From the Ground Up
Art Sustainability Activism 2023-24

The UMass Fine Arts Center, the MFA for Poets and Writers, and the School of Earth & 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.
Please visit our Calls To Action page for climate actions you can make today both in your individual life and in community.

Event Listing

Thursday, September 14, 2023, 4 p.m. | South College E470 | Free event
The Essential Role of Social Mobilization in Confronting The Climate Crisis
Watch the recorded talk here (73 min)

Adam Aron Despite all we know about the causes and harms of global heating, why has so little effective action been taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and what can we do to change that?

In his presentation, Dr. Adam Aron argues that, even with the advent of the Inflation Reduction Act, the pathway to stopping dangerous global heating will require a much larger social mobilization of advocacy and activism to impel decision-makers to abandon fossil fuels, and transition to renewable energy and electrification embedded in a political and social framework guided by justice principles.

Climate activist and professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, Adam Aron will discuss insights from his book The Climate Crisis . Aron’s research and teaching focus is on the social science of collective action on the climate crisis. His climate activism has been through the Green New Deal at UC San Diego where he has worked on several campaigns such as ElectrifyUC and has also produced the documentary Coming Clean: A Demand for a Fossil Free UC . Before switching to the climate crisis, Adam had a successful career in cognitive neuroscience.

Wednesday, October 11, 4 p.m. | ILC240 | Free event
Understanding the Science and the Policies Behind the Climate Crisis and What We Can Do About It

Shaina SadaiClimate scientist and activist Dr. Shaina Sadai will share the latest science and discuss policy work to reckon with the climate crisis.  As an UMass alum and current Hitz Fellow for Litigation-Relevant Science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dr. Sadai’s career is dedicated to understanding the science and how humans have altered the climate leading to the impacts we see today such as rising temperatures and sea levels. Her work now addresses how we translate our knowledge into policies, programs, and societal change that meet the needs of this global moment.

Dr. Sadai's fellowship is focused on exploring climate attribution of sea level rise and global methane emissions. Following from her prior research into sea level rise, climate justice, and the goals of the United Nations Paris Agreement, she is particularly interested in how international law can be applied to the changes sea level rise will bring. In addition to her research into sea level rise at the intersections of science, policy, and political power, she has also worked on sea level rise from the perspective of multispecies climate justice.

Dr. Sadai is also an award-winning professor and has developed university level courses on climate change and climate justice and conducted research into the educational benefits of interdisciplinary climate education. She earned her PhD at UMass Amherst in the Department of Earth, Geographic, and Climate Sciences.

Thursday, October 12 2023, 4 p.m. | Bromery Center for the Arts Lobby | Free event
Art Sustainability Activism Interdisciplinary Discussion

Ashley Eliza Williams painting Join featured artist Sirintip, Dr. Shaina Sadai of the Union of Concerned Scientists and others in this meeting of minds working at the intersection of climate change, science, literature, performing arts, and social justice.
This discussion will be moderated by UMass professor Malcolm Sen.

Image by Ashley Eliza Williams.


Saturday, October 14, 2023, 3 p.m. | Goodell Lawn | Free event

Sirintip, woman wearing yellow sunglasses wearing white shirt seated behind electronic musical equipment on stage. Photo taken at GroundUP Festival by Brian Friedman.This solar-powered, carbon-neutral concert is open to the public and presented as part of Family Weekend at UMass Amherst. Thai-Swedish multimodal artist, singer and producer Sirintip creates works that center climate action through empathy and meaningful connections. Ethereal but impassioned, Sirintip’s vocals move nimbly across sophisticated harmony, soar over dense walls of sound, and pulse through rhythmic modulations. Through her work, Sirintip seeks to create bridges of empathy. She aims to uncover and create connections through her music and her interdisciplinary works, arriving at moments of greater understanding. Over the next seven years she plans to shift her entire creative process into a sustainable practice. Featuring new music commissioned by Fine Arts Center in tribute to world-famous composer and climate activist Ryuichi Sakamoto.
This event is part of the Asian and Asian American Arts and Culture Program.


Monday, October 16, 1 - 4 p.m. | Location TBA | Free ticket required
Third Act Community Organizing Workshop with B Fulkerson

Third Act Vermont elder activists with signs Third Act is the first large-scale effort to organize older Americans for progressive action. In this workshop, Third Act leaders, including B Fulkerson, will discuss the unique role that older Americans can play using their life experiences, skills, and resources in the climate movement. The workshop will also explore how to build an irresistible, all-volunteer community of elders who back up youth who are on the frontlines of stabilizing democracy and the climate.


Monday, October 16, 6 p.m.| Tillis Performance Hall | Free ticket required (Limit 4 per person)
Bill McKibben on Ecology, Culture, and Democracy

Bill McKibben Bill McKibben, founder of Third Act, co-founder of, and prolific author will speak about the responsibility of artists in a moment of emergency. How might artists go beyond their personal vision to help the movements that are our chief hope?
Q&A to follow with special guest Victoria Garcia of the Sunrise Movement, moderated by B Fulkerson.

This event is presented in collaboration with Orion Magazine.

Art Sustainability Activism 2023-2024: From the Ground Up
Co-sponsored at UMass Amherst by:

Fine Arts Center
MFA for Poets and Writers
School of Earth & Sustainability
Office of the Provost
Orion Magazine

With additional support from Amherst Books


Events In Our Community

Through Fall 2023 | Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies
Apocalypse: Science & Myth

Image by Suzette Marie Martin Artist in Residence Suzette Marie Martin showcases new work that layers data from climate and environmental research with the Biblical tale of banishment from paradise to reveal the eco-anxieties that link the past and the present. The American Psychological Association describes eco-anxiety as “fear of environmental cataclysm from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change.” Martin’s work acknowledges the “unequivocal scientific evidence” for anthropogenic climate change, and bears witness to the consequences of intensifying ecological decline.

Wednesday, November 8th to Tuesday, December 12th | Design Building Gallery, Olver Design Building, UMass Amherst | Free events
Opening Reception 4:30 - 7pm

Thematically grounded in notions of time, The Futuring Lab seeks to question, discover, and remake chrono-logical representations of temporal causality. In response to pervading anxieties about the near future–  concerns about climate change, rising social inequity, racism, political division, and ecological collapse, among other things– this timely exhibition employs the practice of futuring to generate new building blocks for imagining futures that are not only possible and probable but also preferable. Futuring is pluralistic practice; there is not one future, but many; it is interdisciplinary, democratic, and inclusive of many voices. Futuring is not an escape from the present, rather it is an awareness of our becoming at this moment, which can help increase our insight and response-ability to the long and thick now.
During the exhibition, the gallery will host a series of talks, events, performances, and interactive workshops by artists, activists, scientists, and other visionary imaginarians.
All programming and events are free and open to the public.


Friday, February 16, 2024, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. | South College, E470 | Free
Thinking the Earth Seminars: Politicizing the Anthropocene

Photo of three Italian military aircraft flying over ice flows. The Anthropocene Lab will be hosting its next “Thinking the Earth” seminar on the topic of “Politicizing the Anthropocene.” Three short papers, from the social sciences and the humanities, will be followed by an open discussion on how to address the political challenges of the present from the vantage point of Anthropocene discourses.Topics will range from climate coloniality and global governance to indigenous sovereignties and environmental justice.
Photo by Robert Sullivan. Italian military aircraft support a NATO mission over Iceland.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Frederick C. Tillis Performance Hall & University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA)
Coutney M. Leonard - BREACH: LOGBOOK 24 | STACCATO

Opening Reception and Talk 
5:00 p.m. Artist Talk | Frederick C. Tillis Performance Hall
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Reception | Bromery Center for the Arts Lobby & UMCA

Photo of rib bone from Right Whale Staccato over black background with pale grey topography lines and text with title. The artist Courtney M. Leonard, a citizen of the Shinnecock Nation of Long Island, explores marine biology, Indigenous food sovereignty, migration, and human environmental impact through visual logbooks that investigate the multiple definitions of the term "breach.”

Her exhibition at the University Museum of Contemporary Art is the result of a multi-year artist residency hosted by the UMCA and the UMass College of Natural Sciences. Leonard researched within UMass’ expansive Natural History Collections and selected objects to inspire her newest body of work. BREACH: LOGBOOK 24 | STACCATO, includes paintings, sculptures, and video based on the life and kinship ties of Staccato, a North Atlantic Right Whale killed by a ship strike in 1999, whose remains are housed in the UMass collections.


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:  On Earth Day 2022, the University launched UMass Carbon Zero, an ambitious campaign to transition our campus to be powered by 100% renewable energy in the next decade. Learn more about UMCZ and our efforts to a low-carbon future here.