and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, November 21, from 7-8 p.m. at Dejope Hall. This special, Native November event will feature Mary Louise Defender-Wilson, a nationally renowned traditional Dakotah/Hidatsa elder, storyteller, and traditionalist enrolled at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation of North Dakota.  

Environmentally-focused art exhibits including “Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials” now through January 5, 2020 at the Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries, Chazen Museum of Art and  “Swept Away” an exhibit by Aaron Laux and Katherine Steichen Rosing at the Overture Center for the Arts, now through December 1, 2019, will further celebrate the Earth Day@50 – Arts Initiative.

“Overture is grateful for this opportunity to partner with Nelson Institute on the Year of the Environment Earth Day @ 50 events,” said Beth Racette, Overture Center for the Arts Galleries and Community Programs Coordinator. “This is an excellent time to join forces between art and science as we face unprecedented destruction of the Earth’s biosphere.  The arts have the power to help us see with new eyes, ask difficult questions and open our hearts to face the truth of what scientific data is clearly telling us.  It’s our hope that people will gain some new awareness and capacity for courageous action – the time is now.”