The environmental and climate justice movements are rooted in the understanding that communities of color and low income communities experience all environmental issues first and worst, including climate change. They also recognize the root of the problem is in an extractive economy that exploits the planet and people for profit. As climate change increases the pressures on our ecological, political and social structures, grassroots community-driven movements that utilize participatory public art and transformative cultural practices are even more essential for change.
The Mural Arts Institute is hosting a virtual and free week-long symposium looking at the transformative work happening at the intersection of community-based cultural practice and environmental justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stressed the same communities already grappling with acute climate and environmental crises, both economically and in terms of inequitable health care access and outcomes. The compounding injustices of our social systems and extractive economic model are unsustainable and impossible to ignore any longer. Calls for transformative change are growing louder. In times like these, the essential roles that artists and cultural workers play in communities becomes clear including helping us heal, stay connected, make meaning out of pain, imagine our better future together, and take collective action.
This annual symposium invites artists, activists, scientists, scholars and governmental officials to discuss how creative people and practices are helping us meet the challenges of this moment, and how we can build on that to make a just transition a reality. These changemakers will be logging in from Tribal, urban, rural, and suburban communities throughout the nation for this virtual symposium during the week of May 17-21, 2021, during 12:00-5:00 PM EST. Mark your calendars and sign up to make sure to get updates and the full agenda.
The Symposium has been strategized and designed in collaboration with Alexis Frasz and Helicon Collaborative. The Mural Arts Institute is supported by The JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Media sponsorship is provided by Next City and Grist.
Registration link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/arts-environmental-justice-symposium-tickets-135864639795?aff=eprofsaved
Schedule of Events: Opening Symposium Remarks
Monday, May 17th
12:30-1:00pm EDT Jane Golden, Founder and Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia
Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks
The Cultures of a Just Transition
Monday, May 17th
1:00-2:30pm EDT Join a conversation with leaders in movements for native sovereignty, disability justice and climate justice to talk about why following the leadership from those most historically marginalized is the key to creating a better future for all of us. They will also talk about how deeply rooted cultural values and creative practices inform and guide their work. Speakers include Judith LeBlanc (Native Organizers Alliance, NDN Collective, The Natural History Museum), Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan (Movement Generation, Climate Justice Alliance), Patty Berne (Sins Invalid).
Land and Liberation:
Ecological Freedom as Creative Practice
Tuesday, May 18th
1:00-2:30pm EDT Pursuing food sovereignty through community agriculture is a way of life. Land based practices can also be liberatory, rooted in resistance and self determination. From Indigenous calls for Land Back, to reparations for ancestors of slaves and the Black freedom farmer movement, to refugees sewing seeds in their clothing to bring to their new communities – agriculture and community sovereignty go hand in hand. Join Indigenous artists and activists Christina Castro co-founder of Three Sisters Collective and Israel Haros co-founder of Alas de Agua Art Collective from Oga Po’ogeh (Santa Fe, New Mexico) in conversation with Carlton Turner, Lead Artist and Director of Sipp Culture as they explore the intersection of farming and creative community-based practices.
Climate and the Carceral State:
Imagining an Abolitionist Future
Tuesday, May 18th
Join Police Free Penn and Fossil Free Penn for a presentation and creative workshop envisioning environmental and racial justice together. The roads to racial justice and climate justice are one and the same. This event makes the case that neither climate justice nor police and prison abolition can be achieved without the other. We will explore how these movements can work together for a more just and sustainable future. How is the fossil fuel industry tied to institutions of policing and incarceration? What does justice look like for the environment, and all of those who inhabit it? What can art, creativity, and imagination contribute to abolitionism and climate justice? This workshop will be creative and interactive. Please bring a writing utensil, collage materials, or creative medium of your choice with you to this interactive workshop. This workshop will be led by Police Free Penn and Fossil Free Penn and moderated by Katelyn Rivas, poet and Manager of the Public Art & Civic Engagement Capacity Building Initiative at the Mural Arts Institute.
Clean Air + Equity During a Global Pandemic
Wednesday, May 19th
1:00-2:30pm EDT The interconnectedness of our ecological, social, and health crises have never been so clearly visible as they are today. This conversation will center artists and environmental justice leaders who are champions for clean air and equity, as they explore the compounding impacts of COVID-19 on the same communities already harmed by environmental and social injustices, and reflect upon how arts based strategies can disrupt, educate, and support community centered decision-making. Dr. Catherine Garoupa White is the Executive Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition where she spearheads policy advocacy for clean air in the San Joaquin Valley. Kim Abeles is an artist, Professor Emeritus at California State University Northridge and a Guggenheim Fellow who innovated a method to create images from smog captured from the air. Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator that produces civic-scale works for grassroots and community rooted organizations. This conversation will be moderated by Layel Camargo, Ecological Arts and Culture Manager at The Center for Cultural Power.
Practicing Environmental Justice for a More Just Future
Interactive “Implosion” Demonstration
Wednesday, May 19th
3:00-4:30pm EDT In this session, Mural Art’s Environmental Justice Department will facilitate a LIVE “Implosion,” a creative participatory research tool for building coalitions and exposing the hidden connections that fuel systems of environmental injustices. The implosion activity is a tool for activating networks to discover the complex interconnections and relationships inherent in our life and practices. What does the fossil fuel industry have to do with plastics? How are hidden subsidies driving production and consumption? How do we leverage every day experiences to build more effective movements?
In this session, we will work together to uncover the economic and political systems at work within a seemingly simple object. In order to dismantle the corrupt systems and corporations that benefit from concealment, it is essential for us to understand and realize our interconnectedness. This practice is an accessible tool to help us dive deeper, past the camouflage of globalization and capitalism, and understand how EJ movements can be made more powerful through collective knowledge building and recognition of our interrelatedness.
Water Is Life:
Reflections from an Environmental and Cultural Emergency
Thursday, May 20th
1:00-2:30pm EDT The United States is in a water crisis. Nearly a tenth of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and millions of Americans cannot pay their skyrocketing water and sewage bills. Children and families from Philadelphia to Fresno to Tribal Nations, are exposed to heightened levels of lead, PFAS, and other toxins. But communities are more than the structural violence they face, and the role of community-driven artists and cultural workers are working to help communities heal from structural violence, reclaim their right to clean water, and find pathways forward that protect and celebrate water. From Boston, Massachusetts will be joined by Erin Genia, Sisseton-Wahpetin Oyate / Odawa multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer currently an Artist-In-Residence with the City of Boston working with the Department of Emergency Affairs. Emma Robbins is a Diné artist, activist and community organizer who serves as the Executive Director of the Navajo Water Project, part of the human rights nonprofit DigDeep Water. From Flint, Michigan, we will be joined by Joe Schipani, Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project who also serves as a City Historic District Commissioner and Vice President of the Martis/Luna Food Pantry. This conversation will be moderated by South Carolina Lowcountry artist Benny Starr, inaugural One Water Artist-in-Residence at the US Water Alliance, who was named Grist’s 50 Fixers of 2021.
Thursday, May 20th
3:00-5:00pm EDT Cities who have worked with the Mural Arts Institute’s Arts and Environment Capacity Building Initiative have created short documentaries about environmental justice issues in their communities, and what a more just future would look like. Join us for live screenings of these 8 films from Akron, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Kern County, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and two films from various movements in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chad Eric-Smith, Director of Communications for Mural Arts Philadelphia will moderate a live discussion with film-makers, artists, and experts from each city. Check out @muralarts on Instagram to get a sneak peak of the films.
Art of Activism:
Live from East Austin
Thursday, May 20th
5:30-6:30pm EDT Join us for a conversation about the role of artists as environmental activists. Artist Ginger Rudolph will moderate a conversation with Raasin McInstosh, Founder of Raasin in the Sun, and artists J. Muzacz and Carmen Rangel, co-founders of The Mosaic Workshop at Something Cool Studios. The artists will discuss their role in the Arts and Environment Capacity Building Initiative at the Mural Arts Institute, and share about the ways they have been creating opportunities for other artists during the pandemic, combating gentrification in East Austin, and using the arts and creative practice to disrupt environmental injustices faced by the East Austin community.
Closing Symposium Remarks
Friday, May 21st
12:30-1:00pm EDT Magda Martinez, Chief Operating Officer of Mural Arts Philadelphia
Netanel Portier, Director of the Mural Arts Institute
The Story of a New Economy
Friday, May 21st
1:00-2:30pm EDT The idea that “the economy” is a thing, independent of human beings or nature, is one of our most pervasive and harmful cultural myths. Our hyper-capitalist economy is parasitic on humans and incompatible with a living planet, and yet many people still struggle to imagine an alternative. Reinventing the economy will require new laws, policies, and financing tools–but it will also require us to tell ourselves a new story about who we are, what is valuable, and our relationship to each other and the natural world. Hear from the creative thinkers and doers who are weaving together the structural and narrative interventions we need for a more just and sustainable economic future—debt abolishment, cooperatives, and Guaranteed Basic Income. Speakers are Esteban Kelley (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives), Laura Zabel (Springboard for the Arts); and Dan and Hilary Edelstyn (Bank Job). This conversation will be moderated by Oscar Perry Abello, Senior Economic Correspondent at Next City.