The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Visualizing Hope: Investigating the effect of public art on perceptions of climate adaptation

Aragon Team Photo

From left: Carolina Aragon (landscape architecture), Ezra Markowitz (environmental conservation), Trisha Andrew (chemistry), and Elisabeth Hamin (landscape architecture)

This project was co-funded by the Institute of Diversity Sciences and the Social Science and Environment Network (supported by the Institute of Social Science Research and the School of Earth and Sustainability).

Public art installations may present a model by which to make information about the local impacts of climate change and proposed adaptation solutions visible to diverse audiences, potentially becoming a way to increase public engagement. However, social science research investigating the effect of public art on diverse audiences is highly limited. Even more limited is the display and study of public artworks that simultaneously depict impacts of climate change and proposed adaptation solutions. This proposal seeks to bridge the gap between art, social sciences, and material sciences, through the creation of an innovative climate adaptation art installation and concurrent implementation of a robust mixed-methods assessment effort.  The art project, FutureSHORELINE, will bridge material science and landscape art to depict rising temperatures, specific sea-level rise impacts, and solutions for an area along the Fort Point Channel in Boston. The social scientific research project will develop and deploy a rigorous mixed-methods based approach to investigate individual- and neighborhood-level impacts of the installation on climate change adaptation perceptions and engagement. Through a collaboration with the Boston Society of Landscape Architects and the Climate Ready Boston office, this pilot study is intended to develop a reproducible and scalable model of deeply integrated humanities- and social science-informed public engagement efforts around climate change that can be expanded to multiple neighborhoods around Boston (and beyond) in future years.