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With Community, Artist Brigade, Field Trip, Commission, Theatrical Research

A Year with the Artist Brigade – A Report by Dr. Carolyne Clare

Executive Summary: Bringing Artists to the Climate Crisis by Kendra Fanconi

In this age, characterized by ecological devastation, paralysing climate anxiety and grief in the citizenry, art has an important role to play. Art can unpack the complex emotional underpinnings of the ecological emergency, melt anxiety and open the door to action for our citizenry.

The Artist Brigade started with the observation that there were many artists who cared deeply about climate and wanted to make art on the subject but experienced barriers that prevented them from doing so. These barriers included apathy, fear, isolation, grief and a lack of understanding of art’s role in the climate emergency.  It’s not that artists don’t want to do something, it’s that they don’t know what they can do. The Artist Brigade sought to work through these barriers and support artists in making work with inventive and revolutionary responses to the climate crisis.

The Artist Brigade:

In 2021-22, The Only Animal led a 100-member cohort through a year-long dramaturgical process, including workshops and weekly engagements that helped artists reconsider their work in relation to climate change. A key premise of their effort is that climate art is more effective when it moves away from instructing publics on behavior, and instead seeks to transform its audiences at the level of identity, core values, worldview, and belonging.

Our Research:

This report considers how successful the Artist Brigade was in supporting the creation of transformational art throughout their entire process including:

1) Recruitment;

2) Greenhouse workshop;

3) Field Trips;

4) Pitches;

5) Commissioned Art;

6) Follow-up Activities in 2022-23.

Key Findings:

  • When asked how this work impacted Participants’ climate anxiety, our respondents reported the following positive changes: learning that art matters in climate action (42%), finding community (28%), addressing grief (6%), and learning facts (5%)
  • One reason that artists applied to the Artist Brigade was to learn from Indigenous artists, and the Indigenous-led sessions were one of the most appreciated aspects of Greenhouse
  • 77% of the artists indicated their intention to make climate-engaged art immediately
  • The Artist Brigade process changed 92% of the participants’ artistic processes by:
    •  building community (41%),
    • by learning new methods and approaches (27%),
    • and conveying art is important to climate action (14%)

Report Authors:

Carolyne Clare is a Postdoctoral Fellow at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health (currently on maternity leave). She earned a PhD in English from Simon Fraser University in 2020 with support from a Vanier Scholarship. Her doctoral research focused on the co-stewardship of Indigenous dance archives and belongings held by BC cultural institutions. Carolyne is a dancer who trained with Ballet Ouest de Montréal and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and she has performed in countless Casse-Noisette in Montréal and Toronto.

Alana Gerecke: Based in Vancouver, on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Sḵwx̱w.7mesh, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, səlilwətaɬ nations, Alana Gerecke (PhD) is an independent scholar, artist, and post-secondary educator of mixed European descent. Her research on the spatial politics of site-specific performance and urban choreographies feeds her dancing, performance making, writing, teaching, and parenting. www.alanagerecke.com


DATE: May 2023

VENUE: Various locations

WITH: (Facilitated by) hiwus, Calvin Craigon, Colin Cooper, Lucero González Ruiz, Tasha Faye Evans, Sean Holman, Oliver Lane, Sharon Kallis, Czarina Lobo, Meghan Innes, David Maggs, Tara Moreau, Ross Muirhead, Lisa Cooke Ravensbergen, Quelemia Sparrow, Tim Turner, Katia Tynan, Sherry Yano

Report by

Dr. Carolyne Clare, with contributions by Alana Gerecke. Edited by Shannon Cuykendall

Based on the Artist Brigade created by

Kendra Fanconi, with support of Colin Cooper, Brenda Leadlay, Lisa Goebel, Anthony Liam Kearns, and Lara Aysal

Artist Brigade

Mohammed Zaquot, Wen Wen Cherry Lu, Matthew Ariaratnam, Sunkosi (Suna) Galay-Tamang, Kimberly Skye Richards, Kelly McInnes

With the Generous Support

Vancouver Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, and City of Vancouver