Alaska Museum Responds to Climate Change Through Major Projects in 2020
December 26, 2019
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ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Dec. 26, 2019 – Inhabiting a Northern region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, the Anchorage Museum is working across sectors and with creative practitioners and community members to investigate and prototype potential responses to climate change. The museum’s climate-related projects in 2020 emphasize solutions, Indigenous knowledge and a deep understanding of Northern landscape and people. These projects are part of a larger, sustained museum effort to examine climate through education, research, public engagement and three actions: Prototype, Response and Connect. The following projects are 10 highlights:
1. Repurpose an empty downtown building as a space for “futuring”
The Anchorage Museum renovated an adjacent two-story building, transforming it into an innovation hub and convening space for responding creatively and critically to climate change. SEED Lab is one of the winners of the Bloomberg Public Art Challenge, in partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage.
2. Recognize Alaska’s Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of the land
The centuries-old traditional knowledge of the Arctic and responses to climate variation plays an important role in climate change discourse and recovering climate-adaptive ways. Acknowledging the region’s first people is key to beginning new collaborative, sustainable approaches for the future. The Anchorage Museum hosts conversations and training around land acknowledgement, led by Indigenous curators. The museum also works with municipal planners, local businesses and civic leaders to support presenting Indigenous language and histories in public areas around the city of Anchorage.
3. Host an Arctic festival, international conference and youth summits
The museum will bring community and creatives together to talk about the future and the role of the creative sectors within a broader ecosystem. The 2020 Critical Futures Creative Conference (April 13-17, 2020) brings people from around the world to share experiences related to developing language and visuals for responding to climate change and for finding solutions for the future. The annual North x North Festival celebrates connection, creativity, imagination and innovation across the Circumpolar North and convenes people worldwide for a discussion about possible futures. It includes film, food, music and youth gatherings. Site-specific installations as part of the event include an individual-scale opportunity to harness wind; Haustoria, a light and sound installation by Annie Mitchell; and explorations of sound ecology.
4. Use large-scale art installations to increase awareness of climate change
A number of the museum’s 2020 art interventions will prototype shelters, emergency survival kits, and tools for the future, inviting international responses. The museum will also partner with Seattle-based artist John Grade, who creates large-scale outdoor sculptures in urban spaces and nature. Grade is beginning a series investigating forest fires.
5. Prototype a new municipal clock to measure the rate of climate change
Alaska River Time is a multifaceted artwork and project by American conceptual artist Jonathon Keats that employs glacial rivers as timekeepers, raising awareness of their significance as climate indicators. The project includes workshops, public programs, apps and art installation at the Anchorage Museum in the form of an Alaska River Time clock that reveals how landscape, climate and time intersect.
6. Develop a future Arctic hyperloop
Future: Arctic Atlas is a speculative project mapping out a future Arctic hyperloop that would replace air travel for connecting Northern communities and looks at food, water and transportation solutions for tomorrow using an atlas as a prompt for mapping the future as much as for mapping the land.
7. “Re-wild” Anchorage through creative connections to the natural world
The museum brings the natural world back into urban places in order to connect and re-connect us to the landscape. These projects include: an urban reforestation project (portable forest) to bring trees back to Anchorage’s downtown; curated climate walks; the creation of a climate change scent, highlighting local bio research; and projections of glaciers and other natural forms on building exteriors and parking lots to document our rapidly changing landscape and to remind us of the impact of our daily life on the surrounding environment.
8. Examine the language and visuals of the future
What words and visuals can change behavior? Is the language of catastrophe or the language of solutions more effective in helping us envision positive change? Through workshops and other activities organized around the theme Polar Placemaking: Works and Visuals for the Future of the Landscape, the museum will collaborate with artists, writers, designers, startups, scientists, students and others to create new ways of describing a world undergoing rapid transformation.
9. It is Possible
Using the city of Anchorage as a platform and language as raw material, the museum engages the power of words to link language and landscape. On a city water tower, bus stops, a library, parking garages and other places throughout the city, phrases like IT IS POSSIBLE and RE-IMAGINE prompt us to think about place and people. This series of text-based installations uses words and phrases drawn from climate awareness workshops focused on civic solutions. IT IS POSSIBLE can be read two ways—the realization of our fears, or the possibilities of individual action and of concrete solutions. The Anchorage Museum also is participating with the Museum for the United Nations, the Smithsonian, the Arctic Institute and the artist collective Landscape of Hope to highlight the voices of youth in generating language and action in response to climate change.
10. Use worldwide museum collections to talk about climate
The Anchorage Museum will convene in the fall of 2020 with more than a dozen other national and international museums to examine ways museums can talk about climate change through their collections. Art collections can be a lens into our histories, culture, landscapes, people and futures. Museums can use their collections to help demonstrate impacts through storytelling, visitor interaction and investigation.
ABOUT THE ANCHORAGE MUSEUM
The largest museum in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center tells the true story of the North by connecting people, expanding perspectives and encouraging global dialogue about the North and its distinct environment. Learn more at anchoragemuseum.org.
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