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Director’s Desk: Fresh Talks Bridge Art & Science

Blog Category:  Director's Desk
Laura Turner Seydel, environmental advocate and eco-living expert, presents at Fresh Talk: How can the arts inspire environmental advocacy?; Photo by Yassine El Mansouri

All of us at the National Museum of Women in the Arts hope you are safe and well. This week I want to share inspiring talks by the talented, passionate speakers from our Fresh Talk series, the signature program of our Women, Arts, and Social Change public programs initiative. These dynamic conversations provide a platform for women to share creative ideas and solutions that address today’s social issues. Over the past five seasons, we have brought prominent women in the arts together with individuals in other fields for 25 creative conversations on gender, equity, art, the environment, identity, social and economic opportunity, and more. All Fresh Talks are recorded so that you can enjoy them at your leisure.

A blonde woman stands at the podium in NMWA's performance hall, speaking in front of a packed audience. On the pull-down screen to her left, a slide with the word "MUTUALISM" in all caps in displayed.
Fresh Talk speaker Natalie Jerejimenko speaks about the mutualistic relationship between humans and the natural world.

At this moment, I’m reflecting on talks that explore the intersection of art, science, and the environment. In March 2016, Natalie Jeremijenko, an artist, engineer, and program director of the Environmental Health Clinic at New York University, helped us consider the question, “Can an artist use science and technology to heal the environment?” Jeremijenko bridges art and science by “prescribing” creative health solutions for the environment, working to redesign our relationship to Earth’s natural systems.

In May 2017, we convened a group of women representing environmental and arts-based organizations to answer the question, “How can the arts inspire environmental advocacy?” Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, emphasized the power of photography and video in telling the stories of vulnerable communities living in the shadows of oil refineries, drinking contaminated water, and navigating food deserts. Miranda Massie, director of the Climate Museum, discussed how museums can use the power of art to evoke emotions, engage new audiences, and reframe the conversation about climate change to focus on hope.

Most recently, in September 2019, we hosted iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago and renowned philosopher and professor Martha C. Nussbaum on the occasion of Chicago’s newest exhibition, The End: A Meditation on Death and ExtinctionIn a wide-ranging conversation, they discussed the emotional intensity of Chicago’s artistic contemplation of her own death—and the deaths of entire animal and plant species at the hands of humans. Chicago reflected on people’s disregard for the complexity of Earth’s ecosystems and “lack of awareness about the consequences of human actions in terms of disrupting this miracle of life.”

Five diverse women pose happily in NMWA's performance hall, in front of a projected slide that says "How can the arts inspire environmental advocacy?" They smile wide, one woman points happily at the camera, and another throws up a peace sign.
Fresh Talk moderator Kari Fulton (far left) and speakers Laura Turner Seydel, Miranda Massie, Jacqui Patterson, and Amy Lipton pose after their grounding, hopeful talk about the arts and environmental advocacy.

All of these Fresh Talks demonstrate how artists can be agents of conscience in the world. During this time at home, I hope that you will find ways to immerse yourself in the arts and their ability to address the current issues we face. Please add your voices via social media using #FreshTalk4Change and tagging @WomenInTheArts. We look forward to gathering with you at the museum again, one day soon, where we can experience the power of the arts together.

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