When Climate Science Is Ignored, Try the Arts | Sojourners

When Climate Science Is Ignored, Try the Arts

College and university art museums exhibit the dangers facing our environment.
Deluge, 2000-2001, John Goto / Yale Center for British Art

At higher educational arts institutions, green has become the new black. In the last year, museums at Bowdoin College, Brown University, Princeton University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Utah, and Yale University have convened environmental and climate change-focused programming and exhibitions, with titles ranging from “Sea of Troubles: Rising Seas & Sinking Cities” to “Before the Deluge: Apocalyptic Floodscapes from John Martin to John Goto, 1789 to Now.”

The focus on nature and the dangers facing the environment raises the question: Are there unique opportunities and challenges for college and university art museums when addressing the environment? And more fundamentally: Can an art exhibit do more than simply preach—albeit beautifully—to the choir?

First and foremost, the humanities offer “effective, compelling storytelling,” according to Jeffrey J. Cohen, dean of humanities at Arizona State University, co-president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, and a teacher of environmental humanities.

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