Urban Art Raises Climate Change Awareness
To residents of dense urban areas, the idea of protecting nature can seem somewhat abstract. But a new art project in Upper Manhattan is helping to change that. As this New York Times article describes, a local artist and a local gallery owner have partnered with the National Audubon Society to create murals of all 314 threatened bird species listed in Audubon’s recent climate change report.
ecoAmerica has close ties with Audubon – David Yarnold, Audubon’s President and CEO, is on our Board of Directors – and we are aligned on the need to connect with Americans of all walks of life. Projects like this help make the climate issue tangible, personal, and local. The residents of these neighborhoods may not have many opportunities to see birds in the wild, but the murals are theirs, which makes the birds in them theirs too. John James Audubon himself was their neighbor. If they’re intrigued to find out more, the URL on the artwork gives them a way to do so – and their sense of ownership towards the species in the murals may inspire them to take action.
Our research has shown that Americans, whether or not they consider themselves environmentalists, value nature and are concerned about the wellbeing of animals. For many Americans, protecting God’s creation is a primary reason for getting involved with climate issues. Our Blessed Tomorrow program empowers faith leaders to engage their communities on climate solutions. To join or find out more, visit momentus.org.
Matt A. V. Chaban, Contributor to The New York Times
Among the beloved prints in John James Audubon’s “The Birds of North America” is plate No. 411, a Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus.
The regal white bird paddles along on its huge, black, webbed feet, each tiny feather rippling with the water. Yellow lilies float before it, the swan’s graceful neck looped like a needle, with what looks like a smile crossing its beak. Copies of the print hang in classrooms and living rooms across the world, a symbol of taste and an environmental conscience.
Another smiling swan has appeared in a very different setting, alighting not on paper but on a roll-down gate about six blocks from Mr. Audubon’s final resting place in the Trinity Cemetery in Upper Manhattan. What a strange bird it is, all spray-painted poise and fluorescent pink skies. From its long beak juts a fearsome tooth.
The mural has about as much in common with an Audubon watercolor as Angry Birds does with duck hunting.
Even so, these works, separated by 176 years, share an important bond. The uptown swan is part of a new collaboration between the National Audubon Society, a local gallerist and his landlord to bring 314 murals of North American avifauna to the neighborhood where the nomadic naturalist lived out his final years.
Image credit: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times