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Art and Activism Series

Past Events

In this web series we will discuss ways that artists actively engage in creating climate solutions and promoting sustainability.

No. 17-  "Bonnie Ora Sherk: Life Frames since 1970"

A presentation with Tanya Zimbardo

February 12, 2024

Q&A recording

Tanya Zimbardo gives an overview of the posthumous survey on view at the nonprofit Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco. "Bonnie Ora Sherk: Life Frames Since 1970" (January 13 - March 10, 2024) traces the development of Sherk’s commitment to art and ecology in the public sphere over a range of projects. Her early performance-based works reflect the artist’s lifelong study of the interrelationships between plants, animals, and humans, with the goal of creating sustainable systems for social and ecological transformation. Today, Sherk’s bicoastal nonprofit project A Living Library (A.L.L., 1981-present) continues her vision for community-oriented, place-based projects located on Roosevelt Island, NYC, and the Bernal Heights and OMI/Excelsior neighborhoods in San Francisco. Zimbardo is co-editing the first significant catalog dedicated to the late artist, nonprofit founder, environmental educator, and landscape architect and planner. A celebration of the publication launch and a public symposium will be held on March 9, 2024.

No. 16-  "Putting Water In Charge"

A presentation with Betsy Damon

Sptember 24, 2023

"Water doesn't adapt to life, life adapts to water."

Art and activism have been the center of Betsy Damon’s work since 1985, when she cast a dry riverbed in handmade paper in Memory of Clean Water. In the years since, Damon has challenged herself to figure out what it would mean to take water as our teacher. This has led her to the idea that water isn’t a noun, but a verb. She founded Keepers of the Waters in 1990 and designed the Living Water Garden in Chengdu, China in 1997. Her subsequent artworks create moments of interaction between people and water, inviting a new kind of consciousness towards earth’s living systems. Her work reveals water as the connective, creative, and collaborative medium behind all life. Damon traverses the complexities of water, from a molecular scale to the levels of ecosystems and societies. Damon’s book, Water Talks, is available at

No. 15-  "Your Voice - Your Art"

A presentation with Chery Derricotte

July 23, 2023

Q&A recording

Hi, I’m Cheryl. I stand for art and liberation. My favorite mediums are glass and paper. My art is decidedly political and I am engaged with the world. I am an ethical vegetarian (vegan), who lives in a small beach community resting on the edge of a big city. I like to put historical imagery into our contemporary dialogues, particularly as we grapple with big issues like race, money, power and place. My art is here to remind us of our past, no matter how challenging, so that we may better understand our present. I know that I might have to seduce you with beauty to get you to talk. Good thing that glass is so sexy and paper feels so good to the touch. Look more closely at my work and engage with the narrative. Art is the vehicle that drives difficult conversations. I use museums and galleries as brave spaces to host our talks. Embrace the occasional discomfort. The strength we need is found in clarity and community. Let’s begin.”

No. 14-  "Soul on Soul"

A presentation with Avotcja Jiltonilro

May 21, 2023

Q&A recording

Avotcja (pronounced Avacha) is a lifelong Musician, Writer, Educator, Storyteller, Chequero Maker on a shamelessly Spirit driven melodic mission to heal herself. She is a beloved internationally known weaver of words and rhythm who has touched and influenced the lives of thousands of people, young and old, with her passionate art actions. She describes herself as a New York born Musicfanatic/sound junkie & popular Bay Area Radio DeeJay, KPOO (89.5) and KPFA (94.1FM. She has been published in English & Spanish in the USA, Mexico & Europe. She is an award winning Poet & multi-instrumentalist & leader of the group “Avotcja & Modúpue”. Avotcja “ talks to the Trees & listens to the Wind against the concrete & when they answer it usually winds up in a Poem or Short Story.”


No. 13-  "Art as a Tool"

A presentation by Kim Abeles

February 26, 2023

Q&A recording

Abeles talks about her survey exhibition at CSU Sacramento, “Kim Abeles: Smog Collectors, 1987-2020”. NEA-funded projects involved a residency at the Institute of Forest Genetics; and Valises for Camp Ground in collaboration with Camp 13, a group of female prison inmates who fight wildfires. Permanent outdoor works include sculptural Citizen Seeds along the Park to Playa Trail in Los Angeles, and Walk a Mile in My Shoes, based on the shoes of the Civil Rights marchers and local activists.


No. 12-  "Designing a Personal Manifesto - A Living Document"

A presentation by Beth Grossman

November 13, 2022 

Beth Grossman’s curriculum outlines how an artist can learn to develop art, performances and installations as “social practice” to create situations for dialog and to inspire collective action. In this presentation, she will lead participants to start the process of creating an artist manifesto as a personal living document.

A manifesto is a mission statement, a declaration of core values and a call to action. It evolves from studies of artistic practices, application of theory and past artistic experiences. It changes with time, experience, priorities and goals. The manifesto in this assignment can take any creative form, such as, writing, poetry, scripts, songs, drawings, mapping, performance, ritual, etc.


No. 11-  "Of A Personal (and Political) Nature"

A presentation by Sant Khalsa

June 24, 2022 

Sant Khalsa, ecofeminist artist, curator, and activist shares the evolution of her integrated art-life practice, which develops from a mindful inquiry into complex environmental issues. Her artworks create a contemplative space where one can sense the subtle and profound connections between themselves, the natural world, and our constructed landscapes. 


She discusses a number of her significant art and activism works including her 20+ year Paving Paradise photographic project on the Santa Ana River and Watershed, the largest coastal water system in Southern California; Western Waters photographs and installations about the commodification of water; and her current curatorial research for the 2024 exhibition and book The Survival of the Joshua Tree. Integral to her art and activism is in-depth subject research, collaboration with scientists, and engagement with non-profits and diverse communities.


No. 10-  "Celebrating the Local: 25 Years of Placemaking in Northwest Pennsylvania"

A presentation by Amara Geffen

April 24, 2022

By engaging local communities in the creation and beautification of public spaces, we can transform our communities. Through the leveraging of local social and creative capital, artists can facilitate and strengthen community capacity in a celebration of the local. Amara’s commitment to applying her skills as a visual artist, community organizer and visionary (aka: someone with the ability to imagine and manifest positive actions) provides a model that can be improvised upon to engage in the work of transforming people and places for social and environmental justice.


In this presentation Amara will share her experience working with three communities over a 25 year period. Her Art & Environment Initiative (A&EI), founded in 1997, facilitates community-centered and environmentally-focused public art projects. 24 projects have been completed many constituting a Public Art Trail through Meadville, PA.

No. 9-  "Creating  a Tiny House ART VILLAGE For Homeless Youth:  
Art Saves Lives"

A presentation by Sally Hindman

Jan. 23, 2022

Sally Hindman, artist, homeless activist and Quaker,  will describe her journey founding Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) in Berkeley, CA. YSA provides job training for at-risk youth 16-25 in the Bay Area, using art as the vocational medium and vehicle for healing and transformation.


In 2016, the youth initiated a community organizing campaign to build tiny houses for their homeless peers. Now twenty-six colorful, youth-designed houses have been built and are providing youth with safe shelter in a Tiny House Village in east Oakland.  Sustainable community living practices such as gardening, healthy diet, cooking together, and recycling are nurtured. The structures themselves model sustainable materials: one common space is “SIP” construction, the Welcome Center/Store & Artisan Space is constructed of straw bales with earth plaster, and a container module building project is under way. A state of the art shower/toilet trailer recycles shower greywater for toilet flushing. The entire space is vibrant with energy and potential, and is intended to cultivate beneficial habits and life skills that will help the youth move on to more permanent living situations.

No. 8-  “Taking Action”

A presentation by Susan Leibovitz Steinman

Nov 21, 2021


Susan Leibovitz Steinman, sculptor, painter, cherished art/activist, WEAD Co-Founder and Magazine editor will share about her own work and her first person experience with WEAD as it evolved from producing a paper directory to supporting a digital online platform.


In 1996 Susan Leibovitz Steinman, Jo Hanson, and Estelle Akamine created WEAD, (originally named Women Environmental Artists Directory), in response to increasing requests for artist referrals and for designing eco art exhibits and programs. In 1998 Estelle retired, and Jo and Susan gathered a group of 10 activist women artists, creating the WEAD Board of Directors. This collective volunteer creative force continues to grow WEAD’s impact in the world.


The WEAD website was begun in 1999, reaching the largest audience with the smallest carbon footprint and cost. In 2008 printing on paper ceased and the Directory was moved to the website. In 2012 the website was upgraded with improved access and more interactive pages. Susan created the pioneering online WEAD MAGAZINE in April 2010.

No. 7-  'Individual Impact: Finding an Activist Life' 

A presentation by Mary O’Brien

Oct 24, 2021


How does one make any dent in the massive task of impacting our human footprint on the earth? And what issues get included? Mary O’Brien firmly believes individuals hold the keys to solving our greatest environmental challenges through lives lived as seekers, doers, activists, and artists.

No. 6-  'Art as Strategy' 

A presentation by Aviva Rahmani

May 27, 2021


“I sometimes think of myself as a warrior against ecocide. Beauty is my shield but art, music, law, science and stubborn persistence are my weapons. In my event for WEAD, I will focus on two projects in depth, Ghost Nets (1990-2000), how it morphed into other work and a theory of change and The Blued Trees Symphony (2015-present). Both continue. The former restored a coastal town dump to flourishing wetlands on a remote island in Maine. The latter composed a continental scale aerial symphony out of tree-notes. It contested the interpretation of eminent domain law by claiming copyright protection for a sonified biogeographic installation and in a mock trial, won an injunction against a corporation..." - Aviva Rahmani

No. 5- 'Artists: Essential Workers & Visionaries'

A presentation by Betsy Damon

April 29, 2021


Betsy’s talk will bring us along on her journey from eco-feminist performance artist (on Wall Street!) to passionate water activist currently creating a book, Water Talks. This is her story of how water led her to become conscious of the inter-connectedness of all life.

No. 4: “Embodied Climate Justice: Dance as Connection"

A presentation by Sophie Spiral (they/them)

March 25, 2021


In this webinar session, Sophie Spiral presents some examples from the Masters Thesis they are currently writing to bridge the climate justice movement and dance theory worlds. In addition, they will share some practical activities of how to use embodiment to encourage a kind of BEing that will foster a transition away from fossil fuels to more socially, racially just and equitable systems.

No. 3 "Art as Verb: Collaborating with Nature"

A presentation by Stacy Levy

Feb. 22, 2021


Eco-Artist Stacy Levy collaborates with natural processes like rain, tides and erosion. This lecture will address how art can create ecological legibility as well as ecological solutions.


By embracing change, observing and mimicking the action of natural processes, art can begin to make real changes to the environment. She will show her many rain infiltration works as well as projects that mitigate water pollution and shoreline erosion.

No. 2: "Trash Talk"

A presentation by Kate Kuaimoku

Jan. 25, 2021

Trash art and artists, how they—and you—can repurpose otherwise discarded materials. Talk will focus on creating works using post-consumer waste. Themes are focused on, but not limited to, assemblage, signage, and eco-building materials.

No. 1: "The Art of Playing with the Rain"

A presentation by Christina Bertea

Dec. 7, 2020

Two compelling needs—to provide emergency water security, and to alleviate stormwater pollution, are making it imperative that the broader community adopt rainwater catchment strategies and manage stormwater constructively.


This presentation will explore how artists are making design innovations (and having fun) with rainwater capture and storage. We’ll also wade into some notable public art stormwater interventions.

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