Art is a universally appreciated mode of expression and communication that can move a wide range of people. July’s Virtual Happy Hour explored how art can raise awareness, trigger empathy and motivate people to take action with the help of two professional artists: Joshua Harrison and Anthony Bianconi. Both Artists shared their recent projects and how they address environmental and broader systemic sustainability issues in the Bay Area. 

Anthony Bianconi presented his project, Last of Lions, a thought-provoking statue of a mountain lion built in the context of Redwood City’s natural history. In Redwood City, mountain lions are starting to drift into suburban territories in response to the drastic shrinking of their habitats resulting from ever-increasing urban development.

The statue aims to highlight this issue and encourages wildlife preservation through its shape, pose and surrounding elements. Its polygon-like structure symbolizes the digital era, while its pose insinuates that it walks among us. The bars surrounding the lion vary in height, demonstrating the changing patterns of protection and extinction that mountain lions are currently facing. Finally, the mirrors that surround the sculpture reflect the animal’s image like a corral that represents the mountain lions’ population’s density as the species faces habitat loss. While Anthony’s statue aims to protect wildlife in Redwood City, it highlights the consequences of urban development and the significance of preserving biodiversity in the Bay Area and California as a whole. 

Joshua Harrison is co-director of the Study of the Force Majeure, an organization that unites artists and scientists with a focus on ecosystem-adaption projects in regions experiencing the negative consequences of climate change. Joshua talked about one project titled Bays of San Francisco,  a series of maps that address the impact of sea level rise on the Bay Area.

The project visually predicts how bodies of water in the Bay Area will expand at six different levels between 30 and 300 centimeters and establishes that planning for adaptation around these sizable ecological shifts is a matter of utmost urgency. The project predicts that sea level rise will lead to the formation of an estuarial lagoon, necessitating the help of ecologists to identify the species most suitable for the emerging terrain and to oversee the migration of populations that would promote a healthy ecosystem. Joshua’s work prompted a discussion among Happy Hour participants about the most effective ways to address these issues. 

Both speakers demonstrated how art is used to unite people under the objective to mitigate the effects of climate change and promote sustainability. Using art as the conduit of choice to address sustainability provides endless opportunities for communicating ideas and expressing the emotions tied to heavy circumstances such as the climate crisis.

By Stella Wettan