Sometimes, art can advocate for environmental causes and also be installed in the environment that it’s meant to protect.
In 2013, Rising Waters (originally titled Rising Tides) was conceived by Newton, Massachusetts resident Susan Israel, an architect and artist. (The name change from Rising Tides was to include freshwater flooding in rivers and from rainfall.)
Asked to participate in a group art show at HarborArts in East Boston, Susan used paint to mark where incremental “rising waters” would be by 2100 due to climate change. Susan added ways for visitors to engage, and she hosted workshops to educate about the effects of climate change.
Soon, Susan was installing artwork in other Boston neighborhoods—at parks, MBTA stations, and community centers—and she was working with public school students and local organizations to involve them in her creative advocacy projects. Fish stickers, prints, and flags drew attention to “rising tides,” but ultimately the organization returned to the simple lines that indicate where “rising waters” will be in years to come due to sea level rise and storms from climate change.
Since 2013, over twenty Rising Waters installations have been in multiple states and countries. In Massachusetts, in addition to Boston, project sites have been in Cambridge and Provincetown. Other New England locations have included Newport, Rhode Island and Mystic, Connecticut. Further installations have been in California (2016), Panama (2017), New York (2019), Hong Kong (2019), and Florida (2020). Thousands of students and others have helped to create art and learn about climate change, and hundreds of thousands of people have seen the installations. As the organization’s website describes, the “installations translate complex data into simple visuals that people can immediately understand and relate to viscerally, helping them visualize what is at risk”—all through the power of art!
Rising Waters also invites individuals and communities to create Rising Waters installations of their own to educate about climate change and its effects. Kits of materials can be ordered on their website, and more creativity is encouraged!
Rising Waters is a project of Climate Creatives, a project sponsored by Fractured Atlas which is a non-profit arts service organization.
For more on artists using their work to educate and draw attention to climate change, visit Artists & Climate Change.