Building Strategy and Co-Creating Culture- Call #3 Summary

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Call 3 Recap: Building Strategy and Co-Creating Culture

Artists are the storytellers, visionaries, and the heart of our movements for change. You’ve learned about the nuts and bolts of a Green New Deal: now it’s time to strategize about how we can all be a part of making it real. On this call, we’ll hear from movement organizers and arts and cultural workers who are rolling up their sleeves to make a Green New Deal a reality. Then, we’ll share opportunities to plug in to the fight with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.

What a journey! After a summer of intensive study on the policy and the science behind a Green New Deal—with guest speakers including Rajiv Sicora, Molly Crabapple, Pablo Akira Beimler, Priya Mulgaonkar, Ananda Lee Tan, Kali Akuno, Demetrius Johnson, and Carrie Marie Schneider—we opened it up to hear from you about what you are working on regarding the September 20 Global Youth Climate Strikes and beyond. We invited Ronee Penoi and Tara Moses from Groundwater Arts, and Josh Yoder from Sunrise Movement, to be in dialogue with us about the different strategic ways that artists and cultural workers can advance climate justice. To watch a recording of the call, access the full graphic doodle, and more, download the Recap Bundle here.

What We Learned

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As artists, sometimes we need to begin by reimagining our own institutions. Ronee Penoi and Tara Moses from Groundwater Arts shared about their work in creating a #GreenNewTheatre initiative. Ronee and Tara brought together several leading theater organizations in order to train people on the principles of what sustainable institutional practices might look like. Their working document, which you can download here, outlines the 6 principles of a #GreenNewTheatre:

  1. Community Accountability

  2. Publicly Transparent Budgeting

  3. Decolonized Leadership

  4. Sustainable Resources

  5. Right Relationship to Land and History

  6. Immediate Divestment from Fossil Fuels


In addition to working within our own institutions, Josh Yoder shared the stories of working in collaboration with advocacy organizations. As an illustrator and media strategist who has worked with Sunrise Movement, FightFor15, the People’s Climate March, the March for Science, local pipeline fights across the North East, and the campaign to stop Amazon’s headquarters in NYC, Josh helps communities take control of their own media narratives and storytelling.

How We’re Taking Action

Rachel Schragis, our Minister of the Bureau of Energy, Power, and Art,  shared with us four different strategic ways artists and cultural workers can get involved in the fight for climate justice. We heard from our guest speakers as well as participants about the inspirational ways you were engaging with each strategy.

Strategy 1: Shine a light on the crisis


Shining a light on how climate change is affecting your community does double duty of pointing out that we need to make a big change, because the crisis is not abstract; it’s multifaceted, but literally the Carribean is flooding and the Amazon is burning. To the extent that we can lift up storytelling about the impacts of our community, help people be empowered in their storytelling, we are helping create the conditions for to demand systemic responses that are bigger than just helping people in one dire situation after another.

We learned about the work that you’re doing to shine a light, such as creating posters about environmental justice and environmental racism, developing classes on sustainability, and mural and puppet making around the Climate Strike.

Strategy 2: Claim governing power at every level


This is the principle we most wrestled with how to think about our role as artists. Yes, we need to win elections...but what’s our role in that? We believe true cultural democracy is so much deeper and wider than just voting. What’s our role in THAT?

Sunrise Movement and #GreenNewTheatre’s work demonstrate two completely different approaches towards what we could mean by governing power. Josh shared the story behind Sunrise Movement’s occupation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, creating the iconic image that inspired public momentum behind a Green New Deal. Josh emphasized that it was important to create a media image in which people can imagine themselves winning power in government.

Tara and Ronee shared about how #GreenNewTheatre is an effort to translate a Green New Deal into changes in governance in theater and performing arts institutions. They emphasized the power of the individual artist to make change by asking for accountability from the institutions they work with, through mechanisms such as tech riders.

Strategy 3: Envision the new world we want and build it now.

USDAC often says “Everything created must first be imagined,” and climate crisis is connected to such deep problems that it can be challenging for people to envision the solution in real, concrete ways—so we have to imagine them in order to create them.

In addition to envisioning sustainable theater practices, #GreenNewTheatre also envisions the intersection of different social movements. Tara and Ronee spoke about imagining arts institutions as sanctuary spaces, highlighting the intersection between climate change and climate migrants seeking refuge. Josh spoke about the nuances of envisioning Green New Deal imagery, and making sure to avoid narratives that only center urban communities, pristine landscapes, and gentrified neighborhoods.

We heard from the many artists on our call about the wonderful ways that you are envisioning the new world, from getting involved in sustainable community-building practices in your city, to working with young people to create a futuristic graphic novel about climate change.

Strategy 4: Disrupt—this is not normal!

The last strategy is probably the simplest, but also sometimes the most daring: Disrupt! Interrupt!

One big way to plug into that is the Youth Climate Strikes. Strikes have a long global history of catalyzing change by flexing the power of regular people. A strike that’s bigger than just one workplace and is open to all is called a “general strike”. Last year, Greta Thunberg stopped going to school and sat in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign that said “school strike for climate” and helped catalyze a youth movement of walking out of school on fridays--first across Europe and then the world. On September 20th, teenagers around the world have called for adults to join them in their strike, en masse.  

Many of you shared that you are already preparing for the Climate Strikes, such as organizing a silent march in Minnesota, running digital campaigns such as BeTheGreen, and planting 40 trees to symbolize the interrelation between climate change and environmental racism.

What’s Next?

We encourage everyone to get involved with an action, big or small, on September 20 in support of the Global Youth Climate Strike! Sign up here for the strike.

We will host a one-hour Climate Strike debrief call on Tuesday, September 24, at 5pm PST/8pm EST. We’ll hear from you about how the climate strike went, and offer suggestions and next steps. If you registered for our Artists Unite For A Green New Deal call series, you will receive the link to the debrief call in your email. If not, be sure to register with us!

Lastly, please take a moment to fill out this survey on our Artists Unite For A Green New Deal call series. We would love feedback on how we can continue supporting you in your journey to creatively animate your communities in the service of the world you want to see. Thank you for spending this summer in deep study with us!

Science Facts, Science Fictions- Call #2 Summary


Science Facts, Science Fictions

What will happen if we don’t take action on climate change? The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report presents different visions of the future depending on the action and policies that we take. These visions range from an equitable utopia to a fascist dystopia. Join us to learn about the science behind climate change predictions, and to hear stories of creative leaders who imagine with their hands, creating the best case scenarios for a just climate future through their visions and community work. 

Our conversation on how artists and cultural workers can get involved with a Green New Deal continued with Ananda Lee Tan, Demetrius Johnson, Kali Akuno, and Carrie Schneider discussing the visionary roles that BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and artists play in the movement for climate justice. We were inspired by your enthusiasm, and the steps that you have taken since our last call to inspire your communities towards action. (Want to access the call recording? Sign up here and we’ll send you the link—and other goodies!)

What did we learn?

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We began with a briefing about the science and history at the foundation of today’s fight for a Green New Deal.

Rachel Schragis, our Minister of the Bureau of Energy, Power, and Art,  walked us through some of the basics of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  She explained the report’s concept of the “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways”-- scientific and sociological predictions of what directions the world could go, and what they look like for the climate.  The pathways point to the conclusion that it’s social questions: will there be war or peace? Will we invest in education and fight for economic equity? that most determine whether the world will address the climate crisis.  

Ananda Lee Tan, Climate Justice Alliance, emphasized the concept of Just Transition--a vision of a shift from an extractive economy to an equitable one, lead by the communities most impacted by the crisis, and redressing historic harms.  He spoke about the history of the movement for a Just Transition, and some of the key moments where community members from across the US and the world have worked together to build a vision of what it will take to shift from a “dig, burn, dump” economy to an economy of social and ecological wellbeing. He posed the question of what it will take to make the Green New Deal an enactment of Just Transition--it’s possible, but not a certainty.  “ You can download the briefing here. 


What does a climate justice platform centered in indigenous sovereignty look like? Demetrius Johnson from Albuquerque Red Nation spoke about how the Red Deal, proposed by the Red Nation, encompasses the climate justice demands of a Green New Deal while also addressing areas of struggle including: End the Occupation, Heal Our Bodies, and Heal Our Planet. He connected the Red Deal to local efforts to protect Chaco Canyon, a Pueblo and Navajo sacred site in Northern New Mexico, from oil and gas development. Read the full Red Deal platform here.

How are communities embodying the principles of Just Transition? Kali Akuno, Executive Director of Cooperation Jackson, spoke about their work to realize a Just Transition.

in Jackson, Mississippi. Cooperation Jackson’s Just Transition plan includes building community land trusts, worker owned cooperatives, food sovereignty, a network of eco-villages, and policy transformation on a municipal level. Kali emphasized that the policy for a Green New Deal needs to be shaped by grassroots efforts, noting that “it's often easier to act a new way of thinking rather than to think a new way of acting...this is intentional cultural development.” More examples of Cooperation Jackson’s work on utilizing art and imagination to transform community can be found on their Facebook.


And finally, how are artists responding to and visioning an environmentally just future? Houston-based artist Carrie Marie Schneider presented about her project Washing Water, a way to heal trauma and build community post-Hurricane Harvey. Carrie created a disco fish tank in which participants could make waterscapes and, through play and creativity, reimagine their relationships with water. Carrie’s work reminds us that in the future, artists will need to be both healers and visionaries when it comes to climate change. Learn more about Carrie’s work at WashingWater.com, and watch her presentation here.

What did we hear?


During the breakout groups, many of you expressed gratitude for the Just Transition framework that centered BIPOC communities, and were inspired by the way that Cooperation Jackson and Washing Water addressed climate change on the local, and even bodily level. During the Q&A session, you were curious about how to build momentum on the grassroots level in order to make policy advocacy possible. Our speakers emphasized utilizing art to find moments of connection and hope, while at the same time not romanticizing the impact of climate change and other injustices. Our speakers also emphasized that modelling possibility at the grassroots level through art, community organizing, and creative uses of public space is what ultimately leads to policy change.

What’s next? 


We highlighted the conversation using pieces of our graphic recording, done in real time by Emily Simons! You can download the recap bundle to access the full picture here.

We hope to see you on our final call! Join us for Building Strategy and Co-Creating Culture with Sunrise Movement and Groundwater Arts on September 5 at 5pm PST/8pm EST. 

Some of you have already taken action towards organizing your communities, such as organizing watch parties and sharing the information in our briefings. In our final call, we hope to take it a step further and build with you about how we can coordinate our efforts around the upcoming September 20 Global Climate Strike and beyond.

Sign up at usdac.us/gnd to make sure that you receive the registration link and updates about this series!