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The Arts

The POWER of the arts

The Rising Tide, by Jason deCaires Taylor, London

Creative Responses to Climate Change

"You don't build movements through bar graphics. You build them, in part, with art." —Bill McKibben

June 18-July 1

Our impending climate crisis has inspired diverse artistic responses. Some seek to motivate action. Others are processing the emotional weight of the challenges that face us. Still others wish to call attention to the impact of climate change on poor communities and communities of color, or to use art as a tool for education and community-building, creating strategies for resistance and resilience in the face of looming threats. 

The course will begin with a thorough grounding in the science of climate change. Students will research a variety of existing climate-focused artworks as they explore and develop their own. Curbing global emissions requires a collaborative and multifaceted effort. Similarly, students will work across artistic disciplines, delving into fields both familiar and new to forge compelling new hybrids inspired by profound global shifts.

The course will encourage students to engage in a multifaceted dialogue with the material, themselves, each other, and the audience for the work they produce. It welcomes students with experience in any artistic or performance disciplines, including painting, dance, music, photography, design, theater, writing, among others. While contributing and further developing their existing expertise, they should also be prepared to explore new methods and work closely with others, in order to move beyond the known, and explore new combinations, relationships and modes of expression.


Lead Instructor: Peter Nicholson

Peter—who graduated from Oberlin in 1991—is passionate about educating the next generation of sustainability-oriented leaders, and has consistently incorporated teaching in his professional activities for almost 15 years. This is his second summer as Lead Instructor for the Arts course; he loves the opportunity it provides to exercise the "right side" of his brain, and draw upon his background as a musician and creative writer.  

Peter leads a multifaceted career focused on innovating greater social, environmental and economic sustainability. In 2002, he established the nonprofit Foresight Design Initiative, for which he serves as the Executive Director. Prior to embarking upon his career in sustainability, he worked in Arts Administration, as the Communications Director for Orchestra of St. Lukes, and Co-Founder/Managing Director of Eos Orchestra, amongst other positions. Peter completed graduate coursework at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. At Oberlin, he double majored in Creative Writing and Cello Performance. His current artistic pursuits include a hybrid writing/photography project focused on envisioning resilience in the City of Detroit, and in 2012, he completed his six year term as the founding Board chair for the contemporary music ensemble Eighth Blackbird.