Transforming Crisis

Art Science Activism | Spring 2021

The University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center (FAC) in partnership with the Master of Fine Arts for Poets and Writers (MFA), and the School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) is hosting a semester-long series, Transforming Crisis, devoted to illuminating ecological crises and addressing climate injustice. With support from the Chancellor's Sustainability Advisory Committee, the series includes performances, readings, and discussions with prominent scholars, scientists, and artists, along with students and community members about pressing environmental issues, promising solutions, and the power of creative arts to inspire collective action.
TRANSFORMING CRISIS seeks to precipitate action, transformation, collaboration, even joy.  What can we learn from the tumult of the moment?  What is the solace of beauty? What are the possibilities of action? All free or low-cost and open to the public, these events articulate a desire to trace the connections between science, culture, activism, and the arts. They traverse the territory between art and citizenship. The series will also investigate the possibilities of action on the UMass campus and in the world.
CURRENT ACTIONS: The university has developed a Climate Action and a Carbon Mitigation Plan (video here) to bring UMass Amherst to reliance on 100% renewables campus-wide by 2032. Learn about the overall effort here and specific task forces here. If you have a UMass email address, you can read the CMP Report here. Our students who participated in the February creative writing and film workshop with artist Miwa Matreyek, have developed a call to action in response to their studies at UMass Amherst and their reflections through engaging in the workshop. The students ask that the university accelerate its commitment to 100% reliance on renewable energy to 2025. They make this call to the university administration through a petition found at this link, and ask for your support in this effort.
Find a collection of actions here that you can take now in response to the Climate Crisis!


Monday, February 1, 12 pm ET
Young People Fighting for Climate Justice

2021 James Baldwin Lecture Young People Fighting For Climate Justice Monday, February 1, 12PMVanessa Nakate and Varshini Prakash ’15, moderated by Toussaint Losier.
2021 Baldwin Lecture, Co-presented with the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

Young people have transformed the climate and environmental movement. Youth of color and youth from the Global South have been especially central in this process. Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and executive director of the Sunrise Movement Varshini Prakash ‘15 will reflect on their personal experiences in the movement and share their organizing strategy, insights, and visions for the world they’re fighting to win.

A recording of this event is available in English and Spanish.
View the entire
Planet on a Precipice: Histories and Futures of the Environmental Emergency, 2020-2021 Feinberg Series here.



Wednesday, February 17, 6 pm ET
Immuto Film Screening and Conversation

Immuto Film PosterImmuto (Change) helps stimulate the processes of intellectual, emotional, and ethical decolonization needed to change the course of the climate emergency and biocultural collapse. Shot in 2019 in Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Morocco, the EU, UK, and US (including on the UMASS campus), Immuto features stories of crisis and action told by compelling changemakers living and working on the frontlines. More than just compelling stories, however, these agents of change address viewers directly, calling for the mutual recognition and solidarity required for our varied yet interrelated struggles to safeguard our planet’s biodiversity, adapt to the rapid changes, demand climate justice, and draw down carbon. As one Ni-Vanuatu asserts, looking the viewer in the eye and prevailing on our minds and hearts, "how might we find a way to walk side by side so that together we can benefit the whole world."

A conversation with Island Reach activists & filmmakers Janis Steele, PhD & Brooks McCutchen, PhD, will follow the film 44 min. screening. Watch the trailer here.

This event including the conversation was recorded and is available to view below.

A higher quality recording of the actual film is available at the Island Reach website.

Beginning February 22, 2021, closed to the public.
“World in Shadow” Workshop Series with Miwa Matreyek

Matreyek works with UMass students to produce multimedia artworks with an ecological focus using household materials. Participants include students of the MFA for Poets & Writers in Professor Noy Holland’s graduate seminar “Art in the Anthropocene” as well as undergraduates from across campus, creating an unsual coming together of students across departments. Following the workshop, the graduate students will work with local school students using Matreyek’s techniques as part of a community serivce component to their seminar. The UMass students' artworks will be screened as part of the Fine Arts Center's screening of Matreyek's film Infinitely Yours on April 6, 2021 (please see below). This workshop is made possible with support from the Chancellor's Sustainability Advisory Committee: Sustainability, Innovation, & Engagement Fund.


Friday, March 12, 2021 & Saturday, March 13, 2021
Juniper Literary Festival

Writers from Juniper Literary Festival Juniper Festival: The World and The Word: Literature of the Ecological Crises. Produced by the UMass Amherst MFA for Poets and Writers, the Juniper Festival showcases new writing and explores issues vital to the literary arts, helping to ensure their vitality, plurality, and accessibility.

Friday, March 12, 2021, 8 pm ET    REGISTER HERE
Reading and Conversation: Toni Jensen and Juliana Spahr in conversation with Malcolm Sen.

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 8 pm ET    REGISTER HERE
Readings by Sueyuen Juliette Lee, Travis Nichols, Jason Schwartz, and Leni Zumas. A moderated conversation will follow the reading

Tuesday, March 30, 2021, 10 am ET
Presented by Global Arts Performances for Schools - Miwa Matreyek: Infinitely Yours  

This event is closed to the public, and will be offered through the Fine Arts Center's Global Arts Performances for Schools program. 

April 1, 2021 - On view April 16 - June 30, 2021
Creative People Leading Climate Action Juried Virtual Exhibition

Creative Women Leading Climate Action - A SymposiumThe climate crisis is upon us, but we still have a limited time to make an impact. Use your art to lead the way! Artists added their art, poetry, music, short story, spoken word, performance, or multidisciplinary work to show their response to the crisis, to envision a new world, and to motivate positive action. This exhibition was an invitation, open to all, of work in any medium as defined below.

Artists used their climate inspire art to:   
•    Inspire Action.   •    Capture beauty.    •    Document this time of change.
•    Help others imagine a better future.     •    Stand in solidarity with those on the front lines.
•    Mourn our collective losses.    •    Share their unique vision.    •    Showcase their hopes or dreams.

Submission Deadline: April 1, 2021 
Exhibition Dates: April 14 – June 30, 2021  
Art works are displayed through the Augusta Savage Gallery.  View the exhibition here.

Friday, April 2, 2021, 4 pm ET, Opening Performance
JuPong Lin: Poetics of Repair – Being Earth, Being Water | Digital Performance, Workshops & Exhibition

JuPong Lin and paper cranes Poetics of Repair is a participatory installation of poetry and paper cranes and canoes, concocting a medicine of decolonial love to mend our ravaged world.

Workshops will be held on Fridays, April 9 and 16, 4 pm ET.

Poetics of Repair: Being Earth, Being Water is a part of the Creative Women Leading Climate Action, a project of the Arts Extension Service, the Women of Color Leadership Network, Augusta Savage Gallery, UMass Permaculture Initiative, College of Humanities and Fine Art, and is supported by the Women’s Fund of UMass Amherst, the Department of Theater, the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF) Fund, and individual donors.

Below you can view the recorded event.


Monday, April 5, 2021, 12pm - 1pm ET. 
Artist Talk with Miwa Matreyek and The Partnership for Worker Education

Hosted by The Partnership for Worker Education, Miwa Matreyek will meet with campus staff and community to hold a talk, demonstration, and conversation during this lunchtime hour. This event will help to empower participants with inspiration, encouragement, and a creative outlet to express their emotions and desires around the climate crisis.


Monday, April 5, 2021, time 7 - 8:30 pm ET            
Amitav Ghosh, moderated by Emily Raboteau  

Amitav Ghosh Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement, will read and discuss the imaginative possibilities of climate awareness and action. Moderated by writer and activist Emily Raboteau, co-sponsored by the MFA for Poets and Writers, Orion , the Department of Comparative Literature, and the Environmental Humanities Program, the Fine Arts Center, and the School of Earth & Sustainability.



Tuesday, April 6, 2021, 7 pm ET
Miwa Matreyek: Infinitely Yours 


Miwa Matreyek's silhouette sits within the Earth representing Earth as a living organism.Throughout Infinitely Yours Miwa Matreyek’s shadow traverses macro and micro scales, as her silhouette shape-shifts to experience the world from various perspectives. An earth overflowing with trash. A person drowning in a plastic-filled ocean. A school of fish caught in a trawling net.

Further pushing her signature technique of layered projections, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Miwa Matreyek creates an emotional, dream-like meditation on climate catastrophe and the Anthropocene - the current era where human influence has effected almost all realms of earth’s natural systems.

The screening of Matreyek’s 25-minute film will open with the presentation of works created by UMass graduate and undergraduate students earlier in the semester during her Shadow Workshop series. A Q&A with Matreyek and MFA candidates Madden Aleia and Jane Feinsod will conclude the event.

Viewing the film Infinitely Yours is no longer available, but the excellent student films and discussion are still available to view below.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021, 7 pm ET
Transforming Crisis Discussion 

Drone footage of UMass researcher Jon Woodruff's field research site at Peggotty Beach in ScituateThis discussion is an opportunity to reflect back on what our community has been learning through this Transforming Crisis series. We will engage with a diverse group of panelists and embark on a thoughtful conversation about the climate crisis, what it means to our communities, and how artists, scientists, and activists can work together to propel meaningful change. The conversation will be guided by moderator Madeleine Charney (research libararian specializing in sustainability). Over the course of an hour and a half, the panelists will dig into important issues, share their experiences, and offer insight into the path forward.

Panelists will include: Miwa Matreyek (our featured artist), Malcolm Sen (sustainability scholar), Rob DeConto (climate scientist), Emmalie Dropkin (UMass MFA alum, fiction writer, teacher, and climate activist), and Lauren de la Parra (UMass Sustainability Science alum, writer, artist, and climate resilience planner). This event is co-sponsored by the MFA for Poets and Writers and the School of Earth & Sustainability.

Please feel encouraged to view this brief video describing UMass’ Carbon Mitigation Plan, which aims to bring UMass Amherst to net-zero by 2032.

Find a collection of actions here that you can take now in response to the Climate Crisis!

This event was recorded and is available to view below.


Thursday, April 22, 2021, 4 pm ET
JuPong Lin: Poetics of Repair - Being Earth, Being Water Closing Reception

JuPong LinOn Earth Day, April 22, 2021, JuPong Lin hosted a virtual tour of the co-created installation and a Story Circle and discussion about climate justice. After three Fridays of workshops (in solidarity with Fridays for Future) view the culmination of Lin's installation and the progression of community contributions.

Poetics of Repair: Being Earth, Being Water is a part of the Creative Women Leading Climate Action, a project of the Arts Extension Service, the Women of Color Leadership Network, Augusta Savage Gallery, UMass Permaculture Initiative, College of Humanities and Fine Art, and is supported by the Women’s Fund of UMass Amherst, the Department of Theater, the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF) Fund, and individual donors.    

Below you can view the recorded event.