Connected \\ May 9, 2023
Finding Our Place in the Climate Action Story
The Role of Place
The city of Salem is filled with stories of hardship as well as courage, creativity and adventure. It’s a meeting place of land and sea – a beautiful and fragile landscape where past, present and future convene. This local geography is becoming increasingly important as our climate begins to take more dramatic turns. Here at PEM, we are exploring ways to respond to the climate crisis and build a positive future. This commitment is taking shape through climate-themed exhibitions and programs, community engagement projects, operational changes and the development of a staff-led working group, all falling under PEM's Climate+Environment Initiative.
As manager of PEM’s Art & Nature Center, I have the joy of working directly with artists to create meaningful educational programs about these efforts. Our recent April School Vacation Week celebrated Earth Week and featured artists from our current exhibition Climate Action: Inspiring Change. The show highlights artists and scientists who have a connection to our local region and work deeply with topics relating to climate education and climate justice.
April School Vacation Week: Art + Science in Action
During the week, we had a dynamic lineup of artists and community partners who provided engaging programs. We also welcomed Rare's Shifting the Climate Culture pop-up exhibition and had conversations about electric vehicles, regenerative agriculture, solar power and land conservation.
Visitors of all ages enjoyed learning about where to find electric charging stations in Massachusetts–just one of many topics featured in Rare’s Shifting the Climate Culture pop-up exhibition! Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
The week began with workshops and drop-in art making sessions with climate data scientist and artist Jill Pelto. Pelto grew up in Massachusetts and lived in Maine before moving to Richland, Washington, where she now paints and engages broad audiences with climate change graphs. “I thought it would be a good idea to include graphs that demonstrate negative trends (sea surface temperature rise in the Gulf of Maine) as well as positive trends (the increase in National Wildlife Refuge acreage in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire),” Pelto explained.
Jill Pelto with her work, Replanting Resilience (Diptych), 2021. Watercolor, colored pencil, and data on paper. Commissioned by the Peabody Essex Museum, 2021. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Children and families who attended Pelto’s workshop were invited to trace graphs onto watercolor paper and paint their own climate stories. As chatter began to buzz around the tables, it was beautiful to witness how art and science invited participants of all ages into new conversations.
Drum maker David Greendeer (Narragansett and Ho-chunk) was joined by his brother Cameron Greendeer (Narragansett and Ho-chunk) and family in a powerful singing and dancing performance and workshop. David Greendeer and Nelson Andrews, Jr. are collaborating artists whose Wampanoag Hand Drum – SuperHero Series, 2021-present, is featured in Climate Action: Inspiring Change.
David Greendeer and Greendeer family leading visitors in a closing circle dance. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Even the Atrium Café celebrated Earth Week by partnering with Rare’s food communication specialist to feature a delicious plant-based menu. One guest told me “the mushroom banh mi was the best sandwich of my life!” We also were fortunate to have local vegan bakery Jodi Bees Bakes there to share an educational display with samples of delicious vegan egg rolls and mac and cheese. Jodi Bee’s table also featured microgreens and a mushroom “petting zoo” sourced from The Beverly Farms.
Other April Happenings: PEM’s First Freecycle Swap Party!
A creative and varied array of items donated by cross-departmental teams at PEM. Photo by Lora Doughty/PEM.
Though April School Vacation Week is now behind us, the work of the Climate + Environment Initiative continues to gain momentum. Just last week, PEM staff members were invited to participate in PEM’s first Freecycle Swap Party on April 27. The global movement known as freecycling is another way to recycle and reduce your consumption. Sharing unwanted items for free helps keep useful stuff out of the landfill, while choosing a gently used item demands less manufacturing resources and carbon costs than purchasing something new. This event was one of the many efforts generated from the staff working group to encourage PEM employees to actively engage in sustainability while strengthening cross-departmental bonds.
Throughout the day, staff dropped off their old board games, books, dishes and other items and discovered new treasures. Many departments jumped in with both feet – the Education team sent some well-loved children’s books to new homes, and our Exhibition & Design colleagues shared a stash of partial cans of paint recognizable from the walls of previous museum exhibitions! Everything remaining at the end of the event was donated to a local thrift store.
Art & Nature Center Program Specialist Dillian McGathey had the bright idea to donate the remaining paint to the New Liberty School for an upcoming Jackson-Pollock-inspired art project. As we continue to organize future Freecycle events, we intend to expand our donations to include additional Salem and North Shore community organizations.
The success of these April programs and staff-led projects speaks to the culture we are fostering at PEM. We are excited to keep collaborating with passionate artists and scientists from our regional, national and global creative communities. Together, our actions can make a positive impact on our future.
Jennifer Liu, Out of Time, 2020. Colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Inc.
Climate Action: Inspiring Change is on view through June 25, 2023.