Climate committee hosts Earth Day art show

by Sarah Swenson, editor-in-chief

The week before break, the Nantucket Youth Climate Committee (NYCC) recommends their Earth Day Art Show event. The art show, which took place on Thursday, April 13th from 5 to 7 PM in the ballroom of the Nantucket Hotel, will display student artwork and poetry, with the goal of raising awareness about climate change and environmental issues and showing the student perspective. The entire show was student-run, from the organization to the artwork, the music—student performers Natalie Mack and Gabe Zinser—to the food, which was provided by high school culinary teacher Tom Proch and his culinary students.

“I think this is a good opportunity for people to witness how much Nantucket is impacted by climate change as a community, and as individuals. I have a feeling people will find a lot that they resonate with, which they might not have thought about before,” said senior Kipper Buccino, who is one of the show’s artists and also an NYCC member.

While the show was student-created and student-run, all were invited to attend, not just artists and their friends and family. Members of the NYCC hoped for this event to be both fun and enlightening. The event had a turnout of over 100 people.

“It’s a fun way to get involved with activism,” shared NYCC vice president Ellie Kinsella, who also created art for the show. “It’s a more creative and hands-on way to be an activist rather than attend walkouts and speaking events.”

NYCC’s Mass Audubon advisor, Molly Zegans, agreed: “All too often we learn about the science of climate change without fully reckoning with what it means for us as humans and communities. Through their art, students are exploring the wide range of experiences of climate change on Nantucket.”

Participants in the art show got a chance to engage with climate activism in a way that, for many of them, was novel. Some students created digital art, others sculpted clay headstones for species that have gone extinct, while others still made 2-D traditional art. Some students even wrote poems for the event. Art show attendees also got to create their own art, collaging at one table and creating their own buttons at another table.

“Poetry is something that is really important to me and the environment is something that’s really important to me,” said junior Ani Popnikolova, who recited four original poems at the event. Popnikolova has performed slam poetry before at the school through Poetry Out Loud, but the purpose of this reading is different.

“I’m excited for this art show because it’s bringing two of the things that are very very important to me [together],” she explained, wanting to show how beautiful nature can be and why we should protect it through the creative lense of artwork.

The art show is the display format for an art contest. All students at Nantucket High School were allowed to participate by submitting their art under one of three prompts: How does climate change make you feel?, Endangered species, or Can you ‘sea’ the effects of erosion on Nantucket?. The winner of each category, announced at the event on the 13th, will receive an art-and-environment-related prize. The winners of the “feel” prompt were Anna Popnikolova and Ellie Kinsella, the “endangered species” prompt were Alondra Barragan and Monty Ray, and the “erosion” prompt were Kevin Serrano and Maddux Hinson.

These topics were chosen by the NYCC members because they felt like they were important environmental issues for rumination.

Climate change is “never going to go away on its own”, said Kinsella.

Buccino agreed: “We are seeing the effects of climate change right now, and in our lifetime it will continue to get worse if we don’t push to try to do something about it.”

Young people are consistently some of the most active and forward-thinking people when it comes to climate change. According to national polls, 70% of people aged 16-25 are extremely worried or very worried about the climate, and the number is even higher in some states, like Massachusetts. However, worry is not the same thing as action.

“I think we need to care more,” said Buccino. “I know a lot of people recognize climate change and are afraid of it or concerned, but we need to take more physical action with it.”

Students can take climate action in a lot of ways, including joining the NYCC to join their group efforts, becoming a volunteer, intern, or employee at any of the various conservation organizations on-island such as Mass Audubon, the Maria Mitchell Association, or Linda Loring Nature Foundation. Students can also help by volunteering for events run by these programs that need manpower, such as invasive species pulls or eel grass planting. Another way students can make a difference is by taking political action: voting.

“A lot of high schoolers can vote or will be able to soon, and caring enough about a topic to vote on it or for it is huge,” shared Buccino.

He believes that just getting people to care about the issue and realize that it truly does impact them may be enough to make a difference. This was part of the idea behind the art show. A student-organized art show displaying art made by students shows how climate change and environmental issues impact teenagers. These pieces of art made by island teenagers convey the fear and passion felt by many at the high school and members of the NYCC who have helped to organize the event hope that those who attend take the time to reflect on how these same issues impact all of them.

“Much of our society is based on just [social pressure]” Buccino added. Making people realize that issues of climate change really are personal could make them more likely to talk about them and help be part of the change necessary.

“There’s so many emotions in different kinds of art that sometimes it reaches people better than speeches,” agreed Kinsella.

This year was the art show’s first time running, so the organizers were unsure about the turnout, but they ended up being pleasantly surprised. Regardless of the turnout, it would have engaged the student artists and given them a reason to think about climate issues. 

“I think that the high schoolers who are creating art for the show have a lot to teach the older members of our community, who may have become numb to some of these impacts or emotions,” said Zegans. “By collectively processing these feelings, we actually make room for hope and a sense of belonging and community, despite the climate change challenges that we face.”

“Education is maybe the greatest tool to fight climate change,” added Buccino. “If more people know about how something affects them personally, then they are more likely to be openly opinionated on it.”

The Nantucket Hotel ballroom was open for art show guests at 5 PM on Thursday, April 13th. In the wake of the event, the NYCC recommends that students and community members take a moment to reflect on the importance of the environment to themselves and consider how they can take action to help.

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