May 17, 2021 | 12:30pm–2:30pm EDT Past Event

Arts + Environmental Justice Symposium


The environmental and climate justice movements are rooted in the understanding that communities of color and low income communities experience all environmental issues first and worst, including climate change.  They also recognize the root of the problem is in an extractive economy that exploits the planet and people for profit. As climate change increases the pressures on our ecological, political and social structures, grassroots community-driven movements that utilize participatory public art and transformative cultural practices are even more essential for change. 

The Mural Arts Institute is hosting a virtual and free week-long symposium looking at the transformative work happening at the intersection of community-based cultural practice and environmental justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stressed the same communities already grappling with acute climate and environmental crises, both economically and in terms of inequitable health care access and outcomes. The compounding injustices of our social systems and extractive economic model are unsustainable and impossible to ignore any longer. Calls for transformative change are growing louder. In times like these, the essential roles that artists and cultural workers play in communities becomes clear including helping us heal, stay connected, make meaning out of pain, imagine our better future together, and take collective action. 

This annual symposium invites artists, activists, scientists, scholars and governmental officials to discuss how creative people and practices are helping us meet the challenges of this moment, and how we can build on that to make a just transition a reality. These changemakers will be logging in from Tribal, urban, rural, and suburban communities throughout the nation for this virtual symposium during the week of May 17-21, 2021, during 12:00-5:00 PM EDT. Mark your calendars and sign up to make sure to get updates and the full agenda.


Schedule of Events for Monday, May 17:

Opening Symposium Remarks

Monday, May 17th

12:30-1:00pm EDT


The Cultures of a Just Transition

1:00-2:30pm EDT


Join a conversation with leaders in movements for native sovereignty, disability justice and climate justice to talk about why following the leadership from those most historically marginalized is the key to creating a better future for all of us. They will also talk about how deeply rooted cultural values and creative practices inform and guide their work. Speakers include Judith LeBlanc (Native Organizers Alliance, NDN Collective, The Natural History Museum), Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan (Movement Generation, Climate Justice Alliance), Patty Berne (Sins Invalid).


The Symposium has been strategized and designed in collaboration with Alexis Frasz and 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.