Through “The Power of Art” presentation, contemporary artist Karen Lynn Ingalls is showing young people how they can teach other people about climate change through creativity and art.
“You have learned about what climate change is and how it impacts us,” Ingalls told Napa High School environmental science and art students shortly before summer break. “Some of you have been taking steps to do what you can to make people more aware and lessen its impact. Thank you.”
“If you want to do more to reach people and teach them, creativity can give you the effective tools to do that,” she said.
Ingalls is familiar with using art as a tool to protect the environment. She first learned about the impact creative projects can have on the environment 20 years ago.
At the time, Ingalls was part of a small group of painters who began painting in protest of the planned development of a “significant and sensitive” wetlands area.
“This is the painting that helped stop a development that would have seriously impacted the health of the Monterey Bay,” Ingalls told the students. “Our work called attention to the project and the importance of the place. The Audubon Society declared it a national treasure and the development was halted. Today it is an internationally known destination for bird watchers.”
Fast-forward nearly two decades and, after losing her art studio in the Tubbs Fire, Ingalls created new paintings with the ashes of the old ones. Showing this work, she shared a little about the impact of the fire on herself and others who were hurt by it. As well as helping her “rise again” from her loss, the paintings and the video “moved people.”
Ingalls has been involved with various community-based art projects. Throwing her talent and her energy into these projects, she pulls as many people as possible into them. The Grateful Hearts Project, creating heart-themed artwork to thank first-responders and organizations that helped Calistoga during and after the fires is her most recent.
As she talked, Ingalls, a former high school English teacher, reinforced her words with visuals from slides and videos. Even though it was the last period of the school day and the room was crowded, the students were engaged with her message and listened attentively.
Ingalls pointed out that painting was one way to use art as a tool to fight climate change. There are many.
She talked about the importance of photography in documenting climate change and showed them a trailer of filmmaker Jeff Frost’s “California on Fire,” James Balog’s time-lapse photography that captures the rapidly melting ice and film director Jeff Orlowski’s “Chasing Ice.”
The students received instruction on installation art with examples by Christo and Jeanne Claude and were referred to art.350.org for “how to” information.
She covered performance art using Jaanika Peerma as an example.
When the students saw the Greenpeace film of Ludovico Einaudi, playing “Elegy for the Arctic” on a grand piano that is floating in the Arctic, they learned that music is a powerful way to reach people’s emotions.
Besides the notes of the piano the sound of wind could be heard while the camera captured both close ups of his solitary concert as well as the surrounding ice and water.
The words “Please save the arctic” appeared with this video clip.
They were also exposed to “A Song of Our Warming Planet.” In this video, cellist Daniel Crawford communicates the latest in climate science using a method called “data personification” that coverts global temperature records over 133 years into a series of musical notes.
Afterward, “The Sound of Climate Change from the Amazon to the Artic,” using Crawford’s “data personification” was played by a string quartet from the University of Minnesota.
Ingalls’ objective was to both challenge and inspire students to find a way they could use some form of art to teach others — perhaps younger children — about global warming.
In advance of the presentations at the school, Ingalls had coordinated her lesson material with Napa High School environmental science teacher, Rob Kohl, and art teacher, Kristi Crickmore.
Crickmore’s students’ final art project was done in response to Ingalls “The Power of Art” presentation, and she selected four of their pieces to share with Napa Valley Register readers.
Ingalls told students that there are many effective ways to “reach” and “teach” people about climate change. Creativity can include images, storytelling, video and film and music.
She reminded students that using creativity in raising awareness of protecting our environment is a transformational agent that has a positive impact on the creator. It “touches the hearts” of people, influences, gets the message across and it can create change in society.
She mentioned a sand sculpture in Texas with a hand holding an ice cream cone. The caption reads “the ice is melting.”
“The ice cream is the earth,” she said. “It kind of brings it home.”