You Can’t Spell “Earth” Without “Art”: Art & Environmental Leadership

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 12, 2021 - July 28, 20217/12 - 7/282 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineChristina Catanese

Course Description

How can art not just look good, but do good? How can science not just help us know, but help us act and feel? This course combines concepts in environmental studies, ecologically-based art, and leadership, with a mission to develop socially responsible and creative leaders.

Throughout history, art has reflected our relationship with nature—from cave etchings, landscape paintings, wildlife photography, and land art, to today’s climate change artwork. Although often thought of as separate or disconnected disciplines, art and science share common values and methodologies. Driven by curiosity, cross-disciplinary efforts between the arts and sciences can produce innovative and unexpected solutions to pressing ecological challenges, and engage audiences with scientific information in more accessible and compelling ways.

In this course, students will focus on the intersection of art and science in environmental leadership, and how these disciplines can collaborate to creatively respond to pressing environmental challenges. Additionally, students will establish foundations in environmental leadership and understand their role in developing solutions in the form of environmental action.

Alongside foundations in environmental leadership, this course provides a survey of the history environmental art, and how art and science are intersecting today. Students will explore how art can affect attitudes about environmental topics and how art–science partnerships can address ecological challenges directly, in perhaps more novel ways than either discipline could do alone. We will analyze examples of environmental art projects around a range of environmental subject matter (water quality, flooding, urban heat, soil health, and air quality), and art forms (painting, sculpture, performance, writing, and music).

We will focus our learning around:

  • Socially responsible leadership
  • Science communication best practices
  • Art & science collaboration: history and contemporary practice
  • The role of art in social change Resources and skills for environmental advocacy
  • Impact of humans on ecosystems in the context of global climate change
  • Environmental justice literacy and context
During this course, students will identify a pressing issue that they are passionate about and, with support from faculty and peers, will create an Action Plan to apply their new leadership knowledge to this issue in their home community. Students will be encouraged to think creatively about integrating art and science together in their Action Plans.

To facilitate community development and peer learning exchange, this course has a synchronous component, meaning students will be expected to join for a limited number of real time lessons and class discussions (to be scheduled and published in advance). There are alternative assignments available for students who are unable to attend because of time differences or technical difficulties.

With experience in both science and art, Instructor Christina Catanese brings great expertise in this intersection. She seeks to embody earth processes through her choreography, and has curated dozens of contemporary environmental art exhibitions. She has a MS in Applied Geosciences and a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science (University of Pennsylvania).

Learning goals:

  • Understand the history, contemporary practice, and future possibility of interdisciplinary collaboration between artists & environmental scientists to creatively respond to ecological challenges; gain tools to navigate collaboration across diverse disciplines.
  • Identify and strengthen leadership qualities that may lead to improved collaboration and problem solving.
  • Clearly communicate concepts in environmental studies and/or environmental justice to a variety of stakeholders or individuals.
  • Acknowledge, understand and gain tools to process the large spectrum of impacts caused by global climate change.
  • Develop effective, feasible, and impactful Action Plan projects that use lessons from this course to create positive change in their local communities.

    Prerequisites: None required. This course is a good fit for students with a passion for environmental topics and are interested in crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries to achieve social and environmental change. Basic fluency with environmental topics and interest in any form of art is helpful. An interdisciplinary, integrative, big picture, creative mindset. Not necessary to consider yourself to be “an artist.”

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEES0931

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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