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    • Students work on painting a banner together.

    • The finished banner was hung in New Haven.

    • A drawing by Patricia Joseph.

    • Shohamy walks at the XR Youth Fashion Show.

Student Art Comes to the Forefront of Climate Activism

Amalia Tuchmann ’23 Lead Arts Editor Sarvin Bhagwager ’24 Assistant Arts Editor
In honor of Earth Week 2022 (April 18-22), The Razor discussed the role of art in the climate crisis with youth from the Hopkins community and beyond.
Patricia Joseph, a senior at ESUMS and a volunteer with New Haven Climate Movement, summed up the passion that the students we talked to felt towards climate action: “As youth, I think that we should be [at] the forefront of climate action, because in the end, the cascading impacts of climate change will affect us the most.” 
 
Many students emphasized the way in which art is effective as an alternative communication tool for data and statistics surrounding climate change. Rik Munshi ’24 said, “Art is important in raising awareness about the climate crisis because people differ in the way they process information.” Megan Davis ’23, an intern with CHEP (Climate Health Education Project) added, “It’s really true that a picture is worth a thousand words; sometimes, art can resonate with people more than a speech or a paragraph, so activists can use drawings or graphics to tap into the emotions of their target audience.”
 
Art can help climate change seem more immediate. Davis said, “Even though climate change is a cause I’m very passionate about, sometimes I still have trouble connecting [with] what is happening in other parts of the world due to climate change when I don’t see the immediate effects in my day-to-day life. However, seeing photographs or drawings of how warming temperatures are harming different populations can serve as a wake-up call when words aren’t really resonating.” Joy Xu ’23, a co-head of the Hopkins’ Sustainability Committee, recalled a photograph she saw many years ago, but stuck with her ever since because of the emotions she felt seeing it. “The picture is of a lonely polar bear, stuck on a chunk of ice barely big enough to hold its weight, surrounded by an endless expanse of the cold, arctic sea. All of a sudden I felt like I understood the pain that we are putting the animals of the world through, from this polar bear to the coral reefs to hundreds of species going extinct.” Joseph added, “I think art provides a more humanized, tangible lens through which to view the crisis.”
 
Art also has the power to bring communities together and is an accessible way for people to advocate for climate action. Avgar Shohamy said, “You see people at community events, people making art together, and finding strength in each other and that activity. It’s also something that anyone can participate in, and that accessibility factor is really important.” Joseph discussed this connection in her experience on the street banner committee during her internship in summer 2021 with New Haven Climate Movement. During this internship, she was able to reuse old street banners, which would otherwise have been thrown away, and paint them with other volunteers at community events like farmer’s markets and
students at local schools. On the banners, she shared the message “Climate Solutions = Healthy Neighborhoods” and imagery of ways in which that goal could be achieved: “That was definitely one of the most impactful events that showed me how art can effectively be integrated into activism, because we got to see those banners out on the streets and see those messages resonate with people, as well as the fact that we all collectively worked together on it -- volunteers, strangers at farmers markets, and my classmates.”
 
Art figures prominently in efforts to raise awareness surrounding climate change. In collaboration with other members of XR Youth, Avgar Shohamy created and modeled for a sustainable fashion show that served as a protest during New York Fashion Week 2020. “We had a “trashion” show,” she explained, “where, outside of the central spot of NYFW, we held our own fashion show with clothes that we made ourselves out of recycled things. For example, my outfit was made entirely out of recycled denim, there was a bubble wrap tutu, a dress made from shop- ping bags, etc.” The group hoped to set an example for fashion houses to follow: “We’re teenagers who designed a 100% sustainable show in a small time frame,” Eddie Fine, another member of XR Youth NYC, said “If we can do it, brands with many more resources can do it too.” Their demands included “no new polyester” and “net-zero carbon fashion.” The fashion show was featured in Vogue, which Avgar Shohamy said was “really amazing exposure.” Joseph was the winner of CHEP’s (Climate Health Education Project) art contest in 2021, for which she submitted a drawing. “For the NHCM art contest,” Joseph explained, “I drew a human face in an attempt to humanize the climate crisis, and highlight how it has disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities.” She also included a sunflower because to her, “it represents a new beginning and strength, and it also symbolizes the sun, which is the driving force behind almost all of Earth’s energy.” She added, “I think that if we advocate to make communities more climate
neutral, in a way that doesn’t leave any group of people behind, then the idea of what the sunflower rep- resents, a better future, is possible.” In his Studio Art 2D class, Munshi is “working on a piece which shows dead marine life in the ocean due to debris.” Lastly, while he has not done so yet, Alexander Skula ‘25 plans to write a play with anthropomorphized endangered animals as the cast, which would “bring awareness to the ways that the world is killing them.”
 
For students interested in getting involved in similar ways, Joseph recommended “finding a way to make people come together through art, something collaborative that brings people together, because you can start productive discussions surrounding the issues. For example, as my classmates painted the street banners, we were talking about what we were painting, and what it means to be carbon-neutral, and we were all learning something new.”
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
The Razor,
 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
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