Artists for Climate Awareness is an organization devoted to informing the Bloomington community about the urgency of environmental protection and the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
“Art can influence people in ways that words can't,” cofounder Carol Rhodes said. “We want to increase awareness and action.”
According to the Artists for Climate Awareness website, studies have shown art and visual representations have a more significant effect on changing people’s minds than simply using words.
For instance, local artist Chandra Rettinger uses recycled materials to spread awareness about coral bleaching. As global warming increases, the ocean temperature rises, resulting in damaging coral bleaching, which leaves coral colorless and weak.
On four blue-painted boards, Rettinger attached coral shapes cut from recycled plastic lids of red, orange, yellow and white. The warm colors of the coral lids represent the coral that is still alive, still able to contribute to a healthy sea ecosystem. The white coral lids represent the percentage of coral reefs at-risk due to bleaching.
Artists for Climate Awareness was founded in March 2022 by watercolor artists Rhodes of Bloomington, Indiana, and Carol Carter of St. Louis, Missouri. Their collaboration began at a workshop for the Bloomington Watercolor Society in 2021, where the two artists discussed their roles in addressing the climate crisis. Recognizing the power of their shared expertise, Rhodes and Carter concluded that leveraging their artistic talents was the most effective way to contribute to the cause.
“If we can use that expression to bring awareness to people about the onset of global warming and the dangers that it's doing to us, I think that’s change,” Rhodes said.
Now, the Artists for Climate Awareness has over 70 contributing members from 11 states nationwide. The members work in varying artistic mediums, including watercolor, acrylic paint, pastels, ceramics and sculpting. While all of the members are currently visual artists, the group hopes to recruit performance artists as well.
The nonprofit holds six to ten workshops a year where it facilitates the creation of nature-inspired art. The workshops are taught in all forms of media.
During each workshop, an environmental specialist is invited to teach the class about a specific climate issue.
On Oct. 27, the organization held a watercolor workshop where participants learned to paint native Indiana trees. Julie Roberts was the environmental specialist at the event. As the education and outreach committee chair of Canopy Bloomington, an organization devoted to sustainably managing urban forests, Roberts led a presentation on the importance of native trees.
Sara McQueen is the secretary of Artists for Climate Awareness. She is proficient in acrylic paint, watercolor, print making, and drawing.
“Climate awareness is really trying to reach people right where they are,” McQueen said. “We need ways to not be overwhelmed and feel despair. Pick up a leaf and just think about the tree. It can bring us in to find what our own inspiration is.”
While the ultimate goal of Artists for Climate Awareness is to target global warming, Rhodes also said they try to meet people where they are. While some may not understand the pressing matter of climate change, most people can comprehend the need to protect nature, she said.
“Environmental concern is just a gateway to greater things,” Rhodes said. “If you do have a concern about trees, or your gardening, or birds, or butterflies, or whatever it is that hits your heart, eventually you’re going to get around to what’s happening with the climate.”
Artists for Climate Awareness also hosts events. They have held art shows at the Waldron Arts Gallery and the Arts Alliance Center to bring awareness to conservation and climate efforts.
Their next goal is to encourage the younger demographic to join their cause. While the majority of members belong to an older generation, the organization is committed to creating a better world for the succeeding generations.
Rhodes said they plan to organize student-focused workshops with opportunities to display their artwork online and at on-locaion shows. In April, Artists for Climate Awareness will have a gallery show that student members can enter as well.
The regular annal membership fee is $35 and students have a discounted fee of $15.
“We need to get some more youth involved,” Rettinger said. “It’s going to be their planet.”