Firerock: Pass the Spark

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog



Lyric selection as sung by the 360 million-year-old Firerock in Sparksong from Firerock: Pass The Spark from Heart to Heart.

Firerock: Pass the Spark is a project that combines community engagement with climate change through the ancient practices of singing and storytelling. At its core is a mythical, warm-hearted, family-friendly musical production that illuminates our disconnection from ourselves, each other, and our living world, as well as the negative impacts of extractive industries. This musical storytelling project is a scalable, open-source, DIY project that anyone can produce. Performances are integrated with activities intended to build community and create spaces for dialogue and sustained collective action. Ultimately, Firerock strengthens our connections and focuses on what we can do to adapt, create resilience and solutions, and combat the worst impacts of climate change.

When I began Firerock, I decided to commit ten years of my life to the project. I set out to apply to climate change the lessons I had learned as a social engagement artist who worked around the globe with many communities including border towns (Littleglobe), homeless shelters (EU Festival of Culture), arts and hospice (Lifesongs) and many more. I was daunted by theme-based projects and yet morally compelled to do my best to bring whatever I could to the vast network of cultural expressions rising up in the face of such disaster.

Molly working with singers.

Generally, I seek to bring a spirit of experimental artmaking to my work and I tend to focus on the cultivation of a few key conditions: 1) The experience of healthy and dignifying relationships; 2) Feeling connected to something larger than ourselves; and 3) Forms for meaningful participation. While there are many more conditions I care about fostering in social practice, I have found that these three have been essential for the kind of work that I am most interested in – namely personal and social healing through creative vitality. Firerock is an expression of this.

Many of us who are called to address climate change know it is an effort woven from heart and commitment. I had been working as an artist-composer, professor, and activist, creating art and social engagement projects for many years. So I started where I often start – by writing music. Working with my collaborator, Luis Guerra, we birthed the beginnings of Firerock in New Mexico. Soon, a group of immensely committed collaborative artists and cultural workers came together to make the Firerock team. Over the past years, we have taken a deep dive together and have done our best to create something that would pierce what we call in Firerock, The Snooze, the thick slumber of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and our planet. We set out to create something that would inspire a sense of possibility, and lead to sustained engagement and solutions. We have done this together and with hundreds of people from different communities through generative workshops. Firerock is a form of creative social evolution itself.

Firerock has been developed in workshops at universities, high schools, churches, with First Nations communities, coal miners and many others. The project will launch in New Mexico in the fall 2017 with a production and release of three DIY forms. We have focused on creating a story that captures the heart and imagination, and can hold up as each place makes it its own. Our small team works with local organizers and regional and national partners to create educational materials to support local DIY Firerockers. We are careful not to remake forms that have been so carefully created by others.

Reciprocity – NYC Workshop 2014 from Firerock Musical on Vimeo.

The attempt to make something as broad as climate feel intimate has been a great challenge. We often get compared to the Vagina Monologues in terms of the structure of the project. It must be stated, however, that everyone has a pretty good sense of a vagina. Climate, on the other hand, can feel very distant, abstract, and overwhelming. Artist of all kinds have tackled this in many ways as it is the power of our path – to make the world intimate. Many artists are documenting the wreckage and insanity growing around us. This approach is absolutely vital as part of a spectrum of creative expressions required for change. Our team, however, is interested in participatory story-making, and how our stories come alive through engagement – not simply through encountering the story. We want to give life to remembered, renewed, and new narratives that are truly regenerative.

Through the development of this project, some team members have stayed steady and solid, and others have come and gone. There have been delays. Deaths, babies, marriages, divorces, and other life events have happened and changed us. Each member has shown immense commitment and care. Funders and partners have been supportive, or at times, have gotten frustrated. Mistakes have been made. For a mostly volunteer team, working professionally around the globe, we have not been daunted but we have repeatedly needed to examine our commitments at different times and identify what we can and cannot do. This is an important process particularly when we are working in the realm of what is sustainable for all of us.

Institute for American Indian Arts Firerock Engagement Workshop.

This project has many challenges. These challenges, together with our current political assaults, demand that we learn and grow better as a team and as a community through a process of trial and error. Since there are no simple solutions, the challenges make us increasingly clear and precise. For this, I am grateful. During the challenges – whether we are wrangling with the ins and outs of climate justice storytelling, funding, team issues, a difficult musical transition, personal ebbs and flows, fatigue, and more – I often return to what gives me the most joy… and that is the songs, the story and the unique way I have seen small communities take the work and make it their own. I never fail to see immense resource, power, and creativity in individuals and communities and I am reminded that inspiration and heart-felt connection can carry us a long, long way.


Molly Sturges (artistic director/facilitator/composer/performer/activist/and creativity consultant) has worked with individuals & communities around the globe for over twenty years focusing on creativity, healing, and social transformation. Sturges is the founding artistic director of Littleglobe, a diverse artist collaborative devoted to arts and social transformation, and both Lifesongs (an intergenerational arts, aging, and hospice program) and the Institute for Living Story at the Academy for the Love of Learning. Molly is a United States Artist Fellow in Music and served for six years on the faculty of the University of New Mexico’s Arts & Ecology program.


About Artists and Climate Change:

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.

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