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Planet Earth, The Environment and Our Future

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Photograph by Matthew TW Huang

WaterFire Providence presents Planet Earth, The Environment and Our Future at the WaterFire Arts Center (WFAC) an exhibition of art and science looking at the beauty and fragility of our world. This exhibition will be at the WFAC from Saturday, March 19 through Sunday, May 1, 2022, with a closure for a ticketed event from Monday, March 28 to Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

UPCOMING EXHIBITION PROGRAMMING:

Sunday, May 1, 12:30pm Performance, Balliamo Dance Collective featuring Kalie Berry

Planet Earth, the Environment and Our Future is made possible through the generous support of the NASA Rhode Island Space Grant Consortium; Kathleen and Barry Hittner; the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography; Brown University; and the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Refreshments and catering at the opening reception sponsored by Plant City.

Experience Luke Jerram’s Gaia, a massive 23’ diameter depiction of the entire Earth that creates a sense of the “overview effect” that has often been reported by astronauts who sense a “cognitive shift” in their perception of the fragile “blue marble” “hanging in the void” of space. Gaia was featured at the recent UN Glasgow Summit and features imagery from NASA. Joan Hall is presenting her luminous, engaging, and massive work Algae Bloom. Richard Friedberg has six of his astonishing and mesmerizing large sculptures of atmospheric phenomena from a tidal wave to a 21’ tall tornado. Judy Chicago, one of the founders of Ecofeminism, has recently returned to revisit this work with three bold, new editions from 2022. Dennis Hlynsky has created a new technique to capture birds in flight with wondrous results and much more.

Planet Earth, the Environment and Our Future also includes a visual overview of the roots and development of the climate crisis with scientific observations between 1826, when the use of coal was first foreseen as a possible threat to mankind, up to our newest efforts to solve the climate crisis, such as the national leadership in offshore wind power development shown with Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm.

The exhibition includes works by William BradfordDavid BurdenyJudy ChicagoRichard FriedbergJoan HallMartin Johnson HeadeKatsushika HokusaiDennis HlynskyDuane IsaacLuke JerramYoung Joon KwakSarah Jane LappJanice LardeyHaley MacKeilQing LiuJoseph E. YoakumDavid Whyte, and Faith Wilding

Entry is free for all, donations are encouraged.

The WaterFire Arts Center’s HOURS are Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m; open late until 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. (The addition of Friday nights is unique to this exhibit.)

With special thanks to the many Rhode Island institutions who have helped us create this exhibition including the Providence Public Library Special Collections, RISD Museum of Art, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Rustigian Rugs, Providence Marriott Downtown, Dassault Systèmes, Providence Fire Fighters IAFF local 799, Providence Fire Department, The Providence Journal, The Providence Parks Department, and the Roger Williams Park Museum of Natural History.

EXHIBITION STATEMENT
FROM THE CURATOR, BARNABY EVANS 

The Earth in its beauty and majesty has long fascinated and inspired artists and scientists of all cultures. Both use vision to understand the empirical facts of the real world – and use imagery once again to convey their ideas and conclusions. This exhibition presents over thirty spectacular artworks by contemporary artists that expand upon the interconnected nature of the world. It also includes an overview of the history of the climate crisis from the first scientific observation in 1826, that foresaw the use of coal as a possible threat to mankind, up to our newest efforts to solve the climate crisis, such as Rhode Island’s national leadership in offshore wind power.

Included also are historical artworks and photographs from multiple cultures stretching across the continents and spanning two centuries, some tracing Rhode Island connections to this larger story of discovery, exploration and exploitation. 

The curatorial approach is not through the lens of art history, but rather [to better match its subject] it examines what we might term the ecology of our perceptual understanding and framing of the interconnected networks of theory and knowledge related to the environmental crisis. These often hidden values, contexts, metaphors and perspectives determine and frame each of our understandings of the reality of the crisis and even our moral relation to the truth, the world and each other. The differences among these many understandings complicate our conversations about the environment and make it difficult to reach consensus on the best solutions. 

The climate crisis is the greatest existential threat our species has ever faced, yet it is a crisis entirely of our own making. We know this is true; and we know how to solve the problem, yet we still struggle to build consensus toward taking action. This exhibition explores aspects of this conundrum in the hopes that we can learn to better identify, discuss and solve the challenges facing us and find a way to build a just future for our planet. 

The creativity of artists, the ingenuity of scientists and indeed the insights of the vast range of many different cultural perspectives are needed if we are to find our way forward. Just as “overview effect” gave astronauts a new perspective of the fragile beauty and wholeness of our planet, the arts offer a window on new ways to better understand the interconnected wholeness of our world and thus rekindle our resolve to meet these challenges.

About the author

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Over the last 10+ years, alongside some incredible co-workers and volunteers, I've worked to build the organization that WaterFire Providence is today. As Director of Creative Services, my team and I work on visual communications, graphic design, the visitor experience, merchandising as well as project management for programming at the WaterFire Arts Center. Being a part of the 'Rhode Island' experience for tens of thousands of people is incredible and I have an intense pride in place for both Downtown Providence and the Valley neighborhood.

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