Public art exhibit showcases global worldview of climate change
Ethan Li, left, and Lynn Tu work on one of the Cool Globes. (Photo: Ron Mackovich-Rodriguez.)

Public art exhibit showcases global worldview of climate change

Students are transforming giant globes to communicate abstract ideas about the climate crisis.
ByRon Mackovich-Rodriguez

Five giant concrete globes cluster around a public space just south of the center of campus. Each globe is 5 feet in diameter with a base that weighs over a ton.

Through a creative endeavor called Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet to tell the story of the climate crisis through art, students gather every Friday, surrounding each globe with fabric and ladders, objets d’art and paint.

“Painting to reflect environmental issues — it’s a really cool intersection between science and art,” said Katie Robinson, an environmental studies major at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Our globe looks like a giant piece of pollen. We’re trying to give humans the perspective of a bee, to bring awareness to the decline in bee populations, the colony collapse, because of pesticide use and other factors.”

Working alongside Ethan Li, a design major at the USC Roski School of Art and Design, Robinson is covering the globe in an earthy yellow, while another student adds flocking to give it the fuzzy texture of pollen.

Nearby, environmental studies major Gianna Alcala covers another globe with torn pieces of fabric, each representing a body of water or land mass.

“We’re looking at where things are made, where they end up,” Alcala said. “We’ve seen how fast fashion has an impact on transportation [and] manufacturing, and we want to bring awareness to that.”

Cool Globes combines art and climate change

Victoria Campbell-Arvai, assistant professor of environmental studies at USC Dornsife, sees climate art as interpretive language.

“As scientists, we do a good job characterizing global environmental issues like climate changes using numbers, figures and graphs, but as humans, we have a hard time understanding numbers without an emotional connection. We’re numb to numbers,” she said. “Luckily, we have art and design to infuse numbers and concepts with that emotion that helps us to connect with these issues to want to learn more and hopefully modify our behaviors.”

As a public art initiative, Cool Globes has been exhibited around the world since 2007. USC’s exhibition is expected to premiere in mid-May.

“[The installation] strikes a few feelings,” said cognitive science major Sophia Traversi. “It might help you connect with [the Earth] more, it might resonate in different ways than numbers. And that’s what we’re trying to do in a visual way that’s not overwhelming.”

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