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Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, talks about grants recently awarded to the Center for the Arts during Wesleyan's Earth Day celebration.
Posted 05.02.07

Feet to the Fire Explores Global Climate Change from Science to Art

Wesleyan's Center for the Arts (CFA) received a $200,000 grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in support of a project titled Feet to the Fire that will combine the teaching power of art and field science to help students and the community better understand the implications of global climate change.

One of only eight grants given through the Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program, the multidisciplinary project is funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that challenges campus-based performing arts presenters to integrate their programs more organically within the academic environment.

Feet to the Fire will: 1) address the need for a deeper understanding of issues surrounding global climate change through multiple lenses; 2) use art as a catalyst for innovative thinking, scientific exploration and student engagement; and 3) galvanize campus and community collaboration by having campus-based artists and non-artists share research methods, pedagogies and modes of inquiry on a single research topic.

Visiting choreographer, director and conceptual artist Ann Carlson will conceptualize Feet to the Fire and work with a project management team at Wesleyan to execute each component.

“I look forward to understanding the science, the politics, the predictions, the resistances, the messy mixture of capitalism and environmental policies as well as personal issues of longevity, sustainability, individualism, deep denial of death, urbanity, industrial production, and in general the impact of our lives on the life of our planet,” Carlson says.

Along with Carlson, the project management team will include Pamela Tatge, director of the CFA, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. Project strands will also be developed in collaboration with Middletown community partners, the Green Street Arts Center and the Jonah Center for Earth and Art and consortium partner, the Center for Creative Research.

“Feet to the Fire will be an extraordinary opportunity for all three divisions and the Middletown community to explore a common topic together: the implications of global climate change,” says Pam Tatge, pictured at left, director of the Center for the Arts. “I'm excited to work with Barry Chernoff, Ann Carlson, faculty members and our community partners in the coming months to shape the project which will kick-off next January, and hope to engage as many people as possible in the work."

Project components will be refined during the planning phase (April – December 2007) and will be implemented between January 2008 and June 2009. Project components will include:

• The creation of a course co-taught by Carlson and Chernoff resulting in earth-based performance works created in situ by artists and scientists. In 2008, the site for the course will be the landfill in Middletown’s North End. In 2009, the site will be tropical forests in Guyana.
• The integration of arts pedagogies and research methods as a means of understanding global warming’s implications in various fields including: anthropology, economics and environmental studies.
• The integration of campus scientists of global climate change and their pedagogies into three existing music department courses. Coursework will be served by commissioning a composer who works on the intersection of sound and the natural world to expose their process of research to students and faculty.
• The creation of a common experience for first year students using arts research and practice methods to illuminate issues of global climate change. Culminating events will take place on campus and in the community.
• The collaboration with the Jonah Center to draw attention to the landfill in Middletown’s North End, including the commissioning of a visual artist to create a work there, and the integration of a global climate change unit into the arts/science track at Green Street’s after school program.

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations.