August ’18 Newsletter: Words on Paper: Combining Science, Policy, and the Arts!

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Words on Paper, a 2018 grant, is the brain child of Environmental Sciences Professor Deborah Lawrence. The concept involves undergraduate students studying the development of climate science history and climate policy history. With this knowledge, students create interactive art of key texts (“engagement experiments”) to share with the community on Grounds and eventually in Charlottesville high schools. Combining experiment with performance art, students will guide others through our country’s climate story, ultimately curating a series of art shows based on these shared experiences. The project has already started on Grounds, but funding from the Jefferson Trust will aide in taking the concept into area schools.

This past spring, tables were setup around Grounds asking people to participate in writing about the climate story, choosing from various prompts such as sharing a fact about the history of climate science, policy history, why they care about climate change, or how they are modifying their effect on climate change. Then, the class displayed these written responses in the Mural Room at Clark Hall, encouraging people to continue to add their thoughts on climate policy and change as the art was on display. Environmental Sciences Professor Scott Doney commented that the exhibit was “a good way of engaging people in an optimistic way and breaking down the polarizing debate that often surrounds discussions about climate change.”

The art installation was only the first step in this project according to Professor Lawrence. Next, the class took the pieces of paper from the exhibit in Clark and created art as a group project. “We’re going to show the potential impacts of climate change if action isn’t taken,” shared one student. Along with the art, the class participated in the Earth Week Expo, and the project will be taken off Grounds to work with area high schools to further share the climate story. “So far, we’ve touched 1,000 people, and we hope to go even further,” commented Professor Lawrence.