On the third floor of Lauinger Library, in the Pierce Reading Room, hangs a painting with neon-hued, layered vertical stripes. It looks like abstract art. But it’s more than that.
The painting is based on a chart from an environmental report that shows how the U.S. could rely almost exclusively on renewable energy by 2035.
Artist Alisa Singer’s painting is part of a new campus-wide art installation hosted by the Earth Commons — Georgetown’s Institute for the Environment & Sustainability — that illustrates the science behind critical climate challenges.
The installation is one of multiple Earth Commons art initiatives that bridge the arts and sciences to help spark interdisciplinary dialogue about environmental issues and develop solutions for a greener planet.
“Art is a powerful gateway to the sciences.”
—Peter P. Marra, founding director of the Earth Commons
“Art is a powerful gateway to the sciences,” says Peter P. Marra, founding director of the Earth Commons. “We want to draw people in to think deeply about the environment and our relationship to it in hopes of inspiring action to solve some of our world’s greatest environmental problems.”
On Earth Day and throughout Earth Month, explore three art initiatives by Georgetown community members that examine the environment through an artistic lens.
Artist Singer uses key data about climate science from charts, maps, graphs, words or numbers as the “blueprint” for each digital painting. She converts the data into abstract art to illustrate urgent environmental challenges, from droughts and wildfires to climate refugees and arctic sea ice movements. Singer also embeds the source data in plaques accompanying each painting for viewers to learn more about the science.
“In this series, I marry art to science,” Singer says. “I create a work of abstract art that isn’t actually abstract, and that part makes it more interesting to the viewers.”
The paintings have been exhibited at universities across the U.S. and in reports from the United Nations as artistic interpretations of climate change. At Georgetown, the artwork is installed in Regents Hall, Lauinger Library, the Car Barn and in the Intercultural Center (ICC). Viewers can use this map to explore the series.
“We’re bringing interdisciplinary experiences like the Environmental Graphiti series to campus to infuse the environment and sustainability thinking into everything we do at Georgetown,” Marra says.
2. Climate Storytelling on the Global Stage
On March 18, the Earth Commons launched the inaugural performance of “We Hear You — A Climate Archive,” a global performance project that premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and explores youth perspectives on the climate.
The Earth Commons’ first Artist in Residence Caitlin Nasema Cassidy (C’11) and playwright Jacob Hirdwall created the project, which seeks to document — particularly for future generations — the ways that young people are experiencing changes on earth. The performance included senior Ashanee Kottage (SFS’22), who previously worked with Cassidy on a Georgetown production that explored climate activism.
Following the performance, Cassidy and the project’s team are commissioning 77 stories from young people around the world to form the basis of a new digital platform for global climate storytelling and an international performance series.
“In this time of global crises, I know I need stories that deliver joy, that offer me ways to root in wisdom and move forward in hope.”
—Caitlin Nasema Cassidy (C’11)
“We Hear You—A Climate Archive is asking: How can we hear the young folx — the artists and activists doing the work of imagining more liveable futures? What can we learn from them — from one another?” Cassidy says.
Cassidy is also the artistic producer of the Youmein Festival in Morocco and NU-Q Creative Media Festival in Qatar, the founding co-artistic director of LubDub Theatre Company in New York City, and an award-winning actress.
In February of this year, the Earth Commons launched its inaugural issue of Common Home, an online quarterly magazine produced by undergraduate students that examines environmental issues through a cross-disciplinary lens.
In April, the magazine launched an art contest for students to submit original artwork about intergenerational and environmental justice, zeroing in on how decisions today will affect future generations.
Isabella Callagy (C’23), won first place in the “Traditional” category for her painting, “Holding On.” The piece, painted with oil on canvas, shows two hands trying to hold onto water, Callagy wrote in her submission.
“This composition ties together art, healing, nature and disaster,” she wrote. “It is up to my generation to make serious changes in their daily lives that impact the environment in the hopes to help future generations have access to water. There is no life without water.”
Victoria Smith (C’22) won the “Freeform” category for her black-and-white collage titled “Female Faces of Change.” Smith’s multimedia piece, which incorporates paper collage, paint and faux flowers, depicts women who have been instrumental in environmental advocacy, such as Eunice Newton Foote, a scientist and feminist whose research in the 1800s predicted the impact of greenhouse gases.
“Foote was a pioneer in the environmental and women’s rights world, so I wanted to connect her to women in the present day as this journey is all connected with many different branches for people to take,” she wrote. “Many more women to come will be part of this intergenerational journey for climate justice.”
The top submissions in each category will also be featured in the next issue of Common Home.
Earth Commons is continuing to feature art and events related to intergenerational justice in the next few weeks. Learn more about their upcoming events on their website and by subscribing to their newsletter. Hoyas can also participate in Earth Month events throughout the month of April.
Editor’s Note: The featured photo is by Wolf Herztberg.