The Future is Now
Art Sustainability Activism 2021-22

The UMass Fine Arts Center, the MFA for Poets and Writers, and the School of Earth and Sustainability, are working to create deliberate opportunities to connect artists, scientists, and changemakers. We learn from each other. Together, we reckon with climate change, elevating awareness, recognizing climate grief, and catalyzing meaningful change. Learn more.

Event Listing

Saturday, March 26, 2022 | 1 p.m. Augusta Savage Gallery | Free event
Eco Lit: Readings from Paperbark magazine and The Massachusetts Review  

paperbark cover image and title Paperbark , a collaborative and interdisciplinary magazine shepherded by students, faculty, and staff across the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, publishes criticism, art, poetry, and prose engaged with the environmental humanities. Paperbark will celebrate the launch of Issue 03, in conjunction with the publication of The Massachusetts Review's climate issue Recent contributors to each magazine will read from their work: poetry and prose that shed light on ecologies in crisis. We'll open the floor to questions generated by the audience following the reading. 

Artwork by Michelle Samour


Saturday, March 26, 2022 | 6 p.m. John Olver Design Building | Free event
Eco Lit: Kimberly Blaeser

Kim BlaeserPoet and prose writer Kimberly Blaeser will read from past and current work. Formerly the Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Blaeser is the author of five poetry collections including Copper Yearning, Apprenticed to Justice, and Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor and MFA faculty for Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Blaeser is founding director of In-Na-Po—Indigenous Nations Poets. Santee Frazier, visiting faculty in poetry in the MFA for Poets and Writers, will moderate a Q&A following the reading.


Sunday, March 27, 2022  |  4 p.m. Frederick C. Tillis Concert Hall
Small Island Big Song

Small Island Big SongDeveloped over three years from visits to 16 island nations, Small Island Big Song is a stunning collaboration reuniting the distant yet interconnected musical traditions of the Pacific and Indian oceans. The resulting work is a contemporary and relevant musical statement of a region on the frontline of cultural and environmental challenges. By combining music, dance and film, eight musicians and vocalists from Taiwan, Rapa Nui, Madagascar, Mauritius, Marshall Islands, and Tahiti will recreate the recorded project featuring over a hundred artists for the stage. A multicultural treat for the whole family.


Monday, March 28, 2022 | 10 a.m. Frederick C. Tillis Concert Hall | Open to school audiences only
Small Island Big Song - Global Arts Performances for Schools

Small Island Big SongSmall Island Big Song, a stunning multimedia collaboration that reunites the distant yet interconnected musical traditions of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Eight musicians and vocalists from Taiwan, Rapa Nui, Madagascar, Mauritius, Marshall Islands, and Tahiti share the cultural and environmental challenges faced by a region of rising sea levels.

*Please note school performances are not open to the public.


Monday, March 28, 2022 | 7 p.m. Bowker Auditorium | Free event
Art. Sustainability. Activism. Panel Discussion

Small Island Big SongContinuing our annual partnership with the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability and the MFA Program for Poets and Writers. Please join us for this meeting of minds working at the intersection of climate change, literature, and social justice.

This event will feature a lively discussion that connects an exciting mix of scientists, artists, changemakers, and scholars.  Topics will include climate impacts on culture, the power of Indigenous knowledge, and how science and art communities can work together to address the pressing issues of our time.

Featured guests include international artists from Small Island Big Song.


March 28 - April 27, 2022 | Free events
Opening Reception: Monday, March 28, 5-7 p.m. 

Image by Kabu MBII Large-scale paintings created as a response to social, political and world events. Fueled by political and social upheavals, war, chaos and degradation of our environment, Kabu MBII's paintings explore the world and humanity, "removing the veil of illusion of its current state."



Events from earlier this season

September 10 - October 20, 2021
Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 5-7 p.m. | Guest speakers at 6 p.m.
Rising Waters/Blazing Earth - Zea Mays Printmaking & Students of HFA

Zea Mays Printmaking Associated with the pan-global art project, Extraction: Art on the Edge of the Abyss, this exhibition features multimedia printmaking works by member artists about the political, social, and personal issues related to natural resource exploitation—its forms and its consequences, including its effect on art making and human life.

This exhibition will feature prints by students of HFA opening October 4 in the gallery annex with a reception from 5-7 p.m.

Since its inception in 2000, the core mission of Zea Mays Printmaking (ZMP) is to facilitate the creation of artwork that utilizes methods that focus on environmental sustainability and non-toxic materials. The membership of ZMP is a community of working artists united around a common commitment to create substantive art while attempting to rectify the toxicity of printmaking materials that are most often pillaged from our environment. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021  |  1 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Zoom
"Our Community Has Boundaries: LA's Asian and Latina Immigrant Women Activists on Embodiment, Race, Class, and Morality" -- Talk by Professor Nadia Kim
Professor of Asian & Asian American Studies (and Sociology) at Loyola Marymount University  Register Here

Immigrants of color are increasingly suffering hyper-pollution and alarming rates of asthma and cancer due to their residence near diesel-spewing shipping ports, freeways, and rail yards, while we buy the goods we buy at big box stores that hail from China and other manufacturing nations. Nadia Kim chronicles how Asian and Latina immigrant women activists for environmental justice in Los Angeles redefine racism and classism as a result of their struggles with environmental racism and classism and their specific social positionings under neoliberal capitalism and white supremacy.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021  |  7 p.m. - 10 p.m. Zoom
The Climate Crisis: A Reading and Discussion by the Massachusetts Review

The Massachusetts Review , with guest editors Noy Holland and Roy Scranton, will release a special issue focused on the climate crisis, climate refugees, and eco-literature. The special issue is composed of writers from many countries who confront aspects of climate change in a variety of genres—poetry, manifestos, essays, stories, and hybrid forms. To celebrate the launch of the issue, the Massachusetts Review will host a virtual reading with contributors Gina Apostol, Joseph Earl Thomas, Shailja Patel, and Omar El Akkad, alongside guest editors Roy Scranton and Noy Holland. Registration for the online event can be found here.


February 1 - April 15, 2022 | Free events
An Itchy Sorrow, The Nectar of Dreams: Margie Rothermich

Artist Reception: Sunday, February 6, 1-3 p.m., Zoom  Image by Margie Rothermich

An Itchy Sorrow, The Nectar of Dreams is a body of work that explores the underlying sorrow behind the loss of our natural environment and the loss of diversity of animal and plant life on the earth. In conjunction with the loss of our connectedness to one another during the pandemic, the artist explores the psychological impact of the threat of the loss of our ability to live on earth. This work investigates the quiet life of dreams and our deep desire to reconnect with the natural world.


January 24 - March 11, 2022 | Free events
Curators' Talk: Monday, January 31, 6 p.m., Zoom

Closing Reception: Friday, March 4, 5-7 p.m. 
Theater of the Streets: Social Landscapes Throught the Lens of Jill Freedman

Welcome to New York by Jill Freedman Street photographer Jill Freedman (1939 – 2019) spent her life with her lens towards the fringes, where she felt a deep affinity with the marginalized and the downtrodden. Though her most popular works focus on social and political movements such as the Gay Liberation Movement and the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, Freedman’s work is inclusive and wide-ranging. As a street photographer, Freedman was closely connected to her subjects and her setting. This exhibit will take you through these “scapes,” focusing on representations of power, time and change, sound and movement, and Jill herself. In doing so, this exhibit will show viewers Freedman’s undeniable artistry in documenting scenes of struggle, heartbreak, justice, and triumph. 


More about Art. Sustainability. Activism.

“We intend for this annual art, science, and humanities partnership to reflect society’s best efforts to address the climate crisis,” says Michael Sakamoto, performing arts programming curator at the UMass Fine Arts Center. “And we want to show creativity at the center of any solution.”

“Artists translate experience into the language of dance, the language of poetry, the language of image and music,” says MFA professor Noy Holland. “A poet is a maker, a visionary who transforms the real — even the hard reality of data — into a vision of what is possible. This transdisciplinary series creates a prism in which what is possible becomes imaginable, both the horrific and the hopeful. The prism is the prism of empathy, the necessary imaginative act.”

“With the unprecedented global challenges before us, it is clear that science alone will not provide the solutions,” says Curt Griffin, co-director for the School of Earth and Sustainability. “It will take fostering new transdisciplinary partnerships and assembling creative teams that fuse together arts, sciences, humanities, innovation, and culture. Our partnership with FAC and MFA is an example of how we advance the conversation towards a more just and sustainable future.”

CURRENT ACTIONS: The university has developed Climate Action Plan and a Carbon Mitigation Plan (video here) to bring UMass Amherst to reliance on 100 percent 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.