As a university student in the early 1990’s, my partner, the writer, Glen Retief, took part in the anti-apartheid struggle in his home country of South Africa. Some of the older activists explained to him that by the early 1980’s they saw artists using their art to help the world better understand the struggle. “It was when they artists got involved we knew we were going to win,” one activist explained.
When Citizens’ Climate Education asked me to produce a monthly podcast designed to help climate advocates become better communicators, I knew I had to include a place in the show for artists. As a performance artist myself, I have seen firsthand how audiences come closer to complex and contentious issues when they are artfully presented. It is one thing to know the facts about climate change; it is quite another thing to understand what it all means for us. Artists help the public process the many strong emotions around climate change. Engaging the imagination, artists assist in envisioning the risks, challenges, and successes we must embrace on our rapidly changing planet and civilization.
One such artist is well-known here at Artists & Climate Change.
Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright originally from the province of Quebec in Canada. Her award-winning plays take on climate change. Set in the Arctic, they are beautiful, original, and are moving audiences all over the world. In her Arctic Cycle plays, she has roles for human and non-human characters. Chantal believes live theater experiences create special opportunities for audiences. She joins us for The Art House to talk about her work, the role that art plays in taking on climate change, and the need for community.
In order to address the loneliness and isolation that can come with doing creative work around global warming, Chantal created Artists & Climate Change. Through the website and in-person convening and events Chantal connects artists all over the world and helps make their work known to climate advocates. She is also committed to bringing original quality climate theater to many communities. In The Art House, Chantal talks about her work and Climate Change Theatre Action. Learn how you can easily and inexpensively host a reading of short climate plays.
(Top image: Kristan Crawford in the Kansas State University production of Forward by Chantal Bilodeau, directed by Jennifer Vellenga.)
This article is part of The Art House series.
As host of Citizens’ Climate Radio, Peterson Toscano regularly features artists who address climate change in their work. The Art House section of his program includes singer/songwriters, visual artists, comics, creative writers, and playwrights. Through a collaboration with Artists and Climate Change and Citizens’ Climate Education, each month Peterson will reissue The Art House for this blog. If you have an idea for The Art House, contact Peterson: radio @ citizensclimatelobby.org
Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.