Art + Environmental Justice Symposium

Thank you for joining us for the Art + Environmental Justice Symposium!

All recordings for this event can be found by going to


Schedule of Events

The Symposium has been strategized and designed by Sepideah Mohsenian-Rahman and Netanel Portier of Mural Arts Institute, and Alexis Frasz of Helicon Collaborative. The Mural Arts Institute is supported by The JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Media sponsorship is provided by Next City and Grist.

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Monday, May 17th

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Tuesday, May 18th

Pursuing food sovereignty through community agriculture is a way of life. Land based practices can also be liberatory, rooted in resistance and self determination. From Indigenous calls for Land Back, to reparations for ancestors of slaves and the Black freedom farmer movement, to refugees sewing seeds in their clothing to bring to their new communities – agriculture and community sovereignty go hand in hand. Join Indigenous artists and activists Christina Castro co-founder of Three Sisters Collective and Israel Haros co-founder of Alas de Agua Art Collective from Oga Po’ogeh (Santa Fe, New Mexico) in conversation with Carlton Turner, Lead Artist and Director of Sipp Culture as they explore the intersection of farming and creative community-based practices. This conversation will be moderated by Philadelphia City Councilmember At-Large, Kendra Brooks. 

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Wednesday, May 19th

The interconnectedness of our ecological, social, and health crises have never been so clearly visible as they are today. This conversation will center artists and environmental justice leaders who are champions for clean air and equity, as they explore the compounding impacts of COVID-19 on the same communities already harmed by environmental and social injustices, and reflect upon how arts based strategies can disrupt, educate, and support community centered decision-making. Dr. Catherine Garoupa White is the Executive Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition where she spearheads policy advocacy for clean air in the San Joaquin Valley. Kim Abeles is an artist, Professor Emeritus at California State University Northridge and a Guggenheim Fellow who innovated a method to create images from smog captured from the air. Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator that produces civic-scale works for grassroots and community rooted organizations.

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Thursday, May 20th

The United States is in a water crisis. Nearly a tenth of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and millions of Americans cannot pay their skyrocketing water and sewage bills. Children and families from Philadelphia to Fresno to Tribal Nations, are exposed to heightened levels of lead, PFAS, and other toxins. But communities are more than the structural violence they face, and the role of community-driven artists and cultural workers are working to help communities heal from structural violence, reclaim their right to clean water, and find pathways forward that protect and celebrate water. From Boston, Massachusetts will be joined by Erin Genia, Sisseton-Wahpetin Oyate / Odawa multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer currently an Artist-In-Residence with the City of Boston working with the Department of Emergency Affairs. Emma Robbins is a Diné artist, activist and community organizer who serves as the Executive Director of the Navajo Water Project, part of the human rights nonprofit DigDeep Water. From Flint, Michigan, we will be joined by Joe Schipani, Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project who also serves as a City Historic District Commissioner and Vice President of the Martis/Luna Food Pantry. This conversation will be moderated by South Carolina Lowcountry artist Benny Starr, inaugural One Water Artist-in-Residence at the US Water Alliance, who was named Grist’s 50 Fixers of 2021.

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Cities who have worked with the Mural Arts Institute’s Arts and Environment Capacity Building Initiative have created short documentaries about environmental justice issues in their communities, and what a more just future would look like. Join us for live screenings of these 8 films from Akron, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Kern County, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and two films from various movements in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chad Eric-Smith, Director of Communications for Mural Arts Philadelphia will moderate a live discussion with film-makers, artists, and experts from each city. Check out @muralarts on Instagram to get a sneak peak of the films.

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Friday, May 21st

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The idea that “the economy” is a thing, independent of human beings or nature, is one of our most pervasive and harmful cultural myths. Our hyper-capitalist economy is parasitic on humans and incompatible with a living planet, and yet many people still struggle to imagine an alternative. Reinventing the economy will require new laws, policies, and financing tools–but it will also require us to tell ourselves a new story about who we are, what is valuable, and our relationship to each other and the natural world. Hear from the creative thinkers and doers who are weaving together the structural and narrative interventions we need for a more just and sustainable economic future—debt abolishment, cooperatives, and Guaranteed Basic Income. Speakers are Esteban Kelley (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives), Laura Zabel (Springboard for the Arts); and Dan and Hilary Powell (Bank Job). This conversation will be moderated by Oscar Perry Abello, Senior Economic Correspondent at Next City.

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Please join Mural Arts Institute staff, together with Symposium presenters and participants for a virtual afterparty. Grab yourself your favorite drink and join this informal meet and greet to celebrate others engaged in work at the intersection of arts, culture and environmental justice.


Several events Arts and Environmental Justice Symposium will be captured by the live illustrations of Tessa Hulls. Tessa Hulls is a multidisciplinary artist/writer/adventurer who is fascinated by the concept of home. She is currently working on a nonfiction graphic novel titled Feeding Ghosts, forthcoming from MCDxFSG in late 2022.