Connected \\ April 8, 2022

Making PEM a hub for climate engagement

I’m really excited to share the planet-focused work we’re doing at PEM right now. The momentum to get to this point has been building for more than a year. By mid-April we’ll have four exhibitions on view simultaneously that have grown out of our new Climate + Environment Initiative. The museum’s multi-pronged effort features a constellation of diverse shows, digital and on-site programming, and a cross-departmental team of staff "Ideators." The goal? To make PEM a hub for climate engagement and creative environmental solutions, and to forward the museum's progress towards becoming a greener organization and community member.

Spearheading this initiative has been a powerful and humbling experience for me. A bit like drinking from a fire hose. At times the content has hit me in the solar plexus like a body slam. At other times, I have felt lifted and energized by the incredible passion and generosity of people taking this issue on, particularly youth leaders around the globe. They are sharing their vision with vulnerability and empowering hope over fear. Their actions are helping me to stay grounded and focused on what is possible in this moment, which includes the wonderful programming we’ve got coming up around Earth Day and over April School Vacation Week. It’s also why we’re partnering on April 22 and 23 with Rare, an organization focused on behavior change to tackle global conservation challenges. And it’s why we recently hosted a conversation with Jane Goodall about hope, healing and being in action at this time. You can find that video here.

One of the most important things I’ve learned through this whole process is how vital it is to be having conversations about the climate. Too few of us are talking about this critical issue. We're worrying in silence or trying not to think about it, which makes it all the more daunting. I hope that by experiencing these exhibitions and programs we can all start to feel more comfortable having conversations about climate change. And that more and more of us will come to see that we can amplify our impact by working together. There is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference right now, but we need to seize the moment like our future depends on it — which it truly does.

Below, I’ve shared a brief description of each of our current and upcoming Climate + Environment shows and programs. Through a wide array of experiences we’re hoping to provide insights into the planetary crisis, offer moments for reflection and share resources for action. I fervently hope you can make a visit to PEM in the coming months and/or explore all we have to offer in the form of virtual programming, related blogs and the PEMcast on


Silvia López Chavez recently completed a mural — incorporating both familiar New England marine animals and ocean plastic — in PEM’s Main Atrium to help kick off the exhibition Climate Action: Inspiring Change. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

Climate Action: Inspiring Change (opening April 16)
How can we transform the climate crisis into hope for our shared future? PEM’s timely exhibition brings together dynamic contemporary art, hands-on experiences and inspiring works by youth artists to help guide us toward making a difference for the planet. Developed in partnership with The Climate Museum in New York, Climate Action leverages creativity, science and participation to raise awareness about the underlying issues of climate change, focusing on known solutions — including Indigenous practices — to foster action. The goal is for each of us to move beyond our fear and feelings of helplessness and make informed choices to take positive steps forward. Collectively, as a growing community, we can take actions that will help lead to a climate-stable and environmentally-just future for all.

Down to the Bone

Stephen Gorman, Lamentation, 2017, Pigment print. Courtesy of the artist. © Stephen Gorman.

Down to the Bone (Now on view)
Award-winning nature photographer Stephen Gorman and beloved New Yorker artist Edward Koren respond to the consequences of destabilizing our natural environment in this exhibition. Originally working independently, the artists have come together in Down to the Bone to express their two very different — but mutually reinforcing — visions. The exhibition centers on the uncanny synergy between Gorman’s wildlife photographs and Koren’s drawings, lithographs, and etchings of skeletal creatures.

Gorman’s photographs were captured in Kaktovik, Alaska — an Inupiat village in the embattled Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The polar bears in Gorman’s images are climate refugees facing extinction as the arctic sea ice they depend on for survival retreats at a rapid rate.

Edward Koren drawing

Edward Koren, Goodbye, my friends, 2018. Graphite on paper. Courtesy of the artist. © Edward Koren.

Koren’s bewildered creatures, caught between fear and acceptance, occupy landscapes in which human culture has been reduced to ruins. His hapless beings suggest a profound realization of what is unraveling in front of them and speak to the folly of not caring for the environment that sustains us all.

Bernie Krause

Bernie Krause, 2021 © Masha Karpoukhina for Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.

The Great Animal Orchestra (Now on view)
Step into a deeply immersive audio-visual experience of the world’s rich biodiversity. The Great Animal Orchestra mines nearly 50 years of Bernie Krause’s recordings of natural environments and visualizes seven of them in stunning detail. Trained as a musician, Krause found animal vocalizations in the natural world to be akin to musical harmony and orchestral organization. His soundscapes reveal that each species has its own acoustic niche and that human activities are increasingly silencing these great animal orchestras. United Visual Artists (UVA) worked with Krause to visualize these recordings. This unique installation makes a plea for preserving the wondrous diversity of the animal world. A new film about Krause and his pioneering work screens daily in our Morse Auditorium.

Blue Trees

Photograph of Blue Trees. © David Brown Photography.

The Blue Trees (installation begins April 20)
Konstantin Dimopoulos’ installation is an environmental call to action. Using a biologically-safe blue watercolor and a team of community volunteers, the artist temporarily transforms a selection of trees on PEM's campus. Why blue? Dimopoulos chose this color because blue trees do not exist in nature. By doing so, he compels us to take notice of these otherworldly trees and prompts a larger conversation about the role of trees in our local environment and elsewhere on the planet — where rampant deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change and the loss of biodiversity. The harmless blue colorant will wash away over time, and the trees will gradually return to their natural state.

Earth Week: Art and Science in Action

Wednesday, April 20–Friday, April 22 | All day

Join artists and scientists to celebrate the opening of two new climate-focused exhibitions. Watch with delight as select trees on PEM's campus are transformed with the application of a brilliant blue pigment. Color your own native tree sapling to take home and plant outside, make art with Salem Sound Coastwatch, and talk with experts to learn climate-positive changes you can make in your own lives.

Climate Action
Opening Celebration

Saturday, April 23 | 9 am – 4:30 pm

Celebrate the opening of Climate Action: Inspiring Change at a special program featuring inspiring teen and student climate leaders and a preview screening of clips from PBS FRONTLINE’s documentary series The Power of Big Oil. Find art that will make you think and learn about steps you can take now in the new Climate Action exhibition. Discover climate positive behaviors at Rare’s mobile exhibit booths in the atrium, and connect with nature anew among The Blue Trees on PEM’s campus.

TOP IMAGE: Jennifer Liu. Out of Time, 2020. “Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis” contest entry. Honorable Mention, High School. Colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs Inc.

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